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Expanded argument on Exxon Valdez

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to expand the time allowed for oral argument in Exxon Shipping Co. v. Baker (07-219), scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 27.  That is the only case scheduled to be heard that day. In an order Friday, the Court allotted 45 minutes to each side — 15 minutes beyond the usual half-hour each. The Court refused a request by the state of Alaska to take part in oral argument.  The case involves Exxon’s challenge to the $2.5 billion punitive damages verdict awarded to businesses and individuals for damages done by the massive oil spill from the tanker, Exxon Valdez, in Alaska’s Prince William Sound on March 24, 1989.

Friday’s orders can be found here.

In another order Friday, the Court agreed to allow the U.S. Solicitor General to take part in the argument scheduled Tuesday, Feb. 26, in Allison Engine Co., et al., v. U.S. ex rel. Sanders (07-214), on the proof required to show that a false claim was made to the federal government.  The issue is whether it is sufficient to show that the claim would be paid with government funds, even if the claim was not directly submitted to a federal agency or official.  The Solicitor General, siding with the respondents, contends that the False Claims Act does not require proof that a false claim was presented to a federal official.

The Court also allowed attorneys for a television performer, Alex E. Ferrer, who appears as “Judge Alex,” to file a post-argument brief in Preston v. Ferrer (06-1463).  The case tests when federal arbitration law bars states from nullifying an arbitration agreement under state law.  The case was heard on Jan. 14.  During oral argument, several questions arose over the scope of California law. The new brief put before the Court a ruling by the California Supreme Court on Jan. 28 interpreting the state law governing talent agencies.