SCOTUSblog is hiring

By on Feb 20, 2019 at 6:00 pm

The blog and Goldstein & Russell, P.C., are looking for someone to serve as both the firm manager for Goldstein & Russell, P.C., and the deputy manager of SCOTUSblog. The principal responsibilities for this position include, but are not limited to:

  • Administrative work for the firm and in particular for Tom Goldstein, the firm’s managing partner;
  • Scheduling travel, which may entail making frequent last-minute changes and arrangements, sometimes during off hours;
  • Assisting with case coverage;
  • Coordinating and proofing Supreme Court filings;
  • Occasional paralegal tasks, including drafting simple legal documents, checking citations for accuracy and formatting, and light legal research; and
  • Overseeing occasional special projects.

The qualifications for this position include:

  • Excellent organizational skills and attention to detail;
  • Excellent writing and editing skills;
  • Strong interest in learning about the U.S. Supreme Court and its workings; and
  • Ability to improvise as we occasionally need all hands on deck both during and outside of normal business hours.
  • Undergraduate experience with law-related courses is a plus, though not a requirement, as is an interest in attending law school. Part-time students are not eligible for this position.

This position would begin in mid-July 2019. A commitment of at least two years is required for this position. To apply, please send a cover letter, resume, transcript (either official or unofficial), and unedited writing sample (no more than five pages) to jon@goldsteinrussell.com and ahamm@scotusblog.com by March 20. Salary is competitive and commensurate with experience. This position is located in Bethesda, Maryland.

Posted in Everything Else
 
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In 2006, Congress passed the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act “to protect the public from sex offenders and offenders against children.” One part of the act provides that if a defendant who is required to register as a sex offender commits certain crimes carrying a prison term longer than one year, his supervised release will be revoked, and he must return to prison for at least five years – and possibly for the rest of his life. Next week the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in a challenge to this provision.

In 2010, Andre Haymond was convicted of possession of child pornography and sentenced to 38 months in prison, followed by 10 years of supervised release. Haymond was also required to register as a sex offender, participate in mental-health treatment and allow his computer activity to be monitored.

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The second and last argument of the week came in the Supreme Court’s most important bankruptcy case of the year, Mission Product Holdings Inc. v. Tempnology, LLC. The case presents a problem that has confused lower courts for more than 30 years: What happens when a debtor exercises its statutory right to reject a contract in bankruptcy? It is plain from the language of the statute that the debtor’s rejection should be treated as a “breach” of the contract, and that the counterparty can sue the bankrupt for damages. The question, though, is whether the rejection’s “breach” operates to rescind the entire contract. In this case, for example, the contract in question is a trademark license, and the debtor not only wants to terminate its own obligations under the contract; it also wants to retract the licensee’s right to use the debtor’s trademark.

You might wonder, if this problem has plagued lower courts for 30 years, why Congress has not responded. In fact, it has. Specifically, shortly after the 1985 decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Lubrizol Enterprises v. Richmond Metal Fin (holding that a debtor can terminate rights under a patent license), Congress promptly amended the Bankruptcy Code to provide that the licensee of a patent can retain its rights even if the licensor rejects the license in bankruptcy. The problem is that Congress’ amendment applies to patent and copyright licenses, but not to trademark licenses. Hence this case.

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West Virginia cannot impose its state income tax on federal retirement benefits paid to a retired U.S. marshal while exempting its own pension payments to former state law enforcement officers, the Supreme Court ruled Wednesday in a 9-0 decision. That result is a resounding — if unsurprising — victory for the petitioner, retired U.S. marshal James Dawson, who sought a $4,285 state tax refund from West Virginia for tax years 2010 and 2011. It may matter much less for other former federal workers inside and beyond the Mountain State.

The eight-page opinion by Justice Neil Gorsuch makes the case look like an easy one. As Gorsuch frames it, West Virginia grants a “generous tax exemption” to retired state law enforcement officers but denies “the same benefit” to federal law enforcement retirees. That policy runs up against the intergovernmental tax immunity doctrine — first announced in the landmark 1819 case McCulloch v. Maryland and codified at 4 U.S.C. § 111, which says that state income tax laws cannot “discriminate” against federal officers or employees “because of the source of [their] pay or compensation.” In Gorsuch’s view, West Virginia’s disparate treatment of federal and state law enforcement retirees is a classic case of anti-federal discrimination that the intergovernmental tax immunity doctrine plainly prohibits.

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Argument transcript

By on Feb 20, 2019 at 1:10 pm

The transcript of oral argument in Mission Product Holdings Inc. v. Tempnology, LLC is available on the Supreme Court’s website.

 

Posted in Merits Cases
 
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The Supreme Court today ruled that the Eighth Amendment’s ban on excessive fines applies to the states. The decision is a victory for an Indiana man whose luxury SUV was seized after he pleaded guilty to selling heroin. It is also a blow to state and local governments, for whom fines and forfeitures have become an important source of funds.

The case began back in 2015, when Tyson Timbs sold heroin to an undercover police officer. He pleaded guilty to drug charges and was sentenced to one year of home detention, living with his aunt, followed by five years on probation. The state court also ordered Timbs to forfeit his 2012 Land Rover, which he had purchased for approximately $42,000 with the proceeds of his father’s life insurance policy, on the theory that he had used the car to transport drugs.

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We live-blogged as the Supreme Court released its opinions in Dawson v. Steager and Timbs v. Indiana. The transcript of the live blog is available below and at this link.

Posted in Live
 
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Wednesday round-up

By on Feb 20, 2019 at 7:16 am

This morning, in Mission Product Holdings Inc. v. Tempnology LLC, the justices will consider whether a trademark licensee retains any rights under a licensing agreement when the licensor goes bankrupt. Ronald Mann previewed the case for this blog. Cecelia Bruni and Brady Plastaras have a preview at Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute.

Yesterday the court released additional orders from Friday’s conference, adding an important Clean Water Act case to their docket for next term and invalidating for the second time in an unsigned opinion the death sentence of a Texas inmate who claims that he is ineligible for the death penalty because he is intellectually disabled. Amy Howe covers the order list for this blog, in a post that first appeared at Howe on the Court. At E&E News, Ellen Gilmer reports that yesterday’s cert grant came in came in County of Maui, Hawaii v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund, “a case involving whether the law covers pollution that moves through groundwater before reaching a federal waterway,” and that “[e]nvironmental groups, states, industry and conservatives are watching the case closely, as its outcome could clarify or narrow EPA’s historical interpretation of the types of pollution discharges covered by the Clean Water Act.” Additional coverage comes from Ledyard King and Richard Wolf for USA Today, Brent Kendall and Jess Bravin for The Wall Street Journal, and Stephanie Sundier at Jurist.

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Posted in Round-up
 
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Next week the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in a case involving free speech and public-access television channels. Although the issue may sound somewhat obscure, internet giants like Facebook and YouTube are paying close attention, fearing that the court’s ruling could have ripple effects that limit their ability to control their content.

The First Amendment provides that “Congress shall make no law” restricting freedom of speech. Through the 14th Amendment, the First Amendment also applies to state and local governments. Although the amendment does not generally apply to private actors, it does apply to people or entities who are acting on behalf of the government or doing something that the government would normally do – taking “state action,” so to speak.

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The justices have a light calendar this week, with only two arguments. If the first argument of the week (Return Mail Inc. v. U.S. Postal Service) is any guide, they’ve spent their extra time focusing carefully on the relatively thin session. At first glance, Return Mail is a simple statutory case, involving another in a long line of drafting flaws in the AIA (Congress’ 2011 patent-reform bill, the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act). But the argument presented a highly engaged bench, with all of the justices (except Justice Clarence Thomas) asking pointed questions, several of which seemed to raise the stakes higher than we might expect for a simple patent case.

Justice Ginsburg asks first question of petitioner’s lawyer, Beth S. Brinkmann (Art Lien)

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