Dèjá vu was the theme of the day on the second morning of the October argument session, as the Justices listened to arguments in DIRECTV v. Imburgia, the most recent in a line of cases from state supreme courts refusing to enforce arbitration agreements. This case presents the Court’s second look at the hostility of California law to waivers of classwide arbitration. Three years ago, after California courts refused to enforce provisions in arbitration agreements that barred class arbitration (on the ground that the provisions were unconscionable), a closely divided court in AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion disagreed, holding that the Federal Arbitration Agreement preempted the California doctrine invalidating those waivers.
Yesterday the Court heard oral argument in two cases: Ocasio v. United States, in which it is considering whether a conspiracy to commit extortion requires the conspirators to agree to obtain property from someone outside the conspiracy, and the arbitration case DIRECTV v. Imburgia. Coverage of Ocasio comes from Zoe Tillman for the Supreme Court Brief (subscription required), who also talks to Ethan Davis, who argued on Ocasio’s behalf, for The National Law Journal. Noah Feldman previewed the case in his column for Bloomberg View, describing it as “a scenario ripped from the greatest television show ever made” – The Wire. Coverage of DIRECTV comes from David Savage of the Los Angeles Times and Adam Liptak of The New York Times. Continue reading »
The Justices closed out last Term with a high-profile death penalty case, holding that Oklahoma’s lethal injection procedures do not violate the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. The decision in that case may be best known for Justice Stephen Breyer’s dissent, joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in which he suggested that the death penalty itself is unconstitutional. The Eighth Amendment is back before the Court again tomorrow, albeit with lower stakes, this time in a set of challenges to the procedures used to sentence three Kansas inmates to death. The oral arguments and the Court’s eventual decision may tell us more about whether some of the Justices’ discomfort with the death penalty will translate into additional protections for defendants in capital cases or whether the Justices will instead remain – as they were in the Oklahoma case – sharply divided. Continue reading »
With the federal government opting not to use a back-up tactic to justify some deportations, officials and lawyers for a Tunisian national who had been sent out of the country have agreed on a way to let him return and not again face the same fate, based on a conviction in Kansas for hiding a small supply of a drug in his sock. That appeared likely to bring to an end the case of Mellouli v. Lynch, in which the Court had ruled in favor of Moones Mellouli on June 1 of this year.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., on Tuesday afternoon cleared the way for home-care workers who are hired by businesses to be eligible for minimum wages and overtime pay, beginning next Tuesday. The Chief Justice signed a simple order, without explanation, denying a request by three home-care industry groups for a delay of new Labor Department rules. He acted alone and without seeking a reaction from the department.
If you took the argument Monday morning in Hawkins v. Bank of Raymore as evidence, you would think the Justices were well-rested after their summer break – they came out with lots of questions and for much of the argument spent more time talking and joking with each other than they did listening to the lawyers arguing.
The case involves a loan from the Bank of Raymore to a Missouri limited liability company, for the purpose of developing a residential subdivision. Despite a long-standing Federal Reserve rule (Regulation B) that makes it illegal to do so, the Bank required guaranties from Valerie Hawkins and Janice Patterson, the spouses of the two members of the LLC. The problem that brings the regulation before the Court is the fragile textual basis on which the regulation rests. The Equal Credit Opportunity Act (“ECOA”) makes it unlawful to “discriminate against any applicant” on the basis of marital status, and it defines an applicant as “any person who applies to a creditor directly for an extension, renewal, or continuation of credit.” Accepting that the spousal-guaranty requirement is a species of marital discrimination, it is not at all obvious how a guarantor qualifies as an “applicant.”
In its Conference of October 9, 2015, the Court will consider petitions seeking review of issues such as whether California’s “top two” electoral system substantially burdens voter rights of political association and whether private party contracts that dictate fiduciary obligations are preempted by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act.
This edition of “Petitions to watch” features petitions raising issues that Tom has determined to have a reasonable chance of being granted, although we post them here without consideration of whether they present appropriate vehicles in which to decide those issues. Our policy is to include and disclose all cases in which Goldstein & Russell, P.C., whose attorneys contribute to this blog in various capacities, represents either a party or an amicus in the case, with the exception of the rare cases in which Goldstein & Russell represents the respondent(s) but does not appear on the briefs in the case.
Yesterday the Justices returned to the bench for the first oral arguments of the Term. First up was OBB Personenverkehr v. Sachs, in which the Court is considering whether a California woman who lost both legs in a train accident in Austria can sue the Austrian national railroad in U.S. courts. I covered the oral argument for this blog, with other coverage coming from Adam Liptak of The New York Times. Continue reading »
The Court opened its new Term this morning with oral arguments in a California woman’s case against the Austrian national railroad: Carol Sachs is seeking to hold the railroad responsible in U.S. courts for an accident in which she lost both of her legs, while the railroad argues that a 1976 law, the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, bars lawsuits against it. Sachs counters that her lawsuit should still be allowed to go forward because the FSIA contains an exception for claims based on a country’s commercial dealings in the United States. (I covered more details of her lawsuit in my preview of the case.) By the end of the hour, the Justices appeared skeptical that Sachs’s claims had enough of a connection to the United States to be allowed to proceed under the “commercial activity” exception, although it was not clear on what legal grounds they might rely to reach their decision. Continue reading »