Tag Archives: scotus

Eighth Amendment Applies To State Civil Forfeitures

Tyson Timbs pleaded guilty to dealing in heroin in Indiana, for which the maximum fine was $10,000. The State sought to use civil forfeiture to seize his SUV, which Timbs bought for $42,000, which was allegedly used to move the heroin. The state trial court denied the State’s request as violative of the Eighth Amendment’s protection against excessive fines, but... Read More >

Court Again Finds Man Ineligible For Death Penalty Due To Intellectual Disability

In 2017, the Supreme Court held in Moore v. Texas, 581 U.S. ___ (2017), that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals used a flawed analysis to determine that Bobby James Moore was not intellectually disabled, and thus eligible to receive the death penalty. In part, the flaw was that the Texas court focused on Moore’s adaptive strengths instead of... Read More >

Court Applies Intergovernmental Tax Immunity In Favor Of Federal Retirees

In Dawson v. Steager, West Virginia sought to tax a federal law enforcement retiree’s pension. Under 4 U.S.C. §111, the federal government permits this so long as the state tax does not discriminate on the basis of the source of the compensation, otherwise known as the intergovernmental tax immunity doctrine. However, West Virginia, by statute, did not tax... Read More >

In Two Orders, SCOTUS Stays Louisiana Abortion Law, Permits Execution—Both Over Four Dissenters

In June Medical Services, LLC v. Gee, a five-Justice majority (the Chief Justice and Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan) granted a stay of the Fifth Circuit’s mandate upholding a Louisiana law that required abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a hospital. The law is therefore on hold until the Court resolves the petition for certiorari of that... Read More >

Once Sold (Even Under Term Of Confidentiality), An Invention May Not Be Patented

Under the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, an invention may not be patented if it has been “in public use, sold, or otherwise available to the public before the effective filing date of the claimed invention.” In Helsinn Healthcare S.A. v. Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc., the issue was whether an invention had been “sold” within the ambit of the... Read More >

Robbery Is A “Violent Felony” Under Armed Career Criminal Act

The Armed Career Criminal Act provides a 15-year mandatory minimum sentence for anyone who had previously been convicted of three “violent” felonies. The Act defines a “violent felony” as “any crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year” that “has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person of another.”... Read More >

Federal Arbitration Act Does Not Compel Arbitration For Disputes With Interstate Drivers

In New Prime Inc. v. Oliveira, a driver for an interstate trucking company filed a class action claiming that the company denied its drivers lawful wages. The company, citing the mandatory arbitration provision in the driver’s contract, asked the district court to transfer the case to arbitration. The driver argued that the case was exempt under Section 1 of... Read More >

Are Attorneys Conducting Nonjudicial Foreclosures “Debt Collectors?” U.S. Supreme Court To Decide.

On January 7, 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear argument in Obduskey v. McCarthy Holthus, LLP, in which Wells Fargo, through counsel, conducted a nonjudicial foreclosure on Obduskey’s home after he defaulted on a loan. The foreclosure notice did not request that Obduskey make any payments on the debt—it simply set forth the total amount due under the... Read More >

Court Rejects Cap On Aggregate Attorney Fees Under Social Security Act

Under the Social Security Act, an attorney representing a claimant seeking past-due benefits is limited in the fees he or she may charge. Section 406(a) of the Act capped fees at the lesser of 25 percent of the past-due benefits, or $6,000 in proceedings before the agency. Section 406(b) of the Act capped fees at 25 percent of the... Read More >

Court Upholds Qualified Immunity For Officer Responding To Domestic Dispute

In City of Escondido v. Emmons, Officer Craig and Sergeant Toth responded to a call reporting a domestic dispute at a home. After talking to the occupants from outside the home for a bit, one of the occupants exited and tried to brush past Officer Craig. The officer quickly took the man to the ground and handcuffed him. The... Read More >

Court Upholds Challenge To Designation Of A “Critical Habitat”

Under the Endangered Species Act, when an animal is classified as “endangered,” the Secretary of the Interior must then designate the “critical habitat” of that animal for protection. In 2001, the dusky gopher frog was classified as endangered. The Secretary then designated the four areas where the frogs currently lived as critical habitats, along with another area, dubbed “Unit... Read More >

Justice Kennedy Announces His Retirement

After 30 years as an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy announced his retirement effective July 31, 2018. In a letter to President Trump, Kennedy wrote: “For a member of the legal profession it is the highest of honor to serve on this court. Please permit me by this letter to express my profound gratitude... Read More >

Court Rejects Overly Strict Standard Used By Special Master In State Dispute Over Water Rights

In an original proceeding brought by Florida against Georgia in a dispute over water apportionment from an interstate river basin, the Court referred the matter to a Special Master for evidentiary proceedings. Florida, as the downstream state, argued that Georgia was using more than its fair share of the water from the basin, thereby harming wildlife in Florida. Ultimately the... Read More >

First Amendment Forbids Mandatory Union Fees From Public Sector Unions

Illinois permits public employees to unionize, and Mark Janus was a state employee whose unit was represented by a public-sector union that engaged in collective bargaining on behalf of its members. The union required that Janus pay a union fee, but he objected since he opposed many of the collective bargaining positions the union took. In the previous case of... Read More >

Court Upholds President Trump’s Travel Ban

In 2017, President Trump issued a proclamation restricting entry of people from eight countries, with exemptions for lawful permanent residents and case-by-case waivers under certain circumstances. The stated basis of the travel ban was that the named countries failed to provide the U.S. with sufficient information about the entrants, creating a security threat, although challengers to the ban (except as... Read More >

Court Strikes Down Abortion Notices Under First Amendment

A number of pro-life crisis pregnancy centers mounted a First Amendment challenge to a California law that required licensed medical providers to provide a notice to its patients of the availability of free or low-cost services, including abortions, and required each unlicensed pro-life medical provider to notify patients that it was not licensed. The centers requested a preliminary injunction, which... Read More >

American Express’s “Antisteering” Provisions Survive Antitrust Scrutiny

Like other credit card companies, American Express (AMEX) permits cardholders to purchase things on credit. However, AMEX encourages cardholder spending by providing more benefits to its members, and that results in higher fees charged to merchants. Merchants, in response, sometimes encouraged customers to use other cards, called “steering.” AMEX in turn put antisteering provisions into its merchant contracts. The government... Read More >

Narrow Majority Largely Upholds Texas Redistricting Plan Against Gerrymandering Challenge

Abbott v. Perez presented the third opportunity for the Court to address gerrymandering claims under the Voter Rights Act, this time examining plans approved by the Texas legislature in 2013 that were largely in accordance with interim plans created by a three-judge Texas court. The 2013 plans evolved from earlier 2011 plans that did not meet with any court’s... Read More >

Supreme Court Has Appellate Jurisdiction To Hear Appeals From The Court Of Appeals For The Armed Forces

There are a separate series of trial and appellate military courts that address criminal charges against service members, capped by the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF). After Keanu Ortiz was convicted of possession and distributing child pornography, he appealed to the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA). Colonel Martin Mitchell was part of the panel of... Read More >

Defendant Who Consents To Separate Trials Not Subject To Double Jeopardy

After Michael Currier was indicted for burglary, grand larceny, and unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, he opted for separate trials, doing burglary and grand larceny first, unlawful possession second. He was concerned that his prior convictions for burglary and larceny, which would help prove the unlawful possession charge, would prejudice the jury’s consideration of his current... Read More >

Government Needs A Warrant To Obtain Cell-Site Records To Track Suspect’s Movements

When the FBI suspected that Timothy Carpenter was involved in several robberies, it identified his cell phone number and obtained cell-site information from his wireless carriers without a warrant, which could be used to track the movement of his phone, and thus Carpenter himself. Carpenter moved to suppress the information as violating the Fourth Amendment’s requirement for a warrant supported... Read More >

Patent Act Permits Recovery Of Lost Profits From Foreign Patent Infringement

In WesternGeco LLC v. ION Geophysical Corp., WesternGeco sued ION for patent infringement under the Patent Act for creating an identical ocean floor surveying system that ION assembled overseas from parts made in America. A jury awarded WesternGeco damages and lost profits. ION moved to set aside the lost profits since it argued the Patent Act did not... Read More >

Removal Notice Must Specify Time And Place Of Proceeding To Stop Ten-Year Period To Cancel Removal Proceedings

Once a nonpermanent resident has been in the U.S. for a ten-year continuous period, they can cancel removal proceedings under the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996. That period is stayed if the resident receives a written notice to appear that specifies a time and place for the removal proceedings during the ten year period. A... Read More >

Stock Options Are Not Money Remuneration Under The Railroad Retirement Tax Act Of 1937

To support the nation’s ailing railroad systems, Congress passed the Railroad Retirement Tax Act in 1937 to bolster railroad employee pensions based on their “compensation,” which was defined as “any form of money remuneration.” Previously, the exception was used to exclude traditional perks like food, lodging, and tickets, but railroads recently began offering stock options. The lower courts split... Read More >

Court Permits States To Impose Sales Taxes On Online Retailers Under The Commerce Clause

In prior cases going back to 1992, the Court had ruled that the Commerce Clause precluded States from imposing sales taxes on sellers who did not maintain a physical presence in the State. But then the Internet exploded, and online retailers like Amazon regularly sell products in the various States while eluding sales taxes. In South Dakota v. Wayfair,... Read More >

Court Upholds District Court Judge’s Explanation For A Sentencing Modification

A criminal drug offender was originally sentenced to 135 months’ imprisonment after the Sentencing Guidelines provided a range of 135 to 168 months. The U.S. Sentencing Commission thereafter revised the range for the same crime to 108 to 135 months. The defendant moved the district court to modify his sentence accordingly. The judge lowered the sentence to 114 months, not... Read More >

Courts Of Appeals Are Obligated To Correct Plain Sentencing Guideline Errors Under Federal Rule Of Criminal Procedure 52(b)

Under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 52(b), a court of appeals “should exercise its discretion to correct”  an error in the district court’s application of the Sentencing Guidelines if the error “seriously affects the fairness, integrity, or public reputation of judicial proceedings.” In Rosales-Mireles v. United States, after the defendant was sentenced under a miscalculation under the Sentencing Guidelines... Read More >

Court Denies Injunctive Relief In Maryland Gerrymandering Case

In Benisek v. Lamone, several Republican voters filed suit in 2017 challenging Maryland’s 2011 redrawing of its Sixth District as being gerrymandered against their constitutional rights. Those voters moved for a preliminary injunction in the district court, to allow the creation of a new districting map. The district court denied that relief and stayed the proceedings pending the decision... Read More >

Plaintiffs Lacked Standing To Bring Gerrymandering Claims

In Gill v. Whitford, twelve Democratic voters brought claims arguing that the redrawing of Wisconsin’s districts after the 2010 census was an unconstitutional gerrymandering that made it harder for Democratic candidates to get elected. Specifically, the redrawing allegedly “cracked” Democratic voters into other districts where they could not reap a majority, and “packed” Democratic voters into a few districts... Read More >

Court Permits First Amendment Retaliation Claim Against Municipality Despite Probable Cause To Arrest

Fane Lozman was something of a political gadfly to the City of Riviera Beach’s city council, and had filed a lawsuit against it. During a closed meeting, one of the council members suggested that the council “intimidate” Mr. Lozman, which the council supported. At a subsequent public meeting, when Lozman sought to discuss the recent arrest of a former county... Read More >