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Monday round-up

This morning the Supreme Court kicks off the January argument session with oral arguments in two cases. The first is Merck Sharp & Dohme v. Albrecht, which raises questions about whether a state-law failure-to-warn claim is pre-empted by federal law regulating the safety and efficacy of prescription drugs. Elizabeth McCuskey previewed the case for this blog. Garion Liberti and Tayler Woelcke have a preview for Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute. The second case today is Obduskey v. McCarthy & Holthus LLP, which asks whether the definition of “debt collector” under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act includes attorneys who effect nonjudicial foreclosures. Danielle D’Onfro had this blog’s argument preview; Grace Brosofsky and Luís L. Lozada preview the case for Cornell.

On Friday, the justices added two high-profile partisan-gerrymandering cases to their docket; the cases will be argued in March. Amy Howe covers the grants for this blog, in a post that first appeared at Howe on the Court. For The Wall Street Journal, Brent Kendall and Jess Bravin report that the court will “review two lower-court rulings: one that struck down a North Carolina congressional map drawn by Republicans that has been highly favorable to the GOP, and another that invalidated a Maryland congressional district drawn by Democrats to eliminate a Republican-held seat”; they note that “[t]he cases could have major ramifications for U.S. elections, and they promise to elevate the profile of a Supreme Court term that so far has lacked blockbuster litigation.” Additional coverage comes from Greg Stohr at Bloomberg, who reports that Justice Brett “Kavanaugh may hold the key vote in the case, given that Chief Justice John Roberts has voiced reluctance to have the court referee partisan gerrymandering claims.” Ruthann Robson looks at the cases for the Constitutional Law Prof Blog.

In addition to the partisan-gerrymandering cases, the justices granted four other cert petitions on Friday. Amy Howe has this blog’s coverage, which first appeared at Howe on the Court. For The Washington Post, Robert Barnes reports that in Iancu v. Brunetti, the justices will “review a new front in the battle over free speech and will decide whether trademark protection can be refused to brands the federal government finds vulgar or lewd.” At the Constitutional Law Prof Blog, Ruthann Robson explains that the case involves “the constitutionality of Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1052(a), which  prohibits the federal registration of ‘immoral’ or ‘scandalous’ trademarks[; t]he Federal Circuit Court of Appeals held that the section violates the First Amendment.”


  • A new episode of First Mondays (podcast) “catch[es] up on Supreme Court news and look[s] ahead to the coming arguments.”
  • In the latest episode of Bloomberg Law’s Cases and Controversies podcast, Kimberly Robinson and Jordan Rubin unpack the case of Texas death-row inmate Bobby James Moore, who “is back at the U.S. Supreme Court after he already won a case there in 2017” and even though a Texas district attorney says he “shouldn’t be executed, due to his intellectual disability.”
  • At the Pacific Legal Foundation blog, Deborah La Fetra urges the justices to review a challenge to Massachusetts’ ban on corporate contributions and “to revisit, and discard, the amorphous ‘appearance of corruption’ justification for contribution restrictions.”
  • In an op-ed for The Baltimore Sun, Dawinder Sidhu argues that the court should review a lower-court ruling that struck down Maryland’s anti-price-gouging law as a violation of the dormant commerce clause, and should “restore the authority of Maryland and other states to address the health needs of their people.”
  • At Greenwire (subscription required), Ellen Gilmer previews Herrera v. Wyoming, which asks whether the Crow Tribe retains treaty rights to hunt on land in Wyoming’s Bighorn National Forest, noting that the case has “important implications for natural resources, public lands and American Indian law.”
  • At E&E News, Gilmer reports that “[t]he Trump administration is pushing the Supreme Court to review what could be the most consequential environmental case of the term: a broiling Clean Water Act debate,” as the “Justice Department [has] recommended [that] the high court decide whether the landmark environmental law applies to pollution that travels through groundwater before reaching federally regulated water.”
  • At Reason, Damon Root assesses the life and legacy of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, concluding that “[w]hen it comes to the case of the Notorious RBG, the jury is still out.”
  • At the Washington Independent Review of Books, Kenneth Jost reviews “Glass and Gavel: The U.S. Supreme Court and Alcohol,” which “traces the justices’ drinking habits through time and the court’s voluminous alcohol-related jurisprudence.”
  • Another Supreme Court-related book review comes from Garrett Epps, who reviews Richard Brookhiser’s new biography of Chief Justice John Marshall for The Washington Post, suggesting that, perhaps because the book’s “focus is on politics, not law,” the author “doesn’t give Marshall his full due.”

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Recommended Citation: Edith Roberts, Monday round-up, SCOTUSblog (Jan. 7, 2019, 6:58 AM),