Tag Archives: scotus

Minnesota Law Banning Political Insignias In A Polling Place Struck Down Under The First Amendment

Under Minnesota law, a “political badge, political button, or other political insignia may not be worn at or about the polling place” where voters head to vote in elections. Election judges working the polls have authority to determine whether a particular item violates the prohibition, and those who refuse to remove offending items go through an administrative process that may... Read More >

Statements From Foreign Governments Entitled To Respectful Consideration Under Rule 44.1, But Not Conclusive

In Animal Science Products, Inc. v. Hebei Welcome Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd., American purchasers of Vitamin C accused the selling Chinese companies of fixing prices in violation of U.S. antitrust laws. The Chinese companies argued that Chinese law required them to fix the prices, and the Chinese government, through its Ministry of Commerce, filed a statement in support of that... Read More >

Court Dismisses As Moot Lawsuit Over Unlawful Immigrant’s Abortion

When a pregnant minor unlawful immigrant sought to get an abortion while in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, the Office’s policy prohibited her from getting an abortion without the Director’s permission. The minor moved for a temporary restraining order of the policy, which the district court granted. The minor then attended preabortion counseling as required under Texas... Read More >

Criminal Defendants Sentenced Under Mandatory Minimums Not Entitled To Relief Under 18 U.S.C. sec. 3582(c)(2)

In Koons v. United States, after several criminal defendants pleaded guilty to drug conspiracy charges, the district court discovered that the mandatory minimum sentence provided under 21 U.S.C. sec. 841(b)(1) was higher than the sentencing range provided under the Sentencing Guidelines. The district court decided that the mandatory minimums trumped the Guidelines, and sentenced the defendants under that range,... Read More >

Court Permits Bankruptcy Discharge Despite Oral Misrepresentation Over Ability To Pay Legal Bill

When R. Scott Appling fell behind in paying his legal bills, he orally told his attorneys that he would repay them with a tax refund he was expecting to get. When he got the (lower than expected) refund, he used it to pay other expenses instead, lying to his attorneys so they would continue with the representation. After the attorneys... Read More >

Court Resolves Confusion In Certain Plea Agreements, Holds They Are Subject To Sentencing Guidelines

In 2011, the Court had to decide whether a criminal defendant who entered into a plea deal under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(c)(1)(C) could petition to reduce his or her sentence under 18 U.S.C. sec. 3582(c)(2) (which permits a reduction upon a change in the Sentencing Guidelines) if the Sentencing Guidelines were later amended to lower the sentencing range... Read More >

Court Sides With Baker Who Refused To Bake Custom Cake For Gay Wedding

When Jack Phillips refused, on religious grounds, to make a custom wedding cake for a gay couple, the couple filed a charge with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission alleging the refusal violated Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act. Phillips maintained he had a First Amendment right to refuse to bake the cake, but the Commission found him in violation of the Act and... Read More >

Private Investigations Not Compensated Under Mandatory Victims Restitution Act

The Mandatory Victims Restitution Act of 1996 requires defendants convicted of certain federal offenses to reimburse victims for “lost income and necessary child care, transportation, and other expenses incurred during participation in the investigation or prosecution of the offense or attendance at proceedings related to the offense.” 18 U.S.C. sec. 3663A(b)(4). When Sergio Lagos defrauded a lender for tens of... Read More >

Police Cannot Search Vehicle Within Curtilage Of A Home Without A Search Warrant

The Fourth Amendment has long required that any police officer entering the curtilage of a home to have a search warrant. However, the Fourth Amendment also has an “automobile exception,” permitting warrantless searches of vehicles due to their ready mobility. In Collins v. Virginia, a police officer entered the curtilage of a home (its driveway) without a warrant to... Read More >

Private Arbitration Agreements Preclude Employee Class Actions

In Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis, employees sued their employer in a class action for violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Those employees each had signed an agreement to arbitrate employment disputes under the Federal Arbitration Act, and the employer invoked those agreements to preclude the class actions. The employees argued that the National Labor Relations Act triggered... Read More >

Prior Precedents Did Not Preclude Tribal Sovereign Immunity In A Property Dispute

After the Upper Skagit Indian Tribe purchased a 40-acre parcel of land in Washington State, a survey of that parcel revealed that approximately an acre of it lay on the other side of a boundary fence, which the Tribe’s new neighbors, the Lundgrens, believed they had owned for decades. The Lundgrens file a quiet title action, and the Tribe asserted... Read More >

Complaints Of Use Of Full Restraints Moot After Criminal Cases Ended

A group of criminal defendants challenged the policy of the United States District Court for the Southern District of California, which permitted officers to put in-custody defendants in full restraints for nonjury proceedings in court. The district court denied the claims, but while the appeal before the Ninth Circuit was pending all of the cases involving those defendants resolved. The... Read More >

Drivers Have A Reasonable Expectation Of Privacy In A Car Rented By Another

In Byrd v. United States, Terrence Byrd was pulled over while driving a car rented by Latasha Reed, although the rental agreement did not list Byrd as an authorized driver. The police searched Byrd’s car and discovered 49 bricks of heroin in the trunk. Byrd moved to suppress the evidence as fruits of an unlawful search, but the district... Read More >

Court Rejects Facial-Insufficiency Challenge To Overbroad Wiretap Orders

A federal judge is only authorized to issue a wiretap order for wiretaps conducted within his or her jurisdiction. In Dahda v. United States, a Kansas federal judge issued wiretap orders authorizing wiretaps in Kansas, but also contained language permitting wiretaps in Missouri. Federal investigators conducted the wiretaps in Missouri, and the evidence they gathered led to Los and... Read More >

Court Strikes Portion Of Immigration and Naturalization Act as Void for Vagueness

In one of Justice Scalia’s last majority opinions before his death, the Court held that part of a federal law defining “violent crime” was unconstitutionally void for vagueness in Johnson v. United States, 576 U.S. --- (2015). The Immigration and Nationality Act similarly provided that a person could be deported for committing an “aggravated felony,” which included a “crime of... Read More >

Court Awards Qualified Immunity To Officer Who Shot Woman Claiming Excessive Force

In Kisela v. Hughes, officers reporting to a call of a woman acting erratically with a large knife discovered Ms. Hughes emerging from her house with a knife in her hand, heading toward another woman, Ms. Chadwick, who it turned out was Hughes’ roommate. Hughes stopped six feet from Chadwick, and the officers drew their firearms and told Hughes... Read More >

Service Advisors Are Exempt From Fair Labor Standards Act Overtime-Pay Requirement

The Fair Labor Standards Act exempted “any salesman, partsman, or mechanic primarily engaged in selling or servicing automobiles” from overtime-pay requirements under the Act. In Encino Motorcars, LLC v. Navarro, a group of service advisors sued for overtime pay under the Act when the Department of Labor decided in 2011 that they were excluded from the exemption. The Court... Read More >

Court Applies Five-Year Limitations Period to SEC Disgorgement Actions

In Kokesh v. Securities and Exchange Commission, the SEC sought to force Kokesh to disgorge millions he had misappropriated from various businesses from 1995 to 2009. While the Supreme Court had long held that a five-year limitations period applied to any SEC “action, suit or proceeding for the enforcement of any civil fine, penalty, or forfeiture,” the district court held... Read More >

Supreme Court Limits Government’s Power to Seize Personal Property

The Comprehensive Forfeiture Act mandates forfeiture of “any property constituting, or derived from, any proceeds the person obtained, directly or indirectly, as the result of” certain drug crimes. After brothers Tony and Terry Honeycutt were indicted for such drug crimes for selling a particular chemical through a hardware store Tony owned, Tony pled guilty and agreed to forfeit the bulk... Read More >

An ERISA Church Pension Plan Need Not Be Established by a Church

Originally, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act exempted “church plans” from a variety of rules designed to ensure solvency, and defined those plans as having been “established and maintained . . . for its employees . . . by a church.” Later, Congress amended this exception to include “a plan maintained by an organization . . . the principal purpose... Read More >

Court Affirms Virginia Court’s Application Of Juvenile Punishment Standards

In Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48 (2010), the Court held that juvenile defendants convicted of nonhomicide offenses could not be sentenced to life without parole. Virginia had already abolished parole and instead replaced it with a “geriatric release” program which allowed older inmates to receive conditional release. In Virginia v. LeBlanc, LeBlanc was sentenced to life in prison for... Read More >

Patent Holders May Not Use Federal Law To Issue Injunctions Against Applicants For Biosimilar Products

The Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009 provides an abbreviated process for the FDA to approve drugs that are biosimilar to already licensed biological products. The Act, in part, requires an applicant for a biosimilar product to provide its application and manufacturing information to the patent holder within 20 days of the date the FDA notifies the applicant... Read More >

Court Again Limits Ability To Appeal Denial Of Class Certification

Consumers who purchased Xbox 360s sued Microsoft both individually and as a class. The district court struck the class allegations, refusing to certify the class. The Ninth Circuit refused to hear the appeal of that ruling under Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(f), which allows such interlocutory appeals only by permission of the court of appeals. Instead of pursuing their individual... Read More >

Court Again Limits Forum-Shopping In Suits Against Nationwide Companies

In Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court of Cal., San Francisco City, a number of users of the drug Plavix sued the maker in California for alleged health problems caused by the drug, despite the fact that hardly any of the users lived in that state, and Bristol-Myers being incorporated in Delaware and headquartered in New York. None of the... Read More >

Supreme Court: Posting To Facebook Is A First Amendment Right

A North Carolina law made it a felony for a registered sex offender “to access a commercial social networking Web site where the sex offender knows that the site permits minor children to become members or to create or maintain personal Web pages.” When a sex offender posted on Facebook about getting a traffic ticket dismissed, he was convicted and... Read More >

September 11 Detainees Denied A Bivens Action For Their Detention

In Ziglar v. Abbasi, the Court was asked to extend the implied cause of action theories under Bivens v. Six Unknown Fed. Narcotics Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971) to alleged constitutional violations six men claimed to have suffered during detention shortly after the September 11 terrorist attacks. The Second Circuit permitted the claims to go forward against certain executive officials,... Read More >

Supreme Court Clarifies Expert Psychiatric Assistance In Indigent Defendant Cases

The Court had previously held in Ake v. Oklahoma, 470 U.S. 68 (1985), that when an indigent defendant’s mental condition is relevant to his criminal culpability, the State must provide that defendant with access to a mental health expert who is sufficiently available to the defense, and independent from the prosecution, to conduct a psychiatric examination and “assist in evaluation,... Read More >

SCOTUS: Disparaging Trademarks Have First Amendment Protection

The Lanham Act has a provision prohibiting the registration of trademarks that “disparage . . . or bring . . . into contemp[t] or disrepute” and “persons, living or dead.” Simon Tam, lead singer of the Japanese rock band “The Slants” sued when the band’s name was denied registration. The Federal Circuit held that the disparagement clause was facially unconstitutional... Read More >

SCOTUS: 2nd mortgages on ‘underwater’ homes cannot be voided in Chapter 7 bankruptcy

In Bank of America v. Caulkett, the Court declined to allow a Chapter 7 bankruptcy debtor to “strip down” a mortgage lien that is junior to liens that claim all of the equity in a home, thus allowing those “underwater” liens to survive a discharge. Caulkett owned a house where the senior mortgage lien was greater than his... Read More >