With so much attention on pointed and inhospitable comments in last Term’s opinions, the argument in Americold Realty Trust v. ConAgra Foods was a welcome interlude, with the Justices about as close to consensus as possible. The case involves diversity jurisdiction, specifically how to determine the state (or states) in which a real estate investment trust (commonly called a REIT) is a citizen. The doctrinal terrain is simple, with the parties pointing to two distinct rules.

The trust (petitioner Americold) is trying to stay in federal court, so it argues that the trust is a citizen only in the (relatively few) states in which its trust managers are located. Americold points to centuries (yes, centuries) of cases in which the Court has recognized trustees rather than beneficiaries as citizens for purposes of diversity jurisdiction.

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In the summer of 2014, efforts to pass new laws to overhaul the country’s immigration system seemed to be on a slow road to nowhere.  In remarks at the White House on June 30 , President Barack Obama announced that then-House Speaker John Boehner had told him that Republicans would “block a vote on immigration reform at least for the remainder of this year.”  Arguing that “Americans can’t wait forever” for Republicans to act on immigration, Obama indicated that he planned to go it alone.

And he did.  In November of that year, Obama announced a new policy that would allow undocumented immigrants who can meet two criteria – they have children who are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents (also known as “Green Card holders”) and they have been in the United States at least since January 2010 – to apply for a program that would allow them to stay in the country for three years and work here legally.

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Argument transcripts

By on Jan 19, 2016 at 1:54 pm

The transcript in Heffernan v. City of Paterson is here; the transcript in Americold Realty Trust v. ConAgra Foods, Inc. is here.

Posted in Merits Cases

The Obama administration’s sweeping change of deportation policy for undocumented immigrants will get a thorough review by the Supreme Court, including the question of whether it violates the Constitution, the Court announced Tuesday.  The case of United States v. Texas will be set for argument in April, making it almost certain that there will be a final ruling by the end of June — in the midst of a presidential election campaign in which immigration is a major issue.

The Court also spared the federal government from another challenge to the new health care law, denying review of a claim that the individual insurance mandate violates the Constitution’s Origination Clause, requiring federal tax legislation to start in the House of Representatives (Sissel v. Department of Health & Human Services).  In another significant action, the Justices refused to hear an Arkansas abortion case, involving a state law that bars any abortion after the twelfth week of pregnancy (Beck v. Edwards).

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Tuesday round-up

By on Jan 19, 2016 at 5:32 am

Today the Justices will hear oral arguments in two cases.  In Heffernan v. City of Paterson, they will consider whether the First Amendment prohibits the government from demoting an employee based on a supervisor’s perception that the employee supports a political candidate.  Howard Wasserman previewed the case for this blog, while Mark Denton and Jessica Kim do the same for Cornell’s Legal Information Institute.

In the second case today, Americold Realty Trust v. ConAgra Foods, the Justices will consider the citizenship of trusts for purposes of diversity jurisdiction.  Ronald Mann previewed the case for this blog, and Tyler Vandeventer and Jason Ottomano did the same for Cornell’s Legal Information InstituteContinue reading »

Posted in Round-up

Petition of the day

By on Jan 18, 2016 at 11:00 pm

The petition of the day is:


Issue: Whether Congress has created a right to federally funded counsel in state capital post-conviction proceedings, in state court, prior to completing federal habeas litigation, notwithstanding this Court’s contrary decision in Harbison v. Bell.


This week at the Court

By on Jan 17, 2016 at 5:18 pm

The Court issued additional orders from the January 15 Conference on Tuesday, adding four new cases to its merits docket. On Wednesday the Court released its opinions in Campbell-Ewald Company v. GomezMontanile v. Board of Trustees of the National Elevator Industry Health Benefit PlanKansas v. Carr, and Duncan v. Owens. The Court also heard oral arguments on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings. The calendar for the January sitting is available here. On Friday the Justices will meet for their January 22 Conference; our list of “petitions to watch” for that Conference is available here.


In its Conference of January 22, 2016, the Court will consider petitions considering issues such as whether Congress has created a right to federally funded counsel in state capital post-conviction proceedings before completing federal habeas litigation, and whether the Employee Retirement Income Security Act requires a plan’s definition of “normal retirement age” to be based on the typical age at which the employer expects the plan’s participants to retire from working.

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.

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Taking no action on the Obama administration’s plea for approval of its new immigration policy, the Supreme Court on Friday agreed to review the claim by former Virginia Governor Robert F. McDonnell that he is innocent of corruption or fraud because he did not take any official action to benefit a friend and benefactor.  The Court also added seven other cases to its docket for decisions this Term.

The new orders filled some remaining slots for argument, presumably in March or April, but there were not enough to complete the full calendar.  That means some cases could be granted next week and still be decided before the current Term ends in late June, especially if the briefing schedule were expedited.

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Oyez has posted audio and transcripts from this week’s oral arguments at the Supreme Court.

The Court heard arguments this week in:

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