Washington Update: Supreme Court Matters

Recent SCOTUS Decisions 

Since April 15, 2016 ten cases were presented and argued in front of the Supreme Court. These cases include United States v. Texas, United States v. Bryant, Universal Health Services v. U.S. ex rel. ESCOBAR, Birchfield v. North Dakota, Encino Motorcars, LLC v. Navarro, Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Cuozzo Speed Technologies LLC v. Lee, Mathis v. United States, Dietz v. Bouldin, McDonnell v. United States. No formal decision has been reached in these cases. They are briefly summarized directly below:

  • United States v. Texas, asks the question; does the Obama administration have the authority to implement its deferred-action policy for undocumented immigrants and is there a right by the states to challenge the policy? It also draws into question whether the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) should have notified the public about the policy and allowed them to weigh in. In addition, the Court must determine if the policy violates the Constitution’s clause requiring the president to ensure that the laws are “faithfully executed.”
  • Universal Health Services v. United States ex rel. Escobar discusses what the criteria are for a claim to be considered fraudulent when it is sought by a government contractor based on the “implied certification” theory of legal falsity.
  • Encino Motorcars, LLC v. Navarro addresses the question of whether “service advisors” at car dealerships are exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act’s overtime-pay requirements under 29 U.S.C. §213(b)(10)(A).
  • Cuozzo Speed Technologies, LLC v. Lee discusses the issue of inter partes review (IPR) within the Patent process. The question focuses around the issue of whether IPRs can be considered substitutes for litigation or if they are extensions of the examination process. Furthermore, this case asks, does the Patent Trail and Appeal Board have the authority to use the broadest reasonable interpretation or do they need to use a more plain or ordinary meaning for interpretation when they are conducting IPR proceedings? 
  • McDonnell v. United States examines the vagueness and conditionality of the Hobbes Act and the honest-services fraud statute. In this case former governor McDonnell and his wife were charged with violating federal law by taking a bribe in return for “official acts” and conspiracy to commit “honest services” and Hobbs Act crimes.

On April 28, 2016 the Court issued its decision in Heffernan v. City of Paterson stating that “when an employer demotes an employee out of a desire to prevent the employee from engaging in protected political activity, the employee can challenge that demotion even if the employer’s actions are based on a factual mistake about the employee’s behavior.” On April 29, 2016 the Court denied the authority to stop Texas from enforcing a strict photo ID requirement for voters in that state, but left it open and in the jurisdiction of the federal appeals court until July 20, 2016. In the case of Hurst v. Florida, the Supreme Court ruled that Florida’s “unique system” of imposing death sentences was unconstitutional because it granted judges the authority to make the final decision.

Update: Nomination of Merrick Garland to the SCOTUS scotus-no-scalia

It was reported on May 10 that Chief Judge Merrick Garland submitted an unsolicited questionnaire to the Senate Judiciary Committee. There is still much controversy over the appointment of Garland to the Supreme Court among members of Congress. As Garland meets with Senators, there are mixed feelings as the confirmation struggle continues. It was reported that eight former U.S. solicitors general from Democratic and Republican administrations have endorsed Garland’s nomination.

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