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There is a possibility of opinions on Wednesday at 10:00 a.m. We will begin live-blogging at 9:45 a.m. at this link, where readers can also sign up for an email reminder when we start the live blog.
On Wednesday the Supreme Court hears oral argument in Mission Product Holdings Inc. v. Tempnology, LLC; Ronald Mann has our preview.

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Argument transcript

By on Feb 19, 2019 at 1:28 pm

The transcript of oral argument in Return Mail Inc. v. United States Postal Service is available on the Supreme Court’s website.

Posted in Merits Cases
 
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Last Friday the justices added the dispute over the decision to add a question about citizenship to the 2020 census to their merits docket. Today they issued more orders from last week’s conference, granting review in another case and throwing out – for the second time – the death sentence of a Texas inmate who argues that he cannot be executed because he is intellectually disabled.

The Clean Water Act bars the discharge of any pollutant into “navigable waters” without a permit. In its lone grant on today’s order list, the Supreme Court agreed to decide whether a violation of the CWA occurs only when a pollutant is released directly into navigable waters, or whether it is enough that the pollutant is released indirectly.

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Tuesday round-up

By on Feb 19, 2019 at 6:47 am

This morning the justices will return from a four-week break to hear oral argument in Return Mail Inc. v. United States Postal Service, in which they will consider whether the federal government can challenge patents under the America Invents Act. Ronald Mann previewed the case for this blog. Garion Liberti and Tayler Woelcke have a preview at Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute. Subscript Law offers a graphic explainer for the case. First Mondays (podcast) previews both of this week’s oral arguments.

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OT2018 #19: “Fake Mootness”

By on Feb 18, 2019 at 8:27 am

As we enter the February sitting, we give you the rarest of episodes: a completely comprehensive preview of all the cases that will be argued this week! All two of them!

This week at the court

By on Feb 17, 2019 at 12:00 pm

The Supreme Court released orders from the February 15 conference on Tuesday; the justices added County of Maui, Hawaii v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund to next term’s merits docket and summarily reversed in Moore v. Texas.

There is a possibility of opinions on Wednesday at 10 a.m.

On Tuesday, the justices heard oral argument in Return Mail Inc. v. United States Postal Service.

On Wednesday, the justices hear oral argument in Mission Product Holdings Inc. v. Tempnology, LLC.

On Friday, the justices will meet for their February 22 conference.

 
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The Supreme Court’s 2018-2019 term will end with a bang. In a brief order issued after the justices’ private conference, the court announced this afternoon that it will review a challenge to the Trump administration’s decision to add a question about citizenship to the 2020 census. The court will take up the case and hear oral argument in the dispute – without following the normal procedure and waiting for a federal appeals court to weigh in first – in late April.

The dispute centers on the March 2018 announcement by Wilbur Ross, the Secretary of Commerce, that the 2020 census would include a question about citizenship. The Trump administration indicated that data collected from the question would help the U.S. Department of Justice to better enforce voting rights, but states and civil rights groups (among others) opposed the decision, countering that the question would make households with undocumented or Hispanic residents less likely to respond and would therefore lead to an inaccurate count.

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Friday round-up

By on Feb 15, 2019 at 6:47 am

Briefly:

  • For the Los Angeles Times, David Savage reports that “[t]he Supreme Court meets behind closed doors [today] to weigh a question that could shape the political power of California for the decade ahead[:] At issue is the Trump administration’s plan to ask all households for the first time since 1950 whether occupants are U.S. citizens.”
  • Alex Swoyer reports for The Washington Times that “Justice Sonia Sotomayor said Thursday the high court is a prime example of how people who disagree can actually get along with one another and even have some fun together, saying she has particular respect for her colleague Justice Neil M. Gorsuch.”
  • At The New Yorker, Jeffrey Toobin writes that “there are currently two retirement dramas under way at the Court—one semi-public and the other semi-private—and they both have the potential to reshape the meaning of the Constitution for decades.”
  • At The National Law Review, Ellen Shapiro and others discuss a new cert petition “seeking clarification of the duty to update under the federal securities laws.”

We rely on our readers to send us links for our round-up. If you have or know of a recent (published in the last two or three days) article, post, podcast, or op-ed relating to the Supreme Court that you’d like us to consider for inclusion in the round-up, please send it to roundup [at] scotusblog.com. Thank you!

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Petitions of the week

By on Feb 14, 2019 at 10:05 am

This week we highlight petitions pending before the Supreme Court that address, among other things, the availability of tribal sovereign immunity in inter partes review, a probate-estate beneficiary’s ability to establish a direct injury for a RICO claim in certain circumstances, and the state subsidies pre-empted by the Federal Power Act.

The petitions of the week are:

18-890

Issues: (1) Whether the beneficiary of a probate estate can establish the direct injury necessary to bring a civil RICO claim when the alleged RICO violation harms the estate as a whole and any impact on beneficiaries of the estate is indirect and derivative; and (2) whether outside parties who are not members of the alleged RICO enterprise can nevertheless be liable under 18 U.S.C. 1962(c) when they are alleged only to have “assisted” or acted as “necessary tools” to a single RICO defendant in his own operation or management of the RICO enterprise.

18-899

Issue: Whether inter partes review before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board is the type of proceeding in which tribal sovereign immunity may be asserted.

18-868

Issue: Whether the Federal Power Act pre-empts only state subsidies that explicitly require a wholesale generator to sell its output in auctions approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or whether the Federal Power Act also pre-empts state subsidies that lack such an express requirement but that, by design, subsidize only generators that sell their entire output via such auctions, thereby achieving the same effect.

18-879
Disclosure: Goldstein & Russell, P.C., whose attorneys contribute to this blog in various capacities, is among the counsel on an amicus brief in support of the petitioners in this case.

Issue: Whether the Federal Power Act pre-empts only state subsidies that explicitly require a wholesale generator to sell its output in auctions approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or whether the Federal Power Act also pre-empts state subsidies that lack such an express requirement but that, by design, subsidize only generators that sell their entire output via such auctions, thereby achieving the same effect.

 

Thursday round-up

By on Feb 14, 2019 at 6:57 am

In an op-ed for The New York Times, Linda Greenhouse writes that Chief Justice John Roberts’ vote last week in June Medical Services v. Gee to temporarily block a Louisiana law that would require abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals was not surprising, because “circumstances compelled the chief justice to stand up to a stunning act of judicial defiance” by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. At Take Care, Brianne Gorod and Rebecca Damante argue that “what Roberts does next will tell us a lot—about him and the trajectory of the Court he leads.” At The Interdependent Third Branch, Lawrence Friedman maintains that “[m]ore interesting than the Chief voting to impose the stay was Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s dissent—the only separate opinion,” which suggests that “the Chief Justice has another colleague who appreciates that the Court’s ability to perform its constitutionally assigned role is inextricably connected to the esteem in which it is held.”

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The second of the two cases set for oral argument next week is a bankruptcy matter, Mission Product Holdings Inc. v. Tempnology, LLC. Although the case presents a variety of twists and complications, the central question is so simple that it is surprising it has not been settled for decades: When a debtor rejects a contract in bankruptcy, does that simply mean that the debtor can stop performing (and become liable for breaching the contract) or does it also mean that the contract is rescinded (retracting any rights it might have granted the other party)?

The question before the justices comes from Section 365 of the Bankruptcy Code, Subsection(a) of which gives any bankrupt firm the power to “assume or reject any executory contract of the debtor.” Subsection 365(g) offers some guidance as to the effect of rejection, explaining that it “constitutes a breach” of the affected contract, which ordinarily would leave the debtor liable for damages for breach of contract. The question, though, is whether rejection goes further and also rescinds the entire arrangement.

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