SUPREME COURT CASES

We work hard to get you the up to the date info on recent decisions and upcoming arguments to be made by the US Supreme Court

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February 3, 2021

Question

Was it proper for the district court to abstain from exercising jurisdiction under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act for reasons of international comity, because the plaintiffs made no attempt to exhaust local Hungarian remedies?

Conclusion

The Court vacated the judgment below and remanded the case to the D.C. Circuit for further proceedings consistent with Federal Republic of Germany v. Philipp, 592 U.S. ___ (2021).

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February 3, 2021

Facts of the case

In 2006, Petitioner Manfredo M. Salinas applied for a disability annuity under the Railroad Retirement Act, but the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board (“the Board”) denied his application. After the filing period had expired, Salinas sought reconsideration, which the Board also denied, based on its conclusion that Salinas had not shown good cause for missing the deadline. Salinas did not pursue any further action on his application, so the Board’s denial became a final decision on February 9, 2007.

Nearly seven years later, in 2013, Salinas filed a new application for a disability annuity. The Board granted him an annuity, but Salinas appealed the annuity's beginning date and amount. During that appeal, Salinas asked the Board to reopen all its decisions on his prior applications, including the decision denying his 2006 application. After a hearing, a Board hearing officer concluded that Salinas's 2006 application was beyond the four-year timeframe for reopening based on new and material evidence or administrative error under the Board's regulations. Salinas then asked the U.S. Court of Appeals to review the Board's decision not to reopen his 2006 application. Following its own binding precedent holding that it lacked jurisdiction to review a Board decision declining to reopen a prior benefits claim, the Fifth Circuit dismissed Salinas’s petition.

Question

Does a decision by the Railroad Retirement Board denying a request to reopen a prior benefits claim constitute a “final decision” subject to judicial review?

5–4 DECISION FOR SALINAS
MAJORITY OPINION BY SONIA SOTOMAYOR

The U.S. Railroad Retirement Board’s denial of a request to reopen a prior benefits determination under the Railroad Retirement Act of 1974 and the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act is subject to judicial review.

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February 3, 2021

Holding: The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act’s expropriation exception, 28 U.S.C. § 1605(a)(3), incorporates the domestic takings rule, which recognizes that a foreign sovereign’s taking of its own nationals’ property is not a violation of international law.

Judgment: Vacated and remanded, 9-0, in an opinion by Chief Justice Roberts on February 3, 2021.

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January 25, 2021

The case: Archer & White Sales, Inc. filed a lawsuit in magisterial court against Henry Schein, Inc. ("Schein") alleging that Schein violated the Sherman Antitrust Act and the Texas Free Enterprise and Antitrust Act.[4] Schein filed motions to compel arbitration and stay all proceedings. The magistrate judge granted the defendants' motions. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas reversed and vacated the magistrate judge's ruling and issued an order denying the motions to compel arbitration. On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit affirmed the Eastern District of Texas' order. Schein appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The court vacated the 5th Circuit's ruling and remanded the case for further proceedings. On remand, the 5th Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of motions to compel arbitration. Schein petitioned the U.S. Supreme


Court for review.

  • The issue: Whether an arbitration agreement provision exempting certain claims from arbitration negates an otherwise clear and unmistakable delegation of questions of arbitrability to an arbitrator.[5]

  • The outcome: In a per curiam decision, the court dismissed the case as improvidently granted.

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January 14, 2021

Facts of the case

The City of Chicago towed and impounded the Robbin Fulton’s vehicle for a prior citation of driving on a suspended license. Fulton filed a Chapter 13 bankruptcy action treating the City as an unsecured creditor. The City filed an unsecured proof of claim, and the bankruptcy court confirmed Fulton’s plan. The City then amended its proof of claim and asserted its status as a secured creditor. It refused to return Fulton’s vehicle, and Fulton filed a motion for sanctions against the City.

The bankruptcy court held that the City was obligated to return the vehicle under Thompson v. General Motors Acceptance Corp., 566 F.3d 699 (7th Cir. 2009), a binding case in which the Seventh Circuit had held that a creditor must comply with the automatic stay and return a debtor’s vehicle upon her filing of a bankruptcy petition. The City moved to stay the order in federal district court, and the court denied its request. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the lower court’s judgment denying the City's request.

Question

Does the Bankruptcy Code’s automatic stay provision, 11 U.S.C § 362, require that an entity that is passively retaining possession of property in which a bankruptcy estate has an interest return that property to the debtor or trustee immediately upon the filing of the bankruptcy petition?

Conclusion

UNANIMOUS DECISION FOR CHICAGO
MAJORITY OPINION BY SAMUEL A. ALITO, JR.

The mere retention of estate property after the filing of a bankruptcy petition does not violate 11 U. S. C. § 362(a)(3).

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December 18, 2020

Trump v. New York was a United States Supreme Court case dealing with the 2020 United States Census. It centered on the validity of an executive memorandum written by President Donald Trump in July 2020 to the Department of Commerce, which conducts and reports the Census. The memo ordered the Department to report the results of the Census with the exclusion of the estimated counts of illegal immigrants. The memo was challenged by a coalition of U.S. states led by New York along with several cities and other organizations suing to block action on the memo. The United States District Court for the Southern District of New York found for the states and blocked enforcement of the memo, leading Trump to seek emergency action from the Supreme Court to rule on the matter before the results of the Census are due by December 31, 2020. The Court issued a per curiam decision on December 18, 2020, vacating the District Court's ruling and dismissing the case on the basis that there were matters related to lack of standing and ripeness that made the case premature. The same decision was reached by the court on December 18, 2020, for the similar "Trump v. Useche" case.[1]

While multiple states vowed to bring the case back to the Supreme Court immediately after implementation was done, thereby establishing standing and ripeness, the Trump Administration struggled immensely with implementation (due in part to the Supreme Court case Department of Commerce v. New York). Ultimately, Trump's successor issued Executive Order 13986 which requires non-citizens to be counted in the 2020 census, both for the purposes of enumeration and determining congressional apportionment, thereby reversing the Trump administration and ending the controversy.

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​LANGE V. CALIFORNIA

February 24, 2021

Lange v. California concerns the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The issue facing the court is whether the pursuit of a person whom a police officer has probable cause to believe has committed a misdemeanor categorically qualifies as an exigent circumstance sufficient to allow the officer to enter a home without a warrant.

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February 25, 2021

Facts of the case

Two undercover FBI agents mistakenly identified petitioner James King as a criminal suspect and approached him. The parties differed in their account of the facts as to whether the agents identified themselves as police officers, but King apparently perceived he was being mugged and resisted their attempts to restrain him. A violent fight ensued, in which the officers severely beat King until onlookers called 911 and local police arrived on the scene. The local police officers ordered bystanders to delete video footage of the altercation because the videos could reveal the identities of undercover FBI officers. King was taken to the hospital, where he received medical treatment and was discharged. On his discharge, police arrested him and took him to Kent County Jail, where he spent the weekend in jail before posting bail and visiting another hospital for further examination. Prosecutors pursued charges, but a jury acquitted King of all charges.

King then filed a lawsuit against the United States and both FBI agents, alleging that the agents violated his clearly established Fourth Amendment rights by conducting an unreasonable seizure and by using excessive force. In general, the United States and its agents are immune from liability under the principle of sovereign immunity. The Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) waives sovereign immunity in specific situations, and the plaintiff bringing an FTCA claim bears the burden of showing his claim falls within such situations. The FTCA also contains a “judgment bar” provision that precludes a plaintiff from bringing additional claims concerning the “same subject matter” as an FTCA claim after a judgment is entered on the FTCA claim.

The district court found that King failed to prove one of the six requirements for FTCA to apply, and therefore that it lacked subject-matter jurisdiction to hear King’s claim against the United States. The court further held that the defendant agents were entitled to qualified immunity and granted summary judgment in their favor. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed, finding the FTCA judgment bar does not preclude King’s remaining claims because the court did not reach the merits of the FTCA claims and that the defendants were not entitled to qualified immunity

Question

Does the judgment bar provision of the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) prevent a plaintiff whose FTCA claim against the government failed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction from filing another action, against the same defendants and arising from the same set of facts and injuries, under Bivens?

UNANIMOUS DECISION FOR BROWNBACK
MAJORITY OPINION BY CLARENCE THOMAS

The judgment bar of the Federal Tort Claims Act is triggered by a judgment of dismissal for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).

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UNITED STATES V. VAELLO-MADERO

March 1, 2021

Issue: Whether Congress violated the equal-protection component of the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment by establishing Supplemental Security Income — a program that provides benefits to needy aged, blind and disabled individuals — in the 50 states and the District of Columbia, and in the Northern Mariana Islands pursuant to a negotiated covenant, but not extending it to Puerto Rico.

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BRNOVICH V. DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE

March 2, 2021

Issues: (1) Whether Arizona’s out-of-precinct policy, which does not count provisional ballots cast in person on Election Day outside of the voter’s designated precinct, violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act; and (2) whether Arizona’s ballot-collection law, which permits only certain persons (i.e., family and household members, caregivers, mail carriers and elections officials) to handle another person’s completed early ballot, violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act or the 15th Amendment.