Petition of the day

in Maricopa County, Arizona v. Villa, Cases in the Pipeline on Jan 17, 2018 at 6:00 pm

The petition of the day is:

17-862

Issue: Whether Title III of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968, which states that “the principal prosecuting attorney” of a state or locality may apply for an order authorizing the interception of wire, oral, or electronic communications, 18 U.S.C. § 2516(2), allows a principal prosecuting attorney to delegate the task of applying for such an order to a subordinate.

 
Share:

Argument analysis: Concern for death-row inmate’s rights likely to trump line-drawing worries

in McCoy v. Louisiana, Featured, Merits Cases on Jan 17, 2018 at 5:37 pm

The Supreme Court heard oral argument today in the case of Robert McCoy, a Louisiana death-row inmate who says that he should get a new trial because his own lawyer told jurors that he was guilty – over McCoy’s express objection. After just over an hour of spirited debate, the justices seemed sympathetic to McCoy’s plight, even if they were less certain about the legal principle on which they might rely to rule in his favor.

The case before the court today dates back to 2011, when McCoy was tried on three counts of first-degree murder for the shooting deaths of his estranged wife’s mother, stepfather and son. McCoy maintained that he was not in the state when the murders occurred, and that he was being framed by local police. But his attorney, Larry English, believed that the evidence against McCoy was “overwhelming,” and that his best chance to save McCoy’s life was to concede McCoy’s guilt and try to convince the jurors that McCoy hadn’t intended to kill anyone. English’s strategy backfired: McCoy was convicted and sentenced to death.

Arguing for McCoy today, former U.S. solicitor general Seth Waxman emphasized that the Constitution “guarantees a personal defense that belongs to the accused, and whether to admit or contest guilt is the paradigmatic example of that personal defense, not only because it singularly affects the life and liberty of the accused, but also because making that decision requires weighing subjective aspirations and value judgments that are unique to every individual.” Waxman spent much of his time at the lectern, however, addressing an issue first raised by Chief Justice John Roberts: How widely would his proposed rule apply? Or, put another way, how should courts figure out what kinds of decisions and strategies are sufficiently important to warrant a new trial if a lawyer disregards his client’s wishes?

Seth P. Waxman for petitioner (Art Lien)

(more…)

 
Share:

A “view” from the courtroom: Any coffee or doughnuts here?

in Encino Motorcars, LLC v. Navarro, Featured, What's Happening Now on Jan 17, 2018 at 4:59 pm

There are some 40,000 job classifications in the United States (a figure used by Justice Stephen Breyer today). Under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, many are eligible for overtime pay. Many others are expressly exempt, either under the statute or under Department of Labor regulations.

Of all those jobs, only one has come under scrutiny in the Supreme Court twice in the last three terms over whether it is exempt from overtime pay — service advisor in an automobile dealership. In Encino Motorcars LLC v. Navarro, the justices will once again attempt to answer whether the employee who greets you in the dealership service department is eligible for overtime.

Of course, many of the jobs of the new economy would mystify Americans of 1938 — computer systems analyst, database security administrator, desktop publisher, ride-hailing driver and virtual assistant. These are all from the Labor Department’s Occupational Outlook Handbook, which still lists thousands of old-economy jobs and tends to toss a lot of newer ones into broader, traditional categories.

Before we get to the Encino Motorcars argument, there is a special job classification being used in the courtroom today — sign-language interpreter for the deaf. For at least the second time in two years, the court is swearing in several members of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Bar Association, and it has permitted two sign-language interpreters to sign the court’s two arguments this morning. In addition, as it did when I wrote about a previous visit of the bar group in 2016, the court is allowing Communication Access Realtime Translation, or CART. Several of the bar-group members have brought their smartphones or tablets into the bar section to follow the arguments on screen. (It’s a special secure wi-fi system active only for occasions such as this.)

Paul D. Clement for petitioner (note, deaf lawyer in foreground using handheld device to follow argument) (Art Lien)

(more…)

 
Share:

Argument transcripts

in Merits Cases on Jan 17, 2018 at 2:59 pm

The transcript in Encino Motorcars, LLC v. Navarro is available on the Supreme Court’s website; the transcript in McCoy v. Louisiana is also available.

 
Share:

Relist Watch

in Cases in the Pipeline, Featured on Jan 17, 2018 at 11:51 am

John Elwood reviews Tuesday’s relists.

True to form for the second conference in January, last week’s 18 new relists yielded 12 new cases and 11 hours of oral argument. (Texas’ two state-on-top appeals concerning its congressional and statehouse voting districts were consolidated.) An already blockbuster term became better still as the court added cases that should resolve such important issues as whether Securities and Exchange Commission administrative law judges are “officers of the United States” within the meaning of the appointments clause of the Constitution; whether states can collect sales and use taxes on internet and direct-mail sales from out-of-state buyers; whether a court should defer to a foreign government’s characterization of its own country’s law; and what may be the single most contentious and divisive issue the Supreme Court has faced in a quarter century — whether stock that a railroad transfers to its employees is taxable under the Railroad Retirement Tax Act. Happily, it seems likely that last case will be argued in April, so the legions of citizens who will camp out in line for a week or more to attend argument at least will not be subject to subzero temperatures.

The court is back with more great relists this week – although, because we have passed the court’s traditional cutoff point for granting cases to be argued during the current term, the next grants likely will be argued in October. Indeed, some – and by “some,” I mean “me” – have speculated that the court may have rescheduled these cases precisely so any that are granted would be argued next term. Just days before the January 5 conference, the court rescheduled every one of this week’s newly relisted cases so that they’d be considered for the first time at the January 12 conference. That means that they’d be on their first relist at the third January conference – normally the conference at which the court starts filling its October calendar. The fact that all four of this week’s new relists were rescheduled before relisting suggests that the court won’t try to fit any granted cases on the April calendar, which would require either a short period for filing the reply briefs (two weeks, instead of the usual 30 days), or expedited briefing (which the Roberts court rarely orders). Perhaps the court will use the final April argument spots for as-yet-ungranted cases on a faster track – say, the travel ban or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals cases.

(more…)

 
Share:

Wednesday round-up

in Round-up on Jan 17, 2018 at 6:46 am

This morning the justices will hear oral argument in two cases. First up is Encino Motorcars v. Navarro, which asks whether service advisors at car dealerships are exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act’s overtime-pay requirements. Ronald Mann previewed the case for this blog. Ryan Powers and Larry Blocho provide a preview for Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute.

This morning’s second argument is in capital case McCoy v. Louisiana, in which the court will consider whether the law allows a defense attorney to concede a defendant’s guilt to the jury over the defendant’s explicit objections. Amy Howe had this blog’s preview, which first appeared at Howe on the Court. Connor O’Neill and Abby Yeo preview the case for Cornell. Subscript offers a graphic explainer. Additional coverage comes from Scott Bomboy at Constitution Daily and Richard Wolf for USA Today, who notes that “[f]ew questions posed to the high court are as basic as this: Who gets to decide whether to admit or contest guilt, the defendant or his defense attorney?” In an op-ed for the Washington Examiner, Jay Schweikert weighs in on McCoy, arguing that “[t]he denigration of McCoy’s autonomy is all the more dire because the jury trial itself — that cornerstone of American criminal justice — is fast vanishing to the point of practical extinction.”

(more…)

 
Share:

Petition of the day

in Crane Co. v. Poage, Cases in the Pipeline on Jan 16, 2018 at 9:43 pm

The petition of the day is:

17-900

Issues: (1) Whether the due process clause requires appellate review that considers factors undermining the reasonableness of the punitive damages award; and (2) whether the due process clause prohibits a punitive damages award that is more than ten times a substantial compensatory damages award against a defendant who faces multiple suits arising from a single course of conduct.

 
Share:

Argument analysis: “Make an all-purpose consolidation, … like marriage” — debating the meaning of consolidation and its effects on finality

in Hall v. Hall, Featured, Merits Cases on Jan 16, 2018 at 9:17 pm

This morning’s oral argument in Hall v. Hall addressed two related issues. One is the effect of consolidating separate civil actions and whether they become a single action or retain separate identities. The second is how that affects the timing of and obligation to appeal. The justices pushed counsel for both sides and expressed concerns with both positions.

The dispute arose from two lawsuits filed in the District Court of the Virgin Islands. Elsa Hall, as executrix of her mother’s estate, pursued one action against Elsa’s brother Samuel, alleging that Samuel had misused rents collected on their late mother’s property. Samuel pursued a second action against his sister in her individual capacity, for alienation of affection in his relationship with their mother in her final years. The district court consolidated the actions. The jury found for Samuel on the estate’s claim and for Samuel on his individual claim; the court entered separate judgments on each. Elsa moved for a new trial on Samuel’s action, but sought to appeal the judgment in the estate’s action.

(more…)

 
Share:

Argument analysis: Justices debate the dual-officeholding ban and jurisdiction over military courts

in Dalmazzi v. U.S., Cox v. U.S., Ortiz v. U.S., Featured, Merits Cases on Jan 16, 2018 at 4:46 pm

The Supreme Court heard oral argument today in the case of several members of the armed forces, who were convicted by military courts-martial of offenses ranging from the relatively minor (wrongful use of a controlled substance) to the serious (sexual misconduct). They appealed to the military courts of criminal appeals (CCAs), where their convictions were upheld by panels that included judges who also had been confirmed as judges on the United States Court of Military Commission Review (CMCR), which hears appeals from military commissions. They argue that they are entitled to new hearings before the CCA because the judges’ simultaneous service on the CCA and CMCR runs afoul of a longstanding rule sometimes known as the “dual-officeholding ban,” which bars active-duty military officers from holding a second government job that requires presidential nomination and Senate confirmation. After over 70 minutes of oral argument, the justices seemed likely to rule against the service members and in favor of the government – if they reach the merits of the service members’ challenge at all.

The federal law enacting the dual-officeholding ban prohibits military officers from holding or exercising the functions of a “civil office” requiring a presidential nomination and Senate confirmation “except as otherwise authorized by law.” Arguing for the United States, assistant to the U.S. solicitor general Brian Fletcher told the justices that the service members face three insurmountable obstacles to a new hearing. First, he maintained, the dual-officeholding ban does not apply to this case because a position as a judge on the CMCR is not a “civil office.” There is no dispute, he said, that judges on the CCAs hold military offices, rather than civil ones, and judges on the CMCR play roles similar to CCA judges – judging violations of the law by defendants convicted in military courts.

Brian H. Fletcher, assistant to the solicitor general (Art Lien)

(more…)

 
Share:

Argument transcripts

in Merits Cases on Jan 16, 2018 at 4:05 pm

The transcript in Hall v. Hall is available on the Supreme Court’s website; the transcript in Dalmazzi v. United States is also available.

 
Share:
More Posts:
Term Snapshot
Awards