Reacting to a Supreme Court order to reconsider, a federal appeals court refused on Tuesday for a second time to stop enforcement of the federal government’s birth-control mandate against the University of Notre Dame. In a two-to-one ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit cleared the way for a trial of the university’s challenge but denied any immediate religious exemption.
This marked the first time that a federal appeals court had rejected a claim that the Supreme Court’s ruling last June in the case of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores should shield a non-profit religious organization from any role whatsoever in carrying out the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate. The issue seems certain to return to the Justices, probably next Term, although Notre Dame could try to get some temporary relief by returning quickly to the Supreme Court.
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At their private Conference tomorrow, the Justices will consider the petition in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, the challenge to the university’s use of affirmative action in its undergraduate admissions process. The editorial board of The Wall Street Journal urges the Court to grant review in the case again, as do Roger Clegg at the National Review’s Bench Memos blog and Richard Kahlenberg at The Chronicle of Higher Education. Continue reading »
The petition of the day is:
Issue: Whether or under what circumstances police officers conduct a search within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment when they trespass in common areas of locked apartment buildings to look for evidence of criminal activity.
Justice Breyer’s opinion for the Court yesterday in Tibble v. Edison International underscored the Court’s commitment to unstinting enforcement of the fiduciary duties that govern ERISA plans. Although the case involves considerable procedural detail, the issue before the Court is a simple one: is it enough for the ERISA duty of prudence that the fiduciary make prudent decisions to invest in the first instance, or must the fiduciary also make prudent decisions about whether it should sell assets (or otherwise change the composition of the plan’s portfolio)?
If that sounds a bit technical, the underlying facts demonstrate the problem well. A firm’s 401(k) plan invested in a series of mutual funds in 1999 and another series in 2002. A group of employees filed suit in 2007, claiming that the fiduciaries (including, among others, the employer-respondent Edison International) should have invested in “wholesale” funds, which have lower management fees than the “retail” funds in which the plan was invested. Because the plan’s 1999 investment was made more than six years before the complaint, the fiduciaries claimed the suit was untimely as to those funds. The employees responded that the fiduciaries had a continuing duty to monitor investments, which continued into the limitations period. When the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling for the employer, the Court granted review. Continue reading »
Bradley W. Joondeph is the Inez Mabie Distinguished Professor and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the Santa Clara University School of Law.
On Monday, a sharply divided Supreme Court held in Comptroller v. Wynne that Maryland’s personal income tax scheme – which failed to offer Maryland residents a full credit for income taxes paid to other states on income they earned in those states – was unconstitutional. By a vote of five to four, an ideologically diverse majority (consisting of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Stephen Breyer, Samuel Alito, and Sonia Sotomayor) concluded that Maryland’s scheme violated the dormant Commerce Clause because it discriminated against interstate commerce. Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg each authored dissenting opinions, on widely divergent grounds, revealing a fundamental dissensus on the Court regarding the dormant Commerce Clause.
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Yesterday the Court returned from a two-week recess to issue six opinions in argued cases. Mark Walsh provided a “view from the Courtroom” for this blog. Perhaps the biggest decision of the day came in Comptroller v Wynne, in which the Court – in an opinion by Justice Samuel Alito – held that Maryland’s personal income tax scheme violated the Constitution’s dormant Commerce Clause. Coverage comes from Mark Walsh for Education Week’s School Law Blog and Jaclyn Belczyk of JURIST, while commentary comes from Daniel Fisher of Forbes.
Justice Alito also had the Court’s decision in City and County of San Francisco v. Sheehan, in which the Court held that two police officers who forced their way into the room of a woman with mental disabilities and shot her are entitled to qualified immunity from her lawsuit. Lyle Denniston covered the decision for this blog, with other coverage coming from Ashley Hogan of JURIST. Commentary comes from Howard Wasserman, who focuses on Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissent in a post at PrawfsBlawg, from Mark Joseph Stern at Slate, and from Ruthann Robson at the Constitutional Law Prof Blog. Continue reading »
The petition of the day is:
Issue: (1) Whether, when viewing the facts from the perspective of an officer who fired his service rifle at a vehicle involved in a high-speed chase, the officer acted reasonably under the Fourth Amendment when an officer in his situation would believe that the suspect posed a risk of serious harm to other officers or members of the public; and (2) whether the law clearly established that this use of potentially deadly force was unlawful when existing precedent did not address the use of force against a fleeing suspect who had explicitly threatened to shoot police officers.
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy refused on Monday — but maybe only temporarily — to protect a non-profit political rights group from having to disclose its list of donors to state officials in California. Kennedy said in the denial order that the request of the Center for Competitive Politics could be renewed “in light of further developments.”
While he did not explain what those developments might be, it could be that he was anticipating that state officials might make a new move to obtain those lists, or that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit might take a new step to facilitate officials’ access to donors’ identities.
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Harris v. Viegelahn is living proof that the Court takes its responsibility for resolving circuit conflicts seriously. This is a consumer bankruptcy case that involves only $5000 and turns on a remarkably narrow issue of statutory interpretation: when a debtor converts a bankruptcy proceeding from Chapter 13 to Chapter 7, what happens to funds that the trustee is holding at that moment, previously collected out of the debtor’s wages but not yet distributed to creditors? With refreshing candor, the Court acknowledges that the statute provides no clear answer to the question, resting its decision to side with the debtor largely on the Court’s intuitions about how the Bankruptcy Code should work. Continue reading »
In an opinion that is surprising in both its brevity and unanimity, the Supreme Court on Monday sided with the Sixth and Seventh Circuits (and against the Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, and D.C. Circuits) in holding that the dismissal of an in forma pauperis (“IFP”) prisoner’s prior suit counts as a “strike” for purposes of the Prison Litigation Reform Act’s “three strikes” provision even while an appeal of that dismissal remains pending. As a result, petitioner André Lee Coleman was not entitled to IFP status for lawsuits he filed while he appealed his “third” strike. But whereas Justice Stephen Breyer’s opinion for the Court in Coleman v. Tollefson purported to duck the harder question of whether Coleman would also have been barred from obtaining IFP status to appeal the third strike itself, it is difficult to see how the Court’s statutory analysis in Coleman’s case wouldn’t apply to those facts, as well. Continue reading »