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On Tuesday, December 10, the Supreme Court issued its ruling in Rotkiske v. Klemm, a messy but ultimately small case arising from the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The curious strategic choices by Rotkiske’s lawyers throughout this case all but foretold his loss before the Supreme Court. Given its unique posture, it is doubtful that the case will have any significant impact on FDCPA litigation.

Justice Thomas with opinion in Rotkiske v. Klemm

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Justice Byron White, who as a retired justice hired a law clerk named Neil Gorsuch, once wrote that “a prime function of this Court’s certiorari jurisdiction [is] to resolve” conflicts between the federal circuits. Yesterday the court heard argument in Holguin-Hernandez v. United States to review a sentencing rule of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit that is out of step with nine other circuits. The argument was unusually brief, just over 45 minutes, and the transcript reads as somewhat desultory. It seems clear that the 5th Circuit will be reversed; indeed, one can wonder why the court even bothered with briefing and argument (but see below). A need to fill the argument calendar? Or perhaps Gorsuch, who asked no questions, is imbued with White’s circuit-split-correction spirit. In any case, Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked the only really difficult question: “How do we write this opinion?” in order to offer the doctrinal “clarity” that the solicitor general has requested.

K. Winn Allen, Court appointed Amicus curiae (Art Lien)

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Wednesday round-up

By on Dec 11, 2019 at 7:05 am

Today the Supreme Court wraps up its December sitting with two oral arguments. The first is in Monasky v. Taglieri, which involves the “habitual residence” provision of an international child-abduction convention. Amy Howe previewed the case for this blog, in a post that first appeared at Howe on the Court. Lachanda Reid and Grant Shillington have a preview at Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Center.

This morning’s second argument is in McKinney v. Arizona, a capital case in which the court will consider whether current law or the law in effect when a defendant’s conviction originally became final applies to resentencing. This blog’s preview, which first appeared at Howe on the Court, came from Amy Howe. Robert Reese Oñate and Thomas Shannan preview the case for Cornell. Subscript Law has a graphic explainer for the case.

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If you have become depressed about the current state of American government—the shouting, the posturing, the endless spinning—please read the oral-argument transcript in Thryv Inc. v. Click-to-Call Technologies LP. And for good measure, you might as well read the transcript in the immigration case argued earlier the same morning, Guerrero-Lasprilla v. Barr, which the justices repeatedly referenced during the Thryv argument. Both cases involve the extent to which federal courts can review executive-branch decisions when Congress has by law clearly precluded some judicial review. In both cases, the statute precluding review is ambiguous in crucial ways. In both, the justices are trying to figure out whether, and to what extent, the American “presumption of judicial review” applies.

Daniel L. Geyser for private respondent (Art Lien)

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On Monday, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in the consolidated cases of Guerrero-Lasprilla v. Barr and Ovalles v. Barr. These cases focus on the meaning of a single statutory provision: 8 U.S.C. § 1252(a)(2)(D).

The parties agree the statute means that U.S. courts of appeals are authorized to consider “questions of law” raised in appeals by noncitizens convicted of certain crimes from decisions by the Board of Immigration Appeals regarding their removal from the United States. They also agree that courts of appeals have no jurisdiction to consider other questions raised by such cases. Finally, the parties agree that Congress drafted this statute in response to the Supreme Court’s decision in Immigration & Naturalization Service v. St. Cyr, in which the court warned that preventing review of legal questions in this type of appeal would create “substantial constitutional questions.”

Where the parties diverge is in their understanding of the breadth of the phrase “questions of law.” Continue reading »

This morning the Supreme Court heard oral argument in a relatively obscure case in which billions of dollars are at stake. At issue is whether health-insurance companies that lost money offering policies on the “health benefit exchanges” established by the Affordable Care Act are entitled to compensation for their losses, or whether Congress repealed any obligation that the government might have had. After 60 minutes of oral argument today, it seemed very possible – although not entirely clear – that the insurers have at least five votes in their favor.

Paul Clement for petitioners (Art Lien)

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Relist Watch

By on Dec 10, 2019 at 2:10 pm

John Elwood briefly reviews Monday’s relists.

On Monday, the Supreme Court further thinned the ranks of pending relists, denying review in Schexnayder v. Vannoy, 18-8341, which involved hair-raising allegations that a Louisiana state court had a secret policy of denying all pro se prisoner writ applications. The allegations  came to light only when a former court employee, who said he was tormented by guilt, committed suicide in his courthouse office and left a note setting forth his claims. Justice Sonia Sotomayor filed an opinion respecting the denial in Schexnayder. Sotomayor also filed a second opinion respecting denial in a case that had been rescheduled five times, which may shed some light on the justices’ murky rescheduling practices. Continue reading »

Tuesday round-up

By on Dec 10, 2019 at 6:52 am

This morning brings oral argument in two cases. The first is Maine Community Health Options v. United States, which stems from the federal government’s failure to fully reimburse health insurance companies for losses created as a result of the Affordable Care Act. Amy Howe previewed the case for this blog, in a post that first appeared at Howe on the Court. Gabrielle Kanter and Joseph Grosser offer a preview at Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute. The second case today is Holguin-Hernandez v. United States, in which the court will decide whether and how a criminal defendant must formally object to his sentence to preserve an objection to the length of the sentence on appeal. This blog’s preview came from Rory Little, and Cornell’s comes from Basem Besada and Kaitlyn Marasi.

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This morning the Supreme Court issued orders from the justices’ December 6 conference. The justices did not add any new cases to their merits docket for the term.

The justices declined to take up the case of Louie Schexnayder, a Louisiana inmate who was sentenced to life in prison for the stabbing death of Eugene Price. After Schexnayder’s direct appeals were finished, he unsuccessfully sought state and then federal post-conviction relief. In 2008, after those efforts had concluded, a suicide note from an official in the state court where Schexnayder had filed his post-conviction applications revealed that the court had a practice of denying all pro se prisoner applications (like Schexnayder’s) without any review by a judge. A state court reviewed Schexnayder’s application again, and again denied it. A federal district court then denied Schenxnayder’s plea for federal post-conviction relief, following the rule of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit that federal courts will not consider constitutional challenges to state post-conviction proceedings, even when the results of such proceedings are “beyond regrettable.” The 5th Circuit declined to review Schexnayder’s appeal, and today the justices turned down a petition filed by Schexnayder, who is now represented by counsel. Continue reading »

Arizona Supreme Court

It has been nearly 30 years since James McKinney and his half-brother killed two people while robbing the victims at their homes. A judge in Arizona sentenced McKinney to death, but in 2015 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit threw out McKinney’s death sentence. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in the dispute between McKinney and the state over how his case should proceed.

McKinney was convicted by a jury for the 1991 murders of Christine Mertens and Jim McClain, but he was sentenced to death by a judge. Although McKinney’s lawyers offered evidence that McKinney suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the horrific abuse that he experienced as a child, the judge did not take that evidence into account when making his decision, because the law in effect at the time barred him from considering mitigating evidence that was not linked to the cause of the crime. Continue reading »

 
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