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Today’s orders and opinions

UPDATE, 10:20 a.m.: Both briefs in the cases acted on and full texts of the opinions now follow the jump.

The Court has granted cert. in three cases,  NASA v. Nelson (09-320), Snyder v. Phelps (09-751), and Bruesewitz v. Wyeth (09-152).  The Chief Justice took no part in consideration of the last petition.

The Court has requested the views of the Solicitor General in the following cases: Carmichael v. Kellogg, Brown & Root Service, Inc. (09-683) and Amara v. CIGNA/CIGNA v. Amara (09-784/09-804).  Justice Sotomayor took no part in considering the last two petitions.

We have just two opinions today:

The first opinion is  Milavetz, Gallop & Milavetz, P.A. v. United States (08-1119).  Justice Sotomayor writes for the Court, joined in full by six Justices and in part by Justices Scalia and Thomas.  Justice Scalia concurs in part and concurs in the judgment, joined by Thomas.  The Court holds that attorneys who provide bankruptcy assistance are debt-relief agencies under the bankruptcy abuse law.  The opinion is here.

The second opinion is in Bloate v. United States (08-728), reversing and remanding the lower court decision on a 7-2 vote.  Justice Thomas writes for the Court.  Justice Ginsburg joins the opinion but files a separate concurrence.  Justice Alito dissents, joined by Justice Breyer.  The time granted to prepare pretrial motions is not automatically excluded from the 70-day limit under the Speedy Trial Act of 1974.  The opinion is here.

The full order list is here.

Title: Bruesewitz v. Wyeth
Docket: 09-152
Issue: Whether Section 22(b)(1) of the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 — which expressly preempts certain design defect claims against vaccine manufacturers “if the injury or death resulted from side effects that were unavoidable even though the vaccine was properly prepared and was accompanied by proper directions and warning” — preempts all vaccine design defect claims, regardless whether the vaccine’s side effects were unavoidable.

Title: Snyder v. Phelps
Docket: 09-751
Issue: (1) Whether the prohibition of awarding damages to public figures to compensate for the intentional infliction of emotional distress, under the Supreme Court’s First Amendment precedents, applies to a case involving two private persons regarding a private matter; (2) whether the freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment trumps its freedom of religion and peaceful assembly; and (3) whether an individual attending a family member’s funeral constitutes a “captive audience” who is entitled to state protection from unwanted communication.

Title: National Aeronautics and Space Administration v. Nelson
Docket: 09-530
Issues: Whether the government violates a federal contract employee’s constitutional right to informational privacy by (1) asking in the course of a background investigation whether the employee has received counseling or treatment for illegal drug use that has occurred within the past year and/or (2) asking the employee’s designated references for any adverse information that may have a bearing on the employee’s suitability for employment at a federal facility — when the employee’s and reference’s responses are used only for employment purposes, and the information obtained is protected under the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552a.

Title: Carmichael v. Kellogg, Brown & Root Service, Inc.
Docket: 09-683
Issue: Whether a private military contractor in Iraq should be afforded de facto immunity under the political question doctrine for severely injuring
a United States soldier in an automobile wreck during a routine convoy.

Title: Amara v. CIGNA; CIGNA v. Amara
Docket: 09-784; 09-804
Issue: (1) Whether a district court, after finding violations of the advance notice of reduction requirement in the Employee Retirement Income Security Act §204(h), lacks the authority to require the prior benefit provisions to be reinstated; and (2) whether a district court, after finding that participants were promised “comparable” or “larger” future retirement benefits in a summary of material modification errs in concluding that it lacks the authority to require at least “comparable” future benefits to be provided.

No. 08-1119, Milavetz, Gallop, & Milavetz

No. 08-728, Bloate v. United States