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Details on today’s opinions

Justice Sotomayor announced the first two opinions today.  The first opinion came in DePierre v. United States. At issue in the case was whether, for purposes of a statute establishing mandatory minimum sentences for certain offenses involving “cocaine base,” the term “cocaine base” encompasses every form of cocaine that is classified chemically as a base, or is instead limited to “crack” cocaine. Today a unanimous Court held that “cocaine base” includes all cocaine in its chemically basic form, not just crack cocaine. Justice Scalia did not join the discussion of legislative history in Part III of the opinion; he also filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment.

The Court also issued its opinion in Microsoft Corp. v. i4i Limited Partnership et al.. Section 282 of the Patent Act establishes a presumption that a patent is valid and puts the burden of establishing invalidity on the party asserting it.  At issue in the case was the standard of proof for establishing invalidity.  The Court held that Section 282 requires an invalidity defense to be proved by clear and convincing evidence. The decision was unanimous.  Justice Breyer filed a concurring opinion, which was joined by Justices Scalia and Alito. Justice Thomas also filed and opinion concurring in the judgment. The Chief Justice was recused.

In the third opinion of the day, Talk America, Inc. v. Michigan Bell Telephone Co., Justice Thomas wrote the opinion for the unanimous Court. At issue in the case was whether a public service commission was barred from requiring incumbent local exchange carriers to offer their competitors telecommunications facilities at cost-based rates under Section 251(c)(2) of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 as a result of a Federal Communications Commission rule eliminating the carriers’ obligation to provide similar facilities under § 251(c)(3) when they are used by competitors for a different statutory purpose. The Court held because the FCC has advanced a reasonable interpretation of its regulations—i.e., that to satisfy its duty under §251(c)(2), a carrier must make its existing entrance facilities available to competitors at cost-based rates if the facilities are to be used for interconnection, it would defer to the FCC’s views. Justice Scalia wrote a concurring opinion. Justice Kagan was recused.

In the final opinion of the day, Sykes v. United States, Justice Kennedy wrote the opinion for the Court. At issue in the case was whether using a vehicle while knowingly or intentionally fleeing from a law enforcement officer after being ordered to stop constitutes a “violent felony” for purposes of the Armed Career Criminal Act, 18 U.S.C. § 924(e). By a vote of six to three, the Court held that  felony vehicle flight, as proscribed by Indiana law, is a violent felony for purposes of the ACCA. Justice Scalia filed a dissenting opinion. Justice Kagan also filed a dissenting opinion, which Justice Ginsburg joined.

Recommended Citation: Kali Borkoski, Details on today’s opinions, SCOTUSblog (Jun. 9, 2011, 11:18 AM),