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Details on today’s opinions

The Court issued opinions for the last of this Term’s cases today.  There were three opinions in four cases argued on the merits (two were consolidated), and a per curiam summary reversal.

 The first opinion of the day came in Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v. Brown.  In a unanimous opinion by Justice Ginsburg, the Court reversed the decision of the North Carolina Court of Appeals. It held that Goodyear’s foreign subsidiaries were not amenable to suit in North Carolina on claims that were unrelated to any activity by them in that state. 

In J. McIntyre Machinery v. Nicastro, by a vote of six to three, the Court reversed the decision of the Supreme Court of New Jersey.  Justice Kennedy wrote the plurality opinion, which was joined by the Chief Justice and Justices Scalia and Thomas.  They held that because J. McIntyre had not engaged in any activities in New Jersey reflecting an intent to invoke or benefit from the protection of that state’s laws, New Jersey lacked the power to adjudicate the company’s rights and liabilities, and its exercise of jurisdiction would violate due process. 

Justices Breyer and Alito filed an opinion concurring in the judgment.  They agreed that the decision of the New Jersey Supreme Court should be reversed, but they believed that the case could be resolved based on the Court’s prior precedents.  They believed that, because the case does not present issues arising from recent changes in commerce and communication, it is unwise to announce a rule of broad applicability without fully considering the modern-day consequences of that rule.  Justice Ginsburg filed a dissenting opinion, which was joined by Justices Sotomayor and Kagan.

 Justice Scalia had the opinion for the Court in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Ass’n. By a vote of seven to two, the Court affirmed the decision of the Ninth Circuit, striking down California’s ban on the sale or rental of violent video games to minors as unconstitutional.  The Court held that the law imposes a restriction on the content of protected speech and cannot satisfy strict scrutiny.  Justice Alito filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, which was joined by the Chief Justice. Justices Thomas and Breyer filed dissenting opinions.

 Chief Justice Roberts announced the opinion in the consolidated cases Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom Club PAC v. Bennett and McComish v. Bennett. By a vote of five to four, the Court reversed the decision of the Ninth Circuit. It held that Arizona’s matching funds scheme, which provides additional funds to a publicly funded candidate when expenditures by a privately financed candidate and independent groups exceed the funding initially allotted to the publicly financed candidate, substantially burdens political speech and is not sufficiently justified by a compelling interest to survive First Amendment scrutiny. Justice Kagan filed a dissenting opinion, which was joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor.

 Finally, in United States v. Juvenile Male, the Court summarily reversed the decision of the Ninth Circuit, which had held that the requirements of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) violate the Constitution’s Ex Post Facto Clause when applied to a juvenile who was adjudicated delinquent under the Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act before SORNA’s enactment.  In a per curiam opinion (with Justice Kagan recused), the Court vacated the decision below and remanded the case with instructions to dismiss the appeal.  The Court held that the Ninth Circuit lacked the authority to enter its judgment because there was no live controversy before it:  at the time of the Ninth Circuit’s decision, respondent’s challenge was moot because the district court’s order of juvenile supervision had expired, and respondent was no longer subject to the sex-offender-registration provisions that he challenged on appeal.    Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor would have remanded the case to the Ninth Circuit so that that court could consider mootness in the first instance.

Recommended Citation: Kali Borkoski, Details on today’s opinions, SCOTUSblog (Jun. 27, 2011, 2:00 PM),