The Court issued six opinions this morning, listed below.  It also granted cert. in five cases and requested the views of the Solicitor General in two more (these follow the jump).

[UPDATE, 3 p.m.: All opinions are now listed with their holdings.]

  • United States v. Marcus (08-1341): reversed and remanded, 7-1, in an opinion by Justice Breyer.  Justice Stevens dissents and Justice Sotomayor took no part in the case.
    • Holding: Contrary to the Second Circuit’s standard for reviewing “plain error,” an appellate court may correct an error not raised at trial only when the appellant demonstrates that (1) there is an error; (2) the error is clear or obvious; (3) the error affected the appellant's substantial rights; and (4) the error seriously affects the fairness, integrity, or public reputation of judicial proceedings.
  • Hardt v. Reliance Standard Insurance Co. (09-448): reversed and remanded, 9-0, in an opinion by Justice Thomas.  Justice Stevens concurs in part and in the judgment.
    • Holding: A worker covered by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act need not be a "prevailing party" to recover attorney’s fees in a lawsuit over ERISA benefits; a court may award fees and costs to the claimant as long as she has achieved "some degree of success on the merits."
  • United States v. O’Brien (08-1569): affirmed, 9-0, in an opinion by Justice Kennedy.  Justice Stevens concurs and Justice Thomas concurs in the judgment only.
    • Holding: The fact that a firearm was a machine gun is an element to be proved to the jury beyond a reasonable doubt, and is not a sentencing factor to be proved to the judge at the time of sentencing.
  • Lewis v. City of Chicago (08-974): reversed and remanded, in a unanimous opinion by Justice Scalia.
    • Holding: A plaintiff who does not file a timely charge challenging the adoption of an employment practice may assert a claim of disparate impact even if the lawsuit is aimed at an application of the practice.
  • American Needle v. NFL (08-661): reversed and remanded, in a unanimous opinion by Justice Stevens.
    • Holding: The NFL’s team joint licensing of the use of trademarks on clothing and other consumer goods may be challenged under the Sherman Antitrust Act’s section 1.
  • Robertson v. United States ex rel. Watson (08-6261): writ of cert. dismissed as improvidently granted in a per curiam opinion.  The Chief Justice dissents, joined by Justices Scalia, Kennedy, and Sotomayor.
    • Chief Justice Roberts would have decided the case, answering “no” to the question presented, "Whether an action for criminal contempt in a congressionally created court may constitutionally be brought in the name and pursuant to the power of a private person, rather than in the name and pursuant to the power of the United States.”

The Court also summarily granted, vacated, and remanded a petition in a capital case, Jefferson v. Upton.  The per curiam opinion is here.  Justice Scalia dissented, joined by Justice Thomas.

As for orders, the Court granted cert. in five cases (see the briefs below):

  • Williamson v. Mazda (08-1314), limited to question 1
  • Sossamon v. Texas (08-1438), limited to the following question: whether an individual may sue a state or state official in his official capacity for damages for violations of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act
  • AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion (09-893)
  • Arizona Christan School Tuition Organization v. Winn (09-987) and Garriott v. Winn (09-991), consolidated
  • Skinner v. Switzer (09-9000)

Finally, the Court requested the views of the Solicitor General in Maxwell-Jolly v. Independent Living Center of Southern California, Inc. (09-958) and two linked cases, PLIVA, Inc. v. Mensing and Actavis Elizabeth v. Mensing.

The full order list is here.  The briefs in the cases granted and CVSG’d are below.

Cases granted:

Title: Williamson v. Mazda Motor of America, Inc.
Docket: 08-1314
Issue: (1) Whether, when Congress has provided that compliance with a federal motor vehicle safety standard "does not exempt a person from liability at common law," 49 U.S.C. § 30103(e), a federal minimum safety standard allowing vehicle manufacturers to install either lap-only or lap/shoulder seatbelts in certain seating positions preempts a state common-law claim alleging that the manufacturer should have installed a lap/shoulder belt in one of those seating positions; (2) whether that same federal motor vehicle safety standard impliedly preempts a state tort suit alleging that the manufacturer should have warned consumers of the known dangers of a lap-only seatbelt installed in one of its vehicles.

Title: Sossamon v. Texas
Docket: 08-1438
Issue: Limited by the Court to this question: whether an individual may sue a state or state official in his official capacity for damages for violations of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.

Title: AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion
Docket: 09-893
Issue: Whether the Federal Arbitration Act preempts states from conditioning the enforcement of an arbitration agreement on the availability of particular procedures "” here, class-wide arbitration "” when those procedures are not necessary to ensure that the parties to the arbitration agreement are able to vindicate their claims.

Title: Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn; Garriott v. Winn
Docket: 09-98709-991
Issues: (1) Whether respondents have taxpayer standing when they cannot allege that the Arizona Tuition Tax Credit involves the expenditure or appropriation of state funds; and (2) whether a tax credit that advances the legislature's legitimate secular purpose of expanding educational options for families unconstitutionally endorses or advances religion simply because taxpayers choose to direct more contributions to religious organizations than nonreligious ones.

Title: Skinner v. Switzer
Docket: 09-9000
Issue: Whether a convicted prisoner seeking access to biological evidence for DNA testing may assert that claim in a civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, or whether such a claim may be asserted only in a petition for writ of habeas corpus.

Cases in which the Court requested the views of the Solicitor General:

Title: Maxwell-Jolly v. Independent Living Center of Southern California
Docket: 09-958
Issues: (1) Whether Medicaid recipients and providers may maintain a cause of action under the Supremacy Clause to enforce 42 U.S.C. § 1396a(a)(30)(A) of the Medicaid Act by asserting that the provision preempts a state law reducing reimbursement rates; and (2) whether a state law reducing Medicaid reimbursement rates may be held preempted by Section 1396a(a)(30)(A) based on requirements that do not appear in the text of the statute.

Title: PLIVA, Inc. v. Mensing; Actavis Elizabeth v. Mensing
Docket: 09-99309-1039
Issue: Whether the Eighth Circuit abrogated the Hatch-Waxman Amendments by allowing state tort liability for failure to warn in direct contravention of the Act's requirement that a generic drug's labeling be the same as the Federal Drug Administration-approved labeling for the listed (or branded) drug.

For 09-993:

For 09-1039:

Posted in Cases in the Pipeline, Merits Cases