The Supreme Court refused on Monday to step in to save the Mt. Soledad Christian cross that stands on a hilltop north of San Diego, choosing to let the long-challenged monument’s future be examined first by a federal appeals court.  For now, the cross will remain, because a federal judge has put on hold an order requiring that it be taken down.

In a brief order, the Justices refused to grant review of the issue prior to action by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, where the controversy sits now.  Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr., wrote separately — as he has once before — explaining why he was willing to let the issue develop further in the lower court.  In the past, he has stressed the importance of this particular controversy to the meaning of church-state law.

While denying review in that case on the final day of a public sitting of the current Term, the Court added five new cases for decision during the Term starting in October.   The Court will not return to the bench on Tuesday, but will nevertheless issue a final round of orders on pending cases before formally beginning its summer recess.  It could grant some new cases at that time.

Here in summary are the issues in the newly granted cases:

** In Mach Mining LLC v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Court will decide whether federal courts are barred from second-guessing the federal EEOC’s attempts to resolve claims of discrimination in the workplace, before lawsuits are filed.

** In two cases, to be heard separately, the Court will seek to clarify how long an individual has to file a claim of wrongdoing with a federal agency under the Federal Tort Claims Act, which allows lawsuits against the government for damage payments.  The cases are United States v. Wong and United States v. June.  The Court apparently will hear them back to back, rather than together, because of different facts:  one involves alleged mistreatment during detention prior to deportation, the other involves claims that federal highway agencies failed to follow their own safety standards for interstate highway barriers between lanes.

In Mellouli v. Holder, the Court will decide whether a conviction under state law for possession of drug paraphernalia — in this case, a sock that had stored some illegal drugs — is enough to justify deporting a foreign national from the United States.

And, in Gelboim v. Bank of America Corp., the Court agreed to resolve a split among lower courts on when cases that were joined for decision in a federal trial court can be appealed when only some of the issues in the case were decided finally at the trial court.  The controversy involves claims of illegal manipulation of an important international benchmark for short-term interest rates around the globe.

The Court sent one case to the U.S. Solicitor General’s office for advice on whether the Court should grant review.  The case of Teva Pharmaceuticals v. Superior Court of California tests the scope of the right to sue under state law for failure to disseminate changes in labeling for generic drugs that are substitutes for brand-name drugs.  There is no timetable for the government’s response.

Aside from denying review at this stage of the fate of the Mt. Soledad cross, the Court also turned aside a number of other significant test cases.  Among the issues in those cases was the validity of a California law barred mental health providers from trying to change the gay, lesbian or transgender identity of minors, a series of petitions seeking to challenge California’s regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from motor fuels shipped into the state, and a new attempt to get the Court to further clarify the limits it has imposed on nationwide class-action lawsuits claiming discrimination in the workplace.

[Disclosure:  The law firm of Goldstein & Russell, P.C., whose attorneys contribute to this blog in various capacities, is among the counsel to the petitioner in Mach Mining and Gelboim; however, the author of this post operates independently of the firm.]

 

Posted in Merits Cases

Recommended Citation: Lyle Denniston, Mt. Soledad cross stays — for a while, at least, SCOTUSblog (Jun. 30, 2014, 6:13 PM), http://www.scotusblog.com/2014/06/mt-soledad-cross-stays-for-a-while-at-least/