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Tuesday round-up

One week into its final month of the Term, the Court released four opinions and granted certiorari in two cases yesterday.

Coverage of yesterday’s opinions focused primarily on the two business cases decided yesterday.  In Board of Trustees of Leland Stanford Jr. v. Molecular Systems, Inc, the Court upheld the “first to invent” rule, holding that the Bayh-Dole Act does not automatically vest title to federally funded inventions in the universities in which the research is being conducted. At NPR, Nina Totenberg describes the decision as a “major victory for companies like Roche, Pfizer, Intel, and others that collaborate with universities on research with an eye toward marketing future discoveries”; Eric Kelderman of the Chronicle of Higher Education adds that the ruling is also a victory for faculty members, as well as a “warning to universities to carefully check the language and grammar of the contracts they sign with researchers.” However, as the San Francisco Mercury News reports, some patent experts characterize the ruling as “an interesting decision without much, if any, lasting consequence.”  The Wall Street Journal, JURIST, Courthouse News Service, Bloomberg, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Patently-O, and IPWatchdog all offer more coverage.

Yesterday in Erica P. John Fund, Inc. v. Halliburton, the Court unanimously held that to obtain class certification, securities fraud plaintiffs need not prove loss causation. Daniel Fisher of Forbes’s Full Disclosure blog observes that the ruling “once again confounded critics who accuse [the Supreme Court] of a pro-business bias.” Reuters, Bloomberg (via the San Francisco Chronicle), the Wall Street Journal, Courthouse News Service, Agence France-Presse (via Google News), NPR, and the New York Times all have additional coverage.

In another unanimous decision, McNeill v. United States, the Court held that a federal sentencing court must determine whether “an offense under State law” is a “serious drug offense” by consulting the “maximum term of imprisonment” applicable to a defendant’s prior state drug offense at the time of the defendant’s conviction for that offense. JURIST and Courthouse News Service provide overviews of the issues in the case.

And in yesterday’s third unanimous opinion, Fox v. Vice, the Court clarified how courts should allocate attorney’s fees for prevailing defendants in civil rights suits in which there are both frivolous and non-frivolous claims: it held that defendants should receive fees only for costs that they would not have incurred “but for” the frivolous claims. ABA Journal, Constitutional Law Prof Blog, and the Associated Press (via Google News) have brief summaries of the case.

The Court also granted certiorari in Martinez v. Ryan, in which the Court will consider an inmate’s constitutional rights to effective counsel in post-conviction proceedings; Courthouse News Service covers the issues in the case. And in Kurns v. Railroad Friction Products Corp., the Court will consider whether whether federal railroad safety laws preempt state-court remedies when a rail worker is injured or dies while working to repair a locomotive or its parts.  JURIST offers coverage of both grants of certiorari.

The cases in which the Court denied certiorari yesterday also received coverage. Lawrence Hurley of Greenwire (via the New York Times) discusses the Court’s denial in General Electric Co. v. Jackson, a due process challenge to EPA’s authority under the Superfund statute. Warren Richey of the Christian Science Monitor and Bill Mears of CNN both cover the Court’s decision to let stand a Ninth Circuit ruling that a female prison guard’s intimate search of a male inmate was unreasonable. The Court also denied petitions in Burris v. Judge and Quinn v. Judge, two cases in the dispute over the choice of a successor to hold President Obama’s former Senate Seat, as well as a petition filed by actor Wesley Snipes challenging his tax-evasion conviction, reports the WSJ Law Blog.

And in perhaps the highest-profile case denied review yesterday, the Court ordered the Third Circuit to reexamine work and housing restrictions for undocumented immigrants in Hazelton, Pennsylvania.   The Christian Science Monitor, JURIST,  And Lyle Denniston of this blog all have coverage.

Finally, as Lyle Denniston of this blog reports, last night Donald Verrilli was confirmed as Solicitor General, succeeding now-Justice Elena Kagan and Kagan’s deputy, Acting Solicitor General Neal K. Katyal.


  • At his Jost on Justice blog, Ken Jost argues that in Ashcroft v. al-Kidd the Court gave former attorney general John Ashcroft “a pass,” while giving respondent Abdullah al-Kidd “the back of its hand” for the misuse of the material witness statute.
  • The New York Post looks at how frequently the Justices agree with one another, focusing on Justices Sotomayor and Kagan; Jonathan Adler updates the story at the Volokh Conspiracy.

Recommended Citation: Nabiha Syed, Tuesday round-up, SCOTUSblog (Jun. 7, 2011, 8:29 AM),