Tag Archives: SCOTUS opinion

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

SCOTUS Opinion: Court Rejects Discovery Rule For Fair Debt Collection Practices Act Claims

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act requires that claims be brought “within one year from the date on which the violation occurs.” In Rotkiske v. Klemm, a debt collector filed suit against Kevin Rotkiske, served him where he no longer lived, and obtained a default judgment against him in 2009. Rotkiske learned of the judgment in 2014, and sued ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Court Remands Alaska Political Contribution Limits Case For Closer Review

The first opinion handed down by the Court in its 2019 Term concerned Alaska’s law limiting contributions to candidates or election-oriented groups to $500 per year. The Ninth Circuit upheld the law, but the Court, in a per curiam decision in Thompson v. Hebdon, reversed and remanded. The Court noted that the Ninth Circuit chose not to apply the ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Court Decides That Federal Courts Cannot Address Partisan Gerrymandering Claims

The case of Rucho v. Common Cause combined two different gerrymandering claims: one from North Carolina where the claim was that the redistricting plan hurt Democrats, one from Maryland which claimed that the plan hurt Republicans. In both cases, the district courts ruled that the plans violated the Constitution. The Court, in a 5-4 opinion by Chief Justice Roberts, ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: State Residency Requirement For Liquor Store Licenses Struck Down

Tennessee law required that to get a license to sell alcohol, the seller had to first be a Tennessee resident for two years. The state agency tasked with enforcing the law declined to do so after the state’s attorney general opined that the law violated the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. When two non-resident businesses applied for licenses, a ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Auer Deference To An Agency’s Interpretation Of Its Own Regulations Survives, Barely

In Kisor v. Wilke, the underlying case concerned a Vietnam War veteran’s quest for disability benefits. The Department of Veterans Affairs interpreted its internal rule to deny the veteran benefits going back to when he first applied. The Federal Circuit affirmed the determination using Auer deference, established by the Court in Auer v. Robbins, 519 U.S. 452 (1997), ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Court Strikes Supervised Release Statute That Permitted Additional Prison Time Without A Jury Determination

In United States v. Haymond, Andre Haymond was found guilty by a jury of possessing child pornography, a crime that permitted a prison term of zero to 10 years. After serving his term and while on supervised release, Haymond was found with what appeared to be images of child pornography on his devices. Under 18 U.S.C. sec. 3583(k), a ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Court Strikes Down Violent Felony Residual Clause As Vague

Under 18 U.S.C. sec. 924(c)(3)(B), a defendant may receive a longer prison sentence for using a firearm in connection with a felony “that by its nature, involves a substantial risk that physical force against the person or property of another may be used in the course of committing the offense.” In prior cases, the Supreme Court struck down residual ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Court Strikes Down Law Against Immoral or Scandalous Trademarks

The Lanham Act prohibits registration of any trademark that contains “immoral[] or scandalous matter.” In Iancu v. Brunetti, an applicant sought to trademark FUCT (pronounced F-U-C-T), but was denied by the Patent and Trademark Office. The applicant appealed, arguing that the Act’s restriction violated the First Amendment. The Federal Circuit struck down the restriction as unconstitutional. The Court, ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Court Vacates Murder Conviction Under Batson Challenge

In Flowers v. Mississippi, Curtis Flowers, a black man, was tried six times for allegedly murdering four people in a small town furniture store. The first three times, he was sentenced to death but the convictions were overturned. The fourth and fifth trials ended in mistrials. Throughout those trials, the prosecution used their peremptory strikes to remove all black ... Read More

SCOTUS Opinion: Under Due Process Clause, State Cannot Tax Foreign Trust Solely Because A Beneficiary Resides In the State

A family trust was created in New York state, with the trustee also located in New York, to distribute assets to the children of the trust creator under the trustee’s sole discretion. One of those children moved to North Carolina. The trustee then divided the trust into three separate trusts, one for each child, retaining full power and discretion over ... Read More