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Tuesday round-up

The Court released three opinions in argued cases yesterday, all unanimous. In the first opinion of the day, Bowman v. Monsanto Co., by Justice Kagan, the Court held that the doctrine of patent exhaustion does not allow a farmer to reproduce patented seeds through planting and harvesting without the patent holder’s permission. Coverage comes from Nina Totenberg of NPR, Greg Stohr of Bloomberg News, Adam Liptak of The New York Times, David G. Savage of the Los Angeles Times, Debra Cassens Weiss of the ABA Journal, Richard Wolf of USA Today, Ariane de Vogue of ABC News, Tony Mauro of The National Law Journal (registration required), Lawrence Hurley of Reuters, Jesse J. Holland of the Associated Press, Chantal Valery of Agence France-Presse, and Ronald Bailey of Reason.  At Dorf on Law, Mike Dorf comments on the case, warning his readers not to “confuse the right legal outcome with generally good news.” 

In Bullock v. BankChampaign, N.A., the Court (in an opinion by Justice Breyer) held that the term “defalcation” in the Bankruptcy Code includes a culpable state of mind requirement involving knowledge of, or gross recklessness in respect to, the improper nature of the fiduciary behavior. And in the day’s third opinion, the Court (in an opinion by Justice Ginsburg) held in Dan’s City Used Cars v. Pelkey that the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994 does not preempt state-law claims relating to the storage and disposal of a towed vehicle. Coverage of Dan’s City comes from Steven D. Schwinn of the Constitutional Law Prof Blog and Brian Wolfman of Public Citizen’s Consumer Law and Policy Blog. Discussing the opinion at PrawfsBlawg, Rick Hills argues that the Court’s “textualism was patently pretextual. The real work was being done offstage by the sheer silliness of imagining that Congress wanted to eliminate state laws governing towing rules without substituting any federal laws to take their place.”

The Court also issued orders from last week’s Conference.  It granted cert. in one new case, Burnside v. Walters, in which it will consider whether the in forma pauperis statute prohibits indigent plaintiffs from amending their complaints.  At The Volokh Conspiracy, Eugene Volokh notes that the respondents in Burnside ignored the Court’s call for a response to the cert. petition. The Court also denied cert. in several cases. At Lawfare, Steve Vladeck notes that the Court denied cert. in Ali v. United States, a challenge to the constitutionality of court-martial jurisdiction over a civilian contractor. And Scott Michelman of the Consumer Law and Policy Blog notes that the Court also denied cert. in Convergent Outsourcing v. Zinni, in which the Court was asked to decide whether an offer to provide a plaintiff with all of the relief he has requested, including more than the legal amount of damages plus costs and reasonable attorney’s fees, fails to moot the underlying claim because the defendant did not also agree to the entry of a judgment against it.

Other coverage yesterday focused on the likely effects of the Court’s decision in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, holding that the Alien Tort Statute does not authorize a suit by Nigerian nationals against foreign corporations for their conduct overseas.  At Concurring Opinions, Marco Simons considers the decision’s implications for corporate liability under the ATS, while Jonathan Kaufman of EarthRights International considers the issues that Kiobel left unanswered.


  • On the fiftieth anniversary of Brady v. Maryland, Andrew Cohen of The Atlantic notes that there remains “no real accountability structure to enforce the obligation — which means innocent people end up sitting in prison.”
  • Greg Stohr of Bloomberg News examines the possible implications of a ruling by the Court in Hollingsworth v. Perry, the challenge to the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8, that the defenders of the initiative lack standing.
  • In The New Republic, Simon Lazarus reports on a challenge to the federal government’s power to create health-insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act, currently pending before a federal district court in Washington, D.C., which might give the Supreme Court “another chance to gut Obamacare.”
  • Howard Mintz of The San Jose Mercury News reports that California Governor Jerry Brown has filed a notice of appeal with a three-judge district court panel, seeking Supreme Court review of an order requiring the state to trim its prison population by at least ten thousand inmates.
  • Tony Mauro of The National Law Journal reports on a recent reception in honor of Solicitor General Don Verrilli.
  • In The Paris Review, Joshua J. Friedman remembers Anthony Lewis, who died in March.
  • Stan Maddux of The Times of Northwest Indiana reports that Chief Justice John Roberts will deliver the commencement address at La Lumiere School, his alma mater.  (Thanks to Howard Bashman for the link.)
  • Ilya Shapiro, Trevor Burrus, and Sophia Cole of The Cato Institute summarize an amicus brief they recently filed in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, in which they urge the Court to strike down limits on direct donations to political campaigns.


Recommended Citation: Cormac Early, Tuesday round-up, SCOTUSblog (May. 14, 2013, 10:19 AM),