Tag Archives: SCOTUS opinion

SCOTUS Opinion: Court Enjoins California’s Ban On Indoor Church Services

Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, California’s governor issued several restrictions on indoor church services: (1) a 25% capacity limitation; (2) a prohibition on singing and chanting; and (3) a total prohibition on all indoor worship services. Several churches filed suit, and sought an order to preliminarily enjoin the restrictions because they violated the First Amendment. A fractured Court, by a ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Court Thwarts Efforts To Reclaim German Artifacts

  During the Weimar Republic, a consortium of German Jewish art dealers purchased a collection of medieval relics known as the Welfenschatz for preservation. When the Nazis took over Germany, they forced the consortium to sell the relics to the government for a third of their value. Heirs of the consortium failed to recover the artifacts in Germany, so they filed ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Passive Retention of a Debtor’s Property Does Not Violate Bankruptcy Automatic Stay

After Chicago impounded their vehicles for unpaid fines, the owners filed petitions for bankruptcy. The Bankruptcy Code automatically creates an estate comprising of all of the debtor’s property interests, requires those in possession of such property to deliver it to the trustee, and creates a stay prohibiting “any act to obtain possession of the property of the estate or of ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Court Defers Action On Census Case

In July, President Trump ordered that the 2020 census tabulate unlawful immigrants separately from other residents so that he would have the discretion to exclude unlawful immigrants from being counted for the basis of determining the apportionment of House seats for each state. Several states challenged that order, and a three-judge district court panel enjoined operation of the order due ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Court Upholds Arkansas Pharmacy Law Against ERISA Challenge

In 2015, Arkansas passed a law requiring pharmacy benefit managers, as intermediaries between pharmacies and prescription-drug plans, to reimburse pharmacies for drugs at a price equal to or higher than the pharmacy’s wholesale price, allowed pharmacies an administrative appeal procedure on those prices, and other items meant to keep drug prices low. Some of the managers sued, arguing that the ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Court Preserves Rape Convictions Against Military Servicemembers

Originally, the Uniform Code of Military Justice mandated that a rape conviction could be punishable by death. Under that Code, penalties punishable by death could be brought at any time, while all other offenses had to be brought within five years. In United States v. Briggs, three servicemembers were convicted of rape, but after their convictions the Court ruled in ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Political Independent Lacks Standing To Challenge Delaware Political Balance Law

  Delaware’s Constitution requires that no more than a bare majority of judges in any of its courts be from the same political party (the “bare majority requirement”). It also states that the remaining members of three of those courts must be from “the other major political party” (the “major party requirement”). In Carney v. Adams, a registered political independent sued, ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Religious Freedom Act Permits Claimants To Seek Monetary Damages Against Federal Agents Personally

  The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 permits people to seek “appropriate relief” when their religious exercise has been unlawfully burdened by the federal government. In Tanzin v. Tanvir, three practicing Muslims sued certain FBI agents who placed them on the No Fly List after they refused to act as informants against their religious communities, seeking monetary damages under the ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Court Enjoins New York Restrictions on Religious Gatherings

  In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order limiting public gatherings in color-coded zones. In a red zone, religious services were limited to ten people, while in orange zones the gatherings could total 25 attendees. In Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, New York v. Cuomo, certain religious institutions challenged that order as violating ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Court Begins Scaling Back Qualified Immunity

In Taylor v. Riojas, an inmate sued the correctional officers who confined him in a pair of “shockingly unsanitary cells,” one of which the inmate was forced to sleep in without a bunk or clothing in frigid conditions. The Fifth Circuit had held that the conditions violated the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment, but since the law ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Controversial Bridge Lane Closures by Gov. Christie’s Campaign Not Fraud

When the mayor of Fort Lee, N.J. refused to support Gov. Chris Christie’s 2013 re-election campaign, the campaign decided to punish the mayor by shutting down two of the three lanes on the George Washington Bridge that were reserved for Fort Lee commuters into New York under the guise of a “traffic study.” That resulted in four days of gridlock ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Court’s Dismissal of Gun Rights Case as Moot Sparks Lengthy Dissent

New York City enacted a law preventing the transport of firearms. Gun owners challenged that law on the basis that it prohibited them from moving firearms to a second home or shooting range outside the city in violation of the Second Amendment. The lower courts denied relief, and the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari. In response, the city amended its ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Court Narrows Eligibility of Lawful Permanent Immigrants to Avoid Removal

Andre Barton was a green-card holder who was convicted of several crimes, including a firearms offense and certain drug offenses. The government decided that it wanted to remove Barton based on those convictions. Barton applied for cancellation of removal, which has certain strict requirements including an initial seven years of continuous residence. The residency requirement would be cancelled, however, if ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Court Refashions Clean Water Act’s Permit Requirement

Under the Clean Water Act, a party must obtain a permit before adding any “pollutant,” broadly defined from “any point source” to “navigable waters.” In County of Maui, Hawaii v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund, Maui’s sewage plant was pumping millions of gallons of partially treated sewer water into the ground each day, which eventually wound up in the Pacific Ocean. Environmental ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Profits Can Be Awarded In Trademark Infringement Case Without Willfulness

Section 1117(a) of the U.S. Code requires proof that a trademark infringer acted willfully in order for a court to award lost profits for trademark dilution under Section 1125(c) of the Lanham Act, but does not mention trademark infringement. In Romag Fasteners, Inc. v. Fossil Group, Inc., Romag sued Fossil for trademark infringement under Section 1125(a). The jury did not ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Court Stays District Court’s Order Affecting Wisconsin’s Election

Despite the ongoing danger of COVID-19, Wisconsin decided to go forward with its election on April 7. Since voters would be discouraged from arriving en masse at the polls, it was expected that absentee voting would surge. Various political groups filed suit to ease the burden of absentee voting. Although Wisconsin law required absentee votes to be received by 8 ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Court Permits Routine Stops Of Vehicles Whose Owners Have Revoked Licenses

While on routine patrol, a Kansas deputy ran the plate of a vehicle and discovered that its owner, Charles Glover, Jr., had a revoked driver’s license. On that basis alone, the deputy pulled over the vehicle, assuming, correctly, that Glover was driving it. Glover was charged with driving as a habitual violator and Glover appealed, arguing that the deputy lacked ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: “Safe-Berth” Clause In Maritime Contract Creates A Warranty of Safety

In Citgo Asphalt Refining Company v. Frescati Shipping Company, a punctured hull in a tanker caused a huge oil spill, which the owner of the tanker and the United States then paid millions to clean up. Those parties then sued the groups who chartered the tanker to recover those costs under a clause in the maritime contract that required the ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Courts May Consider Whether Deadline To Contest A Removal Order Has Been Equitably Tolled

When the Government has ordered that an immigrant be removed from the country for committing certain crimes, the Immigration and Nationality Act allows judicial review only on “constitutional claims or questions of law.” In Guerrero-Lasprilla v. Barr, two such immigrants sought appellate review of their removal orders based on whether their motions to reopen their removal proceedings were untimely or ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Civil Rights Plaintiffs Must Prove But-For Causation

For years, Entertainment Studios Network, an African-American owned company, sought to have Comcast Corp. carry its channels. Comcast refused and ESN sued, alleging racial discrimination under 42 U.S.C. § 1981. ESN alleged that Comcast’s legitimate business reasons for refusing to carry ESN channels were pretextual. The district court dismissed the complaint, holding that ESN had failed to allege but-for causation ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: States Need Not Have Insanity Defense Based on Moral Understanding

Kansas permits defendants to raise an insanity defense based on whether the defendant “lacked the culpable mental state required as an element of the offense charged.” James Kahler, who was charged with capital murder for killing four family members, argued that he should have been able to raise an insanity defense based on whether he had a mental illness that ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: States Immune from Copyright Claims

When North Carolina published a photographer’s copyrighted work recording operations to recover a shipwreck off of its coast, the photographer sued under the Copyright Remedy and Classification Act of 1990. The district court held that the Act abrogated State sovereign immunity from such claims, but the Fourth Circuit reversed, holding that the decision in Florida Prepaid Postsecondary Ed. Expense Bd ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Appellate Courts Must Review Late-Raised Arguments For Plain Error

Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 52(b) provides that where a criminal defendant fails to raise an argument in the district court, the appellate court can review the issue for plain error. The Fifth Circuit, as opposed to other circuits, had the practice of refusing to review factual matters not raised before the district court. In Davis v. United States, a ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: No Pre-emption for States to Use Federal Immigration Information to Enforce State Identity Theft Law

Under federal law, employers must verify, through an I-9 form, that they have “verified” that each new employee “is not an unauthorized alien.” In Kansas v. Garcia, three persons who were living in the United States illegally used the same false Social Security number on their I-9 forms, as well as their tax withholding forms, and were prosecuted under ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Court Strictly Interprets “Actual Knowledge” For ERISA Limitations Period

Under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, a person with “actual knowledge” of an alleged fiduciary breach by the administrator of a pension plan must file suit within three years of gaining such knowledge—otherwise, a six-year limitations period applies. In Intel Corp. Investment Policy Committee v. Sulyma, Intel argued that its former employee filed such a claim ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Court Permits Appellate Review of Added Mitigating Factor in Death Penalty Case

After James McKinney was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder, the trial court sentenced him to death upon the finding that he had two aggravating circumstances for each such murder. Twenty years later, a narrowly divided en banc Ninth Circuit reversed upon habeas review, holding that the state courts had not properly considered McKinney's post-traumatic stress disorder as a ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Court Strikes Down The “Bob Richards Rule”

The IRS allows affiliated corporations to file a group tax return. When the IRS issues a tax return to the group as a whole, federal law does not describe how to allocate the funds. The Ninth Circuit created a rule for that when it decided In re Bob Richards Chrysler-Plymouth Corp., 473 F.2d 262 (1973). The "Bob Richards Rule" mandated ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Court Declines To Extend Bivens To Allow Suit Against Border Agent For Shooting

U.S. Border Patrol agent Jesus Mesa, Jr. shot 15 year-old Sergio Adrian Hernandez Guereca while Mesa was on U.S. land, and Hernandez had run back across onto Mexican soil. Hernandez's family sued Mesa under Bivens v. Six Unknown Federal Narcotics Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), which permits damages claims against federal agents even though no federal statute authorized the claim ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Infant’s “Habitual Residence” Not Determined by Agreement of the Parents

The Hague Convention requires that a child wrongfully removed from her country of "habitual residence" must be returned to that country. In Monasky v. Taglieri, an infant was born in Italy to an American mother and Italian father. The relationship was abusive, and the mother soon relocated to America, taking the child with her. The father moved to have ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Court Enforces Removal Jurisdiction In Vacating Orders Against The Catholic Church

The case of Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Yuan, Puerto Rico v. Feliciano concerned complaints filed by employees of Catholic schools in Puerto Rico alleging wrongful termination of their pension plan. Initially, the Puerto Rico trial court determined that the Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church in Puerto Rico was the proper entity that owed obligations to the plan, and ... Read More