In its conference of March 3, 2017, the court will consider petitions involving issues such as whether applying Colorado’s public accommodations law to compel the petitioner to create expression that violates his sincerely held religious beliefs about marriage violates the free speech or free exercise clauses of the First Amendment; whether, when a police officer shoots an unarmed person in the back and the person testifies that he was merely walking away when shot, a court may grant summary judgment to the officer in a suit for excessive force by concluding that it is an “undisputed fact” that the person reached for his waistband just because the officer said he did; and whether 18 U.S.C. § 1596(a)(2) – which expressly establishes extraterritorial jurisdiction over sex trafficking by force, fraud or coercion, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1591 – is a valid exercise of Congress’ power under the foreign commerce clause when applied in a criminal case to order restitution from a foreign defendant to a foreign victim for conduct that occurred exclusively overseas.
We live-blogged this morning as the court issued opinions. The transcript is available at this link.
Today the court hears oral argument in Coventry Health Care of Missouri, Inc. v. Nevils, which asks whether a federal statute governing federal employee health insurance benefits pre-empts Missouri’s anti-subrogation law. Ronald Mann previewed the case for this blog. Another preview comes from Kara Goad and Elizabeth Sullivan at Cornell University Law School’s Legal Information Institute.
Yesterday the justices heard argument in Dean v. United States, in which the court will decide whether mandatory statutory gun-sentencing provisions limit a district court’s discretion under the advisory sentencing guidelines. Douglas Berman has this blog’s argument analysis.
It has now been more than a year since Justice Antonin Scalia passed away, but his jurisprudential spirit seemed to fill the courtroom yesterday as the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Dean v. United States. At issue in Dean is whether a trial judge, when sentencing a defendant convicted of firearms offenses under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) that carry lengthy consecutive mandatory-minimum terms, may significantly reduce the sentence for underlying predicate offenses because of the severity of the mandated consecutive sentences. During the oral argument, several justices endorsed the government’s contention that allowing a judge to give a nominal sentence for the underlying predicate offenses in these circumstances would largely negate Congress’ purpose in enacting Section 924(c). But, echoing statutory interpretation principles that Scalia often championed in federal criminal cases, the justices also stressed that the text of the applicable sentencing statutes did not clearly foreclose the trial judge’s exercise of judicial sentencing discretion. This textualist point may carry the day for the defendant.
The petition of the day is:
Issues: (1) Whether New Hampshire Revised Statute Annotated § 659:35, I, which prohibits a voter from allowing “his or her ballot to be seen by any person with the intention of letting it be known how he or she is about to vote or how he or she has voted except as provided in RSA [§] 659:20,” is narrowly tailored to serve a significant governmental interest, thus passing intermediate scrutiny; (2) whether any restriction placed on speech by New Hampshire RSA § 659:35, I, is content-neutral; and (3) whether New Hampshire RSA § 659:35, I, serves a compelling governmental interest and is narrowly tailored to achieve that interest, thus passing strict scrutiny.
Today the court hears oral argument in Dean v. United States, in which the justices will consider whether mandatory statutory gun-sentencing provisions may limit a district court’s discretion under the advisory sentencing guidelines. Douglas Berman previewed the case for this blog. Dara Brown and Jaeeun Shin offer another preview at Cornell University Law School’s Legal Information Institute.
The petition of the day is:
Issue: Whether an individual or entity need only provide “material services” to a foreign state sponsor of terrorism in order to qualify as its “agency or instrumentality“ under the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act of 2002, or whether the individual or entity must satisfy a stricter definition based on majority ownership or control by the foreign state, such as the definition of “agency or instrumentality” set forth in the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.
This morning, the Supreme Court heard arguments in Esquivel-Quintana v. Sessions, a case that arose from the U.S. government’s effort to remove a lawful permanent resident for a “sex crime.” Judging from today’s argument, the justices appeared closely divided on the question of statutory interpretation before the court.
When Juan Esquivel-Quintana was 20 years old, he was convicted under California law for having consensual sex with his then-16-year-old girlfriend. An “aggravated felony” conviction generally requires mandatory removal of an immigrant from the United States and renders the immigrant ineligible for most forms of relief from removal. 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(43) defines an “aggravated felony” to include the “sexual abuse of a minor.” Claiming that Esquivel-Quintana’s conviction constituted an “aggravated felony,” the U.S. government initiated removal proceedings against him, and the immigration court ordered him removed from the United States. The Board of Immigration Appeals dismissed his appeal from the removal order. Applying the Supreme Court’s seminal 1984 decision in Chevron, U.S.A., Inc. v. National Resources Defense Council, Inc.,the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit deferred to the BIA’s interpretation of “sexual abuse of a minor” and upheld the removal order. The dissent would have applied the rule of lenity, a judicial doctrine under which ambiguities in criminal law are resolved in favor of the defendant, to the interpretation of the criminal-removal provision in the immigration law and would have found that Esquivel-Quintana’s conviction was not an aggravated felony.