This is a catch-all group of civil cases the Court is hearing this Term.  There are important cases to the business community, such as the Bilski patent case.  The Court also has an unusually high number of cases regarding the processes by which the federal courts operate.

Click the links below to scroll directly to cases of that subcategory, or browse the entire list below them.

Significant Business Cases

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Title: Jones v. Harris Associates

Docket: 08-586

Argument date: November 2, 2009

Question presented: Federal law imposes duties on investment managers regarding the funds they manage.  The question presented is whether a manager violates that duty by charging excessive fees if the fund's directors were not misled about the fees.

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Title: Bilski v. Kappos

Docket: 08-964

Argument date: November 9, 2009

Question presented: When can a patent be issued for a method of doing business?

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Title: Merck & Co., Inc. v. Richard Reynolds

Docket: 08-905

Argument date: November 30, 2009

Question presented: Does the time for a plaintiff to file a federal securities fraud lawsuit not begin to run until the plaintiff has reason to know that the defendant's conduct was wrongful?

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Title: American Needle v. NFL

Docket: 08-661

Argument date: January 13, 2010

Question presented: The federal antitrust laws prohibit some “collective” action by “separate” entities.  The question presented is whether that provision applies when NFL teams work together in marketing gear, or are the teams in that context instead a “single entity.”

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Title: Morrison v. National Australia Bank

Docket: 08-1191

Argument date: Will be set for argument in March or April 2010

Question presented: When may federal courts hear a suit by foreign plaintiffs alleging that they were harmed by securities fraud in a transaction conducted overseas but that nonetheless has ties to the United States?

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Civil Litigation

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Title: Reed Elsevier v. Muchnick

Docket: 08-103

Argument date: October 7, 2009

Question presented: Federal law grants authors a copyright even if they don't register the work with the government, but forbids copyright infringement suits unless the author has applied for a copyright.  The question presented is whether a court may approve a court settlement that applies to both registered and unregistered works?

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Title: Union Pacific Railroad Co. v. Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers

Docket: 08-604

Argument date: October 7, 2009

Decision date: December 8, 2009

Decision: Federal law provides for the binding arbitration of labor disputes involving railroads.  The Court had agreed to decide whether (i) a court may overturn an arbitration award on the ground that it was unconstitutional, and (ii) the arbitration ruling in this case was in fact unconstitutionally retroactive.  But it did not rule on those issues because it concluded that the arbitration violated the relevant federal statute.

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Title: Hemi Group, LLC v. City of New York

Docket: 08-969

Argument date: November 3, 2009

Question presented: Can state and local governments file suit under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) in order to recover unpaid taxes?

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Title: NRG Power Marketing, LLC v. Maine Public Utilities Commission

Docket: 08-674

Argument date: November 3, 2009

Question presented: When a third party challenges an agreement between an energy company and a utility over the rate the utility will pay for electricity, should federal law presume that the rate is legal?

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Title: Graham County Soil & Water Conservation Dist. v. U.S. ex rel. Wilson

Docket: 08-304

Argument date: November 30, 2009

Question presented: The federal False Claims Act allows whistleblowers to bring suits alleging that the defendant defrauded the federal government, but there is an exception for claims that are based on information that was already published in reports and investigations.  The question presented is whether the exception applies to state and local reports and investigations, or is limited to those by the federal government.

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Title: Abbott v. Abbott

Docket: 08-645

Argument date: January 12, 2010

Question presented: Under a treaty signed by the United States, a child taken from his home country in violation of a “right of custody” generally must be returned to that country.  In this case, the child was taken from a parent who did not have physical custody but had a “ne exeat order,” which prohibited taking the child out of the country without the parent’s permission.  The question presented is whether a “ne exeat order” is a “right of custody” under the treaty, so that the child must be returned.

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Title: Jerman v. Carlisle

Docket: 08-1200

Argument date: January 13, 2010

Question presented: A federal law requires notices sent by debt collectors to identify the creditor and the amount of the debt.  The question is whether a debt collector violates the statute if it does not provide that notice, but it did not know that it was required to do so by the law.

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Title: Mac's Shell Service v. Shell Oil Products Company; Shell Oil Products Company v. Mac's Shell Service

Docket: 08-24008-372

Argument date: January 19, 2010

Question presented: Federal law regulates when an oil company can terminate gas station franchises.  The question presented is: can a station sue only if the oil company has formally “terminated” it, rather than for less severe action that would be a “constructive termination.”

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Title: Conkright v. Frommert

Docket: 08-810

Argument date: January 20, 2010

Question presented: An employee health plan often has an administrator who must interpret its terms, and in some circumstances courts will defer to the administrator’s reading.  The question is whether a court should defer not only to interpretations that administrators adopt when deciding claims for benefits but also interpretations they adopt when litigating a lawsuit in court.

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Title: Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha v. Regal-Beloit Corporation

Docket: 08-155308-1554 (this case was consolidated with Union Pacific Railroad Company v. Regal-Beloit Corporation)

Argument date: Will be set for argument in March or April 2010

Question presented: Does a federal law holding shippers liable for damage to certain shipments apply to damage during the rail portion of an international shipment that has no domestic bill of lading?

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Title: New Process Steel v. National Labor Relations Board

Docket: 08-1457

Argument date: Will be set for argument in March or April 2010

Question presented: An administrative body known as the National Labor Relations Board makes rulings on federal labor law.   The question is whether a Board ruling issued by only two board members is legal.

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Civil Judicial Procedure

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Title: Mohawk Industries, Inc. v. Carpenter

Docket: 08-678

Argument date: October 5, 2009

Decision date: December 8, 2009

Decision: The Supreme Court held that a party cannot immediately appeal from a federal trial judge's ruling that a he must turn over evidence because it is not protected by the attorney-client privilege.

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Title: Perdue v. Kenny A.

Docket: 08-970

Argument date: October 14, 2009

Question presented: Can a federal court award a winning party extraordinary attorneys' fees on the ground that the attorneys' work was particularly exceptional?

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Title: Shady Grove Orthopedic Associates, P.A. v. Allstate Insurance Company

Docket: 08-1008

Argument date: November 2, 2009

Question presented: Plaintiffs sometimes sue for violations of state law in federal court.  In such cases, state law decides the substantive claims, but federal law decides the procedures by which the case will be decided.  The question presented is whether a state law forbidding that certain state claims be decided in a class action is procedural, so that it does not apply in federal court.

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Title: Kucana v. Holder

Docket: 08-911

Argument date: November 10, 2009

Question presented: Challenges to immigration actions (such as deportation orders) are heard by the Board of Immigration Appeals before going to a federal appeals court.  The question presented is:  when the Board denies an individual's request to "reopen" one of its rulings, can the court of appeals review that ruling?

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Title: Hertz Corporation v. Friend

Docket: 08-1107

Argument date: November 10, 2009

Question presented: Federal district courts have jurisdiction to hear certain cases between plaintiffs and defendants that are citizens of "diverse" states.  For a company, citizenship depends on its "principal place of business."  The question presented is what specific test determines the citizenship of companies that operate around the country.

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Title: Stolt-Nielson S.A. v. AnimalFeeds International Corporation

Docket: 08-1198

Argument date: December 9, 2009

Question presented: Can "class actions" "“ representative suits where a few individuals act on behalf of a large number of similarly situated plaintiffs "“ proceed in arbitrations when the arbitration agreement does not expressly authorize them?

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Title: Granite Rock Company v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters

Docket: 08-1214

Argument date: January 19, 2010

Question presented: In this case, the employer wants to sue over a collective bargaining agreement signed by a local union rather than its international.  The questions are, under federal labor law, whether (1) a federal court or instead an arbitrator should decide whether there is an actual agreement, and (2) the employer should sue the international or instead the local.

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Title: Astrue v. Ratliff

Docket: 08-1322

Argument date: February 22, 2010

Question presented: When a party wins a lawsuit against the government and is awarded her attorneys’ fees, do those fees first go to the party or instead straight to the lawyer?  The question matters because if they go to the party, the government can deduct money the party owes it (for example, to pay off back taxes).

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Title: Health Care Service Corporation v. Pollitt

Docket: 09-38

Argument date: March 3, 2010

Question presented: A federal law, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Act, governs health insurance plans for federal employees, which are often administered by private contractors.  The question presented is:  must an employee’s suit against a contractor relating to his insurance plan be heard in federal court, or can it be heard in state court?

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Title: Levin, Tax Commissioner of Ohio v. Commerce Energy, Inc.

Docket: 09-223

Argument date: Will be set for argument in March or April 2010

Question presented: May plaintiffs bring a suit in federal court alleging that a state tax exemption benefiting other parties but not them is unconstitutionally discriminatory?

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Bankruptcy

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Title: Schwab v. Reilly

Docket: 08-538

Argument date: November 3, 2009

Question presented: When a debtor files for bankruptcy, she must declare the value of her property, at which point the creditor to whom she is indebted can object to this declared amount.  The question presented is:  if the creditor does not object, and the debtor later realizes that the property is worth more than the declared amount, can the creditor collect the difference in value?

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Title: United Student Aid Funds, Inc. v. Espinosa

Docket: 08-1134

Argument date: December 1, 2009

Question presented: The bankruptcy court here improperly "discharged" the debtor's student loan debt.  The question presented is whether the loan company can challenge the discharge after it is final.

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Title: Hamilton v. Lanning

Docket: 08-998

Argument date: Will be set for argument in March or April 2010

Question presented: Federal law requires that a debtor in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy pay her "projected disposable income" to her creditors during the period of her bankruptcy plan.  The question presented is how to calculate "projected disposable income" when it is known that the debtor's future income will be substantially higher or lower than her past income.

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Original Action

In an “Original Jurisdiction” case, one state sues another directly in the Supreme Court, rather than starting the case in a trial court.

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Title: South Carolina v. North Carolina

Docket: 138 Original

Argument date: October 13, 2009

Question presented: When one state sues another directly in the Supreme Court, when can non-states intervene in the case?

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Title: Alabama v. North Carolina

Docket: 132 Original

Argument date: January 11, 2010

Question presented: The dispute is over the construction of a hazardous waste facility in North Carolina pursuant to a compact between several states.

Posted in Plain English / Cases Made Simple