Justice Ginsburg announced the first two opinions for the Court today. In Bullcoming v. New Mexico, the Court reversed the decision of the New Mexico Supreme Court and remanded the case for further proceedings. The Court held that the Confrontation Clause does not permit the prosecution to introduce a forensic lab report containing a testimonial certification through the in-court testimony of an analyst who did not sign the document or personally observe the test. If an out-of-court statement is testimonial, it may not be introduced against the accused at trial unless the witness who made the statement is unavailable and the accused has had a prior opportunity to confront that witness.

Justice Scalia joined Justice Ginsburg's opinion in full.  Justices Sotomayor and Kagan joined all of the opinion except Part IV, while Justice Thomas joined all of the opinion except Part IV and footnote 6. Justice Sotomayor also filed a separate opinion concurring in part. Justice Kennedy filed a dissenting opinion, which was joined by the Chief Justice and Justices Breyer and Alito. [Disclosure: Goldstein, Howe & Russell P.C. represents the petitioner in this case.]

In CSX Transportation Inc. v. McBride, the Court affirmed the decision of the Seventh Circuit by a vote of five to four. It held that the Federal Employers' Liability Act, which makes railroads liable for the injuries or deaths of their employees "resulting in whole or in part from negligence," does not incorporate the proximate cause standards developed in non-statutory common-law tort cases; rather, a railroad causes or contributes to an employee's injury if the railroad's negligence plays any part in bringing about the injury.  Justices Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan joined Justice Ginsburg's opinion in full, while Justice Thomas joined all but Part III-A of the opinion.  The Chief Justice filed a dissenting opinion, which was joined by Justices Scalia, Kennedy, and Alito.

Justice Thomas had the third opinion of the day, in PLIVA Inc. v. Mensing.  By a vote of five to four, the Court reversed the decision of the Eighth Circuit.  It held that federal drug regulations applicable to generic drug manufactures directly conflict with, and thus preempt, state-law tort claims alleging a failure to provide adequate warning labels. The Chief Justice and Justices Scalia and Alito joined the opinion in full, while Justice Kennedy joined as to all but Part III-B-2.  Justice Sotomayor filed a dissenting opinion, which was joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, and Kagan.

Justice Kennedy had the fourth opinion of the day, in Freeman v. United States.  By a vote of five to four, the Court reversed the decision of the Sixth Circuit and remanded the case for further proceedings. Justice Kennedy wrote an opinion that was joined by Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, and Kagan.  They would hold that when, pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(c)(1)(C), a defendant enters into a plea agreement that recommends a particular sentence as a condition of a guilty plea, he may be eligible for a sentence reduction if the U.S. Sentencing Commission later lowers the sentencing range.

Justice Sotomayor filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, which is controlling. She would hold that if a plea agreement pursuant to Rule 11(c)(1)(C) expressly uses a Sentencing Guidelines sentencing range applicable to the charged offense to establish the term of imprisonment, and that range is subsequently lowered by the U.S. Sentencing Commission, the term of imprisonment is then "based on" the range employed and the defendant is eligible for sentence reduction under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c).  Because the petitioner's plea agreement expressly ties the recommended range to the Guidelines sentencing range, she would allow the petitioner in this case to seek a sentence reduction. The Chief Justice filed a dissenting opinion, which Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito joined.

Justice Kennedy also had the Court's opinion in Sorrell v. IMS Health, Inc. By a vote of six to three, the Court affirmed the decision of the Second Circuit. It held that Vermont's Prescription Confidentiality Law, which "“ absent the prescriber's consent "“ prohibits the sale of prescriber-identifying information, as well as the disclosure or use of that information for marketing purposes, is subject to heightened judicial scrutiny because it imposes content- and speaker-based burdens on protected expression.  Vermont's justifications for the prohibition cannot withstand such heightened scrutiny. Justice Breyer filed a dissenting opinion, which was joined by Justices Ginsburg and Kagan. [Disclaimer: Goldstein, Howe and Russell P.C. represents the respondents IMS Health, SDI, and Verispan.]

The Chief Justice had the last opinion of the day, in Stern v. Marshall, affirming the decision of the Ninth Circuit.  Lyle's analysis of the opinion is here. Although the Court unanimously agreed that the bankruptcy court had the statutory authority to issue a final and binding decision on a claim based exclusively on a right assured by state law, the Court held "“ by a vote of five to four "“ that the bankruptcy court nonetheless lacked the constitutional authority to do so. Justice Scalia filed a concurring opinion. Justice Breyer filed a dissenting opinion, which was joined by Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan.

Posted in Featured, Merits Cases

Recommended Citation: Kali Borkoski, Details on today’s opinions, SCOTUSblog (Jun. 23, 2011, 1:46 PM), http://www.scotusblog.com/2011/06/details-on-todays-opinions-12/