Yesterday, the Court heard arguments in Salazar v. Ramah Navajo Chapter. At issue in the case is whether the government must reimburse all of the contract support costs that Native American tribes incur in administering federal programs, even when Congress has imposed spending caps on those costs. At this blog, Lyle Denniston reports that the “sheer irrationality” of the seemingly contradictory statutory regime at the heart of the suit “seemed to be troubling the Justices.”  Kali links to the transcript of the argument here.

The Court also issued unanimous opinions in two cases yesterday.

First, in Mohamad v. Palestinian Authority, the Court affirmed the D.C. Circuit’s holding that, as used in the Torture Victim Protection Act, the word “individual” encompasses only natural persons, so that the Act does not impose liability on organizations. (Disclosure: Goldstein & Russell, P.C., whose attorneys contribute to this blog in various capacities, serves as counsel to the petitioners in this case.) For this blog, Lyle Denniston reports that the ruling “almost certainly means there will be few cases in U.S. courts seeking damages for acts of torture overseas.” Other coverage of the opinion comes from Greg Stohr of Bloomberg, Nina Totenberg of NPR, Mark Sherman of the Associated Press, James Vicini of Reuters, Adam Liptak of the New York Times, Robert Barnes of the Washington Post, David G. Savage of the Los Angeles Times, Warren Richey of the Christian Science Monitor, Barbara Leonard of Courthouse News, Mike Sacks of the Huffington Post, Jess Bravin of the Wall Street Journal Law Blog and the Wall Street Journal (subscription required), and Debra Cassens Weiss of the ABA Journal.  At the Wall Street Journal Law Blog, Jess Bravin also notes that the opinion incorrectly referred to the respondent, the Palestine Liberation Organization, as the “Palestinian” Liberation Organization.

Second, in Kappos v. Hyatt, the Court held that there are no limits on a patent applicant’s ability to introduce new evidence in a civil action to obtain a patent beyond those already present in the Federal Rules of Evidence and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.  The Court also found that the district court must make a de novo factual finding taking into account both the new evidence and the factual record before the Patent and Trademark Office, affirming the Federal Circuit and remanding for further proceedings. The Associated Press and Barbara Leonard of Courthouse News have coverage. Kali has details on both of yesterday’s opinions here.

Coverage of and commentary on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) continue. In the New York Review of Books, Ronald Dworkin argues that if the Court holds the ACA’s individual mandate unconstitutional, “we would have to accept that our eighteenth-century constitution is not the enduring marvel of statesmanship we suppose but an anachronistic, crippling burden we cannot escape.” Mike Sacks of the Huffington Post reports on a recent column in The New Republic (discussed in yesterday’s round-up as well) by conservative legal scholar Henry Paul Monaghan; Sacks describes the column as “read[ing] like a direct appeal to Justice Anthony Kennedy” to vote to uphold the ACA. Also at the Huffington Post, Charles Kolb uses the broccoli metaphor, which became a common line of attack for ACA critics during the public debate over the constitutionality of the bill, to argue that the health insurance mandate is within Congress’s power.

Finally, the federal government has filed a petition for certiorari in the indecency case arising out of Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” during her halftime performance at the Super Bowl in 2004.  The government asks the Court to hold the petition pending its decision in FCC v. Fox, which was argued in January of this year.  Hayley Tsukayama of the Washington Post’s PostTech blog, Houston Mitchell of the Los Angeles Times, and the Huffington Post all have coverage.


  • At this blog, Ronald Mann analyzes Tuesday’s opinion in Caraco Pharmaceutical Laboratories v. Novo Nordisk; NPR’s Yuki Noguchi also has coverage.
  • Also at SCOTUSblog, Sam Wieczorek reports on Monday’s arguments in Christopher v. SmithKline Beecham Corp.
  • John Elwood discusses Monday’s relist in Harmon v. Kimmel, the challenge to New York City’s rent control laws, in his “Relist watch” for this blog and at the Volokh Conspiracy.
  • Chris Cillizza of The Fix blog at the Washington Post discusses a 2010 poll indicating that fifty-three percent of Americans do not know the name of the Chief Justice; those numbers, he suggests, “prove[] . . . that analysis about how what the Court does — whether it’s what they have already done on Citizens United or what they might do with the Affordable Care Act — will impact the political landscape amounts to something close to a guessing game.”
  • At the ABA Journal, Erwin Chemerinsky previews next Wednesday’s argument in Arizona v. United States.
  • In an op-ed for the Chicago Tribune, former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi argues that because House Republicans have been hostile to judicial review, “it is difficult to fathom the newfound enthusiasm of some extremists in the GOP for Supreme Court action in the current health reform case.”
  • The Associated Press (via the Biloxi Sun-Herald) reports that the Court denied a petition for certiorari filed by a former death-row inmate seeking to be resentenced to life with the possibility of parole.
  • The Baton Rouge Advocate reports that the Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Corp. filed a petition for certiorari seeking review of an award of over one hundred million dollars to policyholders for its slow response to claims following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Posted in Round-up

Recommended Citation: Kiran Bhat, Thursday round-up, SCOTUSblog (Apr. 19, 2012, 9:37 AM),