The petition of the day is:
Issue: Whether the court of appeals erred in holding that liability under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act may be premised on the filing of a proof of claim in bankruptcy and determined using a least-sophisticated consumer standard.
Dissatisfied with every argument made to it, a Supreme Court majority on Wednesday on its own fashioned a new way to test complaints that employers are discriminating against workers who become pregnant. The result, in Young v. United Parcel Service, was a kind of hybrid remedy, judging intentional bias on the one hand and harmful impact on women workers on the other.
It was clear, though, that female workers did not receive legal protection as strong as their advocates sought, but neither did employers get a free pass from claims of pregnancy bias. The six-to-three decision thus looked like a compromise, landing somewhere in the middle.
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Each time the Environmental Protection Agency is before the Supreme Court these days, it gets a reminder that it is not likely to get the benefit of the doubt that it used its regulatory powers entirely legally. It did seem, as the ninety-minute argument on Michigan v. EPA and two companion cases (National Mining Association v. EPA and Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA) unfolded on Wednesday, that any gaps in the record it makes may count heavily against it; good intentions, if it had them, won’t count.
The agency’s decision to regulate the emissions of mercury and other poisonous chemicals from the stacks of electricity-generating power plants that burn coal came out of the argument with clear support from only three Justices and possibly a fourth, offset by clear opposition from two and probably three others. That put into play the votes of Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., and Justice Anthony M. Kennedy.
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It is easy to read the Supreme Court’s five-to-four decision in Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama and Alabama Democratic Conference v. Alabama as a mostly inconsequential case giving a small, and perhaps only temporary, victory for minority voters in a dispute over the redrawing of Alabama’s legislative districts after the 2010 census. Indeed, although the Supreme Court sent this “racial gerrymandering” case back for a wide and broad rehearing before a three-judge court, Alabama will be free to junk its plan and start over with one that may achieve the same political ends and keep it out of legal trouble. But Justice Antonin Scalia in his dissent sees the majority as issuing “a sweeping holding that will have profound implications for the constitutional ideal of one person, one vote, for the future of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and for the primacy of the State in managing its own elections.” Time will tell if Justice Scalia’s warning against the implications of what he termed a “fantastical” majority opinion is more than typical Scalian hyperbole. And we may know soon enough as these issues get addressed in racial gerrymandering cases from Virginia, North Carolina and elsewhere. Continue reading »
The Court apparently designed its decision Tuesday in B&B Hardware v. Hargis Industries to answer as narrow a question as possible and I think most readers of this blog will come away convinced that the opinion was a success, at least by that measure. The case presents a question of issue preclusion – the relation between a contested registration proceeding before the Patent and Trademark Office’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (commonly called the TTAB) and an infringement proceeding in a federal district court.
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On Monday afternoon Justices Anthony Kennedy and Stephen Breyer testified before the House Appropriations Committee. The purpose of the hearing was to discuss the Court’s budget for the next fiscal year and the federal judiciary, but the legislators also took full advantage of the occasion to touch on other topics as well.
Rep. Ander Crenshaw, a Republican from Florida, commended the Court on its proposed budget of $78.2 million, which is almost $1 million less than was requested last year. He commented that “[w]e don’t see that very often.” Continue reading »
We are live-blogging this morning as opinions are announced in argued cases. Join us here.
Yesterday the Court heard oral arguments in Bank of America v. Caulkett and Bank of America v. Toledo-Cardona, in which it considered whether bankruptcy courts can void a second mortgage when the first mortgage is underwater. I covered the oral argument for this blog; other coverage comes from Daniel Fisher of Forbes. Commentary comes from Noah Feldman at Bloomberg View. And at ISCOTUSnow, Edward Lee predicts the winner of the case based on the number of questions at oral arguments. Continue reading »
The petition of the day is:
Issue: (1) Whether a case becomes moot, and thus beyond the judicial power of Article III, when the plaintiff receives an offer of complete relief on his claim; (2) whether the answer to the first question is any different when the plaintiff has asserted a class claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23, but receives an offer of complete relief before any class is certified; and (3) whether the doctrine of derivative sovereign immunity recognized in Yearsley v. W.A. Ross Construction Co., for government contractors is restricted to claims arising out of property damage caused by public works projects.
After today’s oral argument in Bank of America v. Toledo-Cardona and Bank of America v. Caulkett, it was hard to say how the Court might ultimately rule on the question before it – whether the Bankruptcy Code allows courts to void a second mortgage when even the first mortgage is completely worthless. What was clear, though, is that the Justices were (all things being relative) having a pretty good time – one lawyer who tracks laughs at the Court compared the scene to the famous comedy improv group Second City. And why not? No matter how the case turns out, there was a lot for them to like about it. Even if the Justices were not always familiar with the intricacies of bankruptcy law and procedure, it nonetheless offered excellent advocates on both sides, weighty policy questions, and intellectually interesting questions about how the Court should deal with precedent that the Justices don’t like, but without the media spotlight and tension that often accompany higher-profile cases. Continue reading »