Court allows Georgia execution

By on Jan 27, 2015 at 6:54 pm

In two brief orders allowing the state of Georgia to execute a man whose lawyers claim he is intellectually disabled, the Supreme Court gave a strong signal on Tuesday evening that it is not undertaking a general review of capital punishment this Term.  Two Justices dissented from one of the two orders permitting the execution of Warren E. Hill; there were no noted dissents from the other order.

Hill has attempted repeatedly to challenge the constitutionality of Georgia’s procedure for determining when a death-row inmate is too intellectually disabled to be put to death: it requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt of that disability.  In his latest plea to the Justices, he asked that the Court apply to his case a 2014 ruling, in the case of Hall v. Florida, putting new limits on state authority to execute those with intellectual disabilities.   The Court gave no reason on Tuesday for turning down both of his new pleas.

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Beginning on February 1, the Supreme Court will publicly disclose documents on actions it is considering or taking to discipline lawyers who are members of its bar, a process long shielded in privacy, the Court announced on Tuesday.  Currently, that file is treated as confidential, although final disciplinary actions are made public along with regular orders on pending cases. In the new arrangement, attorneys involved in a case may ask to keep their response confidential, in whole or in part.

Under the new disclosure policy, the Court’s announcement made clear, public availability of that docket will be the general rule.  It will apply to documents filed after February 1.  But if there are reasons to keep an attorney’s response confidential, that will be considered on a case-by-case basis, if sought by the lawyer involved.  Typically, a lawyer is notified that potential disciplinary action is being considered by way of a “show cause” order, to which the lawyer then has a chance to respond and to argue against a disciplinary order. Continue reading »

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Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer on Tuesday refused to order a quick release of the Court’s new ruling in the Copaxone drug patent case, but he left open the option for the generic companies to ask another Justice to take the step.  Breyer did not issue an opinion as he denied prompt implementation of the ruling last week in Teva Pharmaceuticals USA v. Sandoz(An earlier post on this dispute is here.)

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Tuesday round-up

By on Jan 27, 2015 at 7:25 am

Yesterday the Justices issued one opinion in an argued case, vacating and remanding the decision of the Sixth Circuit in M&G Polymers v. Tackett, a dispute between an employer and its retired employees over the vesting of health-care benefits.  Ronald Mann covered the decision for this blog; other coverage comes from Jess Bravin in The Wall Street Journal, David Savage in the Los Angeles Times, and Hera Arsen at the Ogletree Deakins blog.

Other coverage of the Court focuses on the fall-out from the Court’s announcement last week that it would review a challenge by a group of Oklahoma death-row inmates to the state’s lethal-injection protocol — specifically, the state’s announcement yesterday that it would seek to delay the executions of three prisoners but at the same time keep open the possibility of resuming executions if it can establish a new lethal-injection protocol.  Lyle Denniston reported on those developments for this blog, with other coverage coming from Jess Bravin and Nathan Koppel of The Wall Street Journal and Greg Stohr of Bloomberg News. Continue reading »

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Petition of the day

By on Jan 26, 2015 at 10:25 pm

The petition of the day is:

14-585

Issue: Whether New Orleans's tour-guide licensing requirements violate the First Amendment.

Event announcement

By on Jan 26, 2015 at 7:00 pm

On February 5 at one o’clock, the National Institute for Health Care Management will host a ninety-minute webinar on King v. Burwell. Speakers will include Julie Rovner, Nicholas Bagley, and Michael Cannon.  There is no cost to participate. Registration is available here.

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Monday’s decision in M&G Polymers USA, LLC v. Tackett resolves a dispute about the vesting of health-care benefits under a collective bargaining agreement. Neither the Employee Retirement Income Security Act nor the National Labor Relations Act obligates employers to provide health-care benefits, but of course employers often do, and their commitments to provide those benefits often appear in collective-bargaining agreements. As so many companies struggle to deal with the overhang of providing employee benefits to long-retired employees, it should be no surprise that employers are pressing harder and harder to limit those obligations. Hence the litigation at hand.

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FURTHER UPDATE Monday 4:52 p.m.  The generic companies have now filed their reply brief, arguing that Teva has not actually taken any significant step — and may not be able to do so — in the trial court, so the Supreme Court should go ahead and send down its ruling.

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UPDATE: This new dispute will be submitted initially to Justice Stephen G. Breyer, instead of to the Chief Justice.  Breyer was the author of the Court’s Teva decision.

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The high-dollar feud between drug companies over the rights to sell a hugely profitable drug for treating multiple sclerosis patients has reopened in the Supreme Court, just days after the Justices ruled in favor of the brand-name company.  The new dispute centers on the timing of lower-court actions that are to follow the Justices’ decision last Tuesday in Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc., v. Sandoz.

Sandoz, Inc., and other makers of generic versions of Teva’s brand-name Copaxone drug want the Justices to quickly release the formal document implementing last week’s ruling so that a federal appeals court can move ahead quickly on a new round, but Teva is seeking to protect its existing monopoly to continue selling the drug without generic competition while additional proceedings unfold. Continue reading »

FURTHER UPDATED Monday 5:23 p.m.   The three inmates’ lawyers have now filed a response, urging the Court to delay the execution until after it decides the case on the merits; they do not support cutting off a stay if Oklahoma adopts a new protocol.

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UPDATED Monday 2:46 p.m.  The application to delay the executions (docket 14A796) is here.  The state said it is continuing to search for a supply of drugs previously approved for lethal injections and, if it locates them, would then ask the Court for permission to go ahead with the executions.  Otherwise, it sought a delay until after the Supreme Court rules on the pending case, which will be heard in late April.

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The state of Oklahoma will ask the Supreme Court on Monday to delay three executions by lethal drugs while the Justices weigh a new test case, but it will also seek the option of resuming executions if the officials put together a new drug protocol, lawyers for the state said.  The application for postponement is expected to be filed at the Court shortly.

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