US Supreme Court: March 2010 Archives

The US Supreme Court issued one opinion today.  In a unanimous decision, authored by Justice Thomas, the Court holds in United Student Aid Funds v. Espinosa that a bankruptcy court order, which discharged a student loan debt without a showing of undue hardship, was not void under Rule 60(b)(4) and was not void based on the debtor's failure to serve the creditor because the creditor had actual notice of the plan and failed to object.

Yesterday, the Court granted certiorari in four cases.  Scotusblog provides details and links to relevant docs:

Title: Connick v. Thompson
Docket: 09-571
Issue: (1) Does imposing liability for failing to train a prosecutor on a district attorney's office for a single Brady violation contravene rigorous culpability and causation standards? (2) Does imposing failure-to-train liability on a district attorney's office for a single Brady violation undermine prosecutors' absolute immunity?

Title: Belleque v. Moore
Docket: 09-658
Issues: (1) Whether the Fulminante standard -- that the erroneous admission of a coerced confession at the trial is not harmless -- applies when a collateral challenge is based on a defense attorney's decision not to move to suppress a confession prior to a guilty or no contest plea, even though no record of a trial is available for review, and (2) even if it does, is it "clearly established Federal law" for purposes of 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1).

Title: Kasten v. Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corp.
Docket: 09-834
Issue: Is an oral complaint of a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act protected conduct under the anti-retaliation provision, 29 U.S.C. § 215(a)(3)?

Title: Flores-Villar v. United States
Docket: 09-5801
Issue: Whether the Court's decision in Nguyen v. Immigration and Naturalization Service (2001) permits gender discrimination that has no biological basis?



Slow week

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It's been a slow week for both the US Supreme Court and Nevada Supreme Court.  Opinions are expected from the US Supreme Court next Tuesday.  I have no ability to predict when opinions will issue from the Nevada Supreme Court.  Since December, there has been only one opinion in a criminal case from the Nevada Supreme Court and that opinion involved the publication of a previously unpublished order. 

The US Supreme Court has a new website and a new URL:

Rule changes for US Supreme Court

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Changes are effective February 16, 2010:  Revisions to Rules

US Supreme Court issues 2 opinions

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Via Scotusblog, the US Supreme Court issued opinions in 2 cases today.

The first opinion is  Milavetz, Gallop & Milavetz, P.A. v. United States.  Justice Sotomayor writes for the Court, joined in full by six Justices and in part by Justices Scalia and Thomas.  Justice Scalia concurs in part and concurs in the judgment, joined by Thomas.  The Court holds that attorneys who provide bankruptcy assistance are debt-relief agencies under the bankruptcy abuse law.  The opinion is here.

The second opinion is in Bloate v. United States, reversing and remanding the lower court decision on a 7-2 vote.  Justice Thomas writes for the Court.  Justice Ginsburg joins the opinion but files a separate concurrence.  Justice Alito dissents, joined by Justice Breyer.  The time granted to prepare pretrial motions is not automatically excluded from the 70-day limit under the Speedy Trial Act of 1974.  The opinion is here.

via Scotusblog,

The Court has granted cert. in three cases,  NASA v. Nelson (09-320), Snyder v. Phillips (09-751), and Bruesewitz v. Wyeth (09-152). 

Title: Bruesewitz v. Wyeth
Docket: 09-152
Issue: Whether Section 22(b)(1) of the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 -- which expressly preempts certain design defect claims against vaccine manufacturers "if the injury or death resulted from side effects that were unavoidable even though the vaccine was properly prepared and was accompanied by proper directions and warning" -- preempts all vaccine design defect claims, regardless whether the vaccine's side effects were unavoidable.

Title: Snyder v. Phelps
Docket: 09-751
Issue: (1) Whether the prohibition of awarding damages to public figures to compensate for the intentional infliction of emotional distress, under the Supreme Court's First Amendment precedents, applies to a case involving two private persons regarding a private matter; (2) whether the freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment trumps its freedom of religion and peaceful assembly; and (3) whether an individual attending a family member's funeral constitutes a "captive audience" who is entitled to state protection from unwanted communication.

Title: National Aeronautics and Space Administration v. Nelson
Docket: 09-530
Issues: Whether the government violates a federal contract employee's constitutional right to informational privacy by (1) asking in the course of a background investigation whether the employee has received counseling or treatment for illegal drug use that has occurred within the past year and/or (2) asking the employee's designated references for any adverse information that may have a bearing on the employee's suitability for employment at a federal facility -- when the employee's and reference's responses are used only for employment purposes, and the information obtained is protected under the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552a.

US Supreme Court issues 3 opinions

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Via Scotusblog:

In Johnson v. United States, the Court rules 7-2 that a "violent felony" under federal law requires the use of physical violence, thereby reversing and remanding the lower court.  Justice Scalia writes for the majority, while Justice Alito dissents, joined by Justice Thomas.  The full opinion in pdf format is here.

The case concerns a sentencing enhancement under the Armed Career Criminal Act, which authorizes an enhanced penalty for a person who violates 18 USC 922(g) and has three previous convictions for "a violent felony."  The government claimed that the defendant's misdemeanor conviction for simply battery qualified under the statute because the defendant had previously been convicted of another battery, so this misdemeanor offense was a felony under Florida law.  Florida defined battery as occuring when a person either "actually and intentionally touches or strikes another person against his will" or "intentionally causes bodily harm to another person."  The Court found there was nothing in the record permitting the trial court to find that the defendant's conviction rested upon "striking" or "intentionally causing bodily harm" elements of the offense.  The language of the statute that permitted a conviction for "actually and intentionally touching" another, does not constitute the use of "physical force" under 18 USC 924(e)(1).  The interpretation of "physical force" is a matter of federal law, not state law, so it does not matter that the Florida Supreme Court has found that a battery is a violent offense.  The federal statute does not define "force" - the Court finds that it means the application of strength, power and violence.  The force must be capable of causing physical pain or injury to another person.

In Reed Elsevier v. Muchnick, on a 5-3 vote, the Court reverses and remands, ruling that a copyright must be registered before one may file an infringement claim, but the failure of a copyright holder to have a registration does not restrict a federal court's power to decide infringement claims involving works that are not registered.  Justice Thomas delivers the majority opinion; Justice Ginsburg concurs in part and concurs in the judgment, joined by Justices Stevens and Breyer.  Justice Sotomayor took no part in the decision.  The full opinion is here

In Mac's Shell Service, Inc. v. Shell Oil Products Company; Shell Oil Products Company v. Mac's Shell Service, the Court reverses in part, limiting the right of the holder of a franchise to sue after the franchise agreement is terminated.  Justice Alito writes the unanimous opinion of the Court, which is here.

The US Supreme Court granted certiorari in one case today: Michigan v. Bryant.  Scotusblog provides links to the lower court opinion, petition for cert. and opposition:

Issue: Whether preliminary inquiries of a wounded citizen concerning the perpetrator and circumstances of the shooting are nontestimonial because they were "made under circumstances objectively indicating that the primary purpose of the interrogation is to enable police assistance to meet an ongoing emergency," including not only aid to a wounded victim, but also the prompt identification and apprehension of an apparently violent and dangerous individual?

This Week at the US Supreme Court

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Via Scotusblog:

The Court is expected to release orders today at 10 a.m. and is expected to release opinions tomorrow.  The following cases are also scheduled for oral argument (Health Care Service Corp. v. Pollitt (09-38), which was originally scheduled for oral argument on Wednesday, has been removed from the hearing list because the case was privately settled).

Monday, March 1:

  • Berghuis v. Thompkins (08-1470) -- Miranda, police persuasion of an individual in custody
  • Holland v. Florida (09-5327) -- extended time to file habeas plea due to defense lawyer's negligence in capital case
  • Skilling v. United States (08-1394) -- constitutionality and scope of "honest services" fraud law; effect of pre-trial publicity

Tuesday, March 2:

  • McDonald v. City of Chicago (08-1521) -- incorporation of Second Amendment against the states
  • Hui v. Castaneda (08-1529; 08-1547) -- "Bivens actions" against doctors and nurses in federal medical facilities over flaws in medical care claimed to violate patients' constitutional rights

Wednesday, March 3:

The Justices will hold a private conference on Friday.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the US Supreme Court category from March 2010.

US Supreme Court: February 2010 is the previous archive.

US Supreme Court: April 2010 is the next archive.

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