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More on today’s orders

This afternoon the justices issued orders from their private conference earlier in the day. In addition to the two partisan-gerrymandering cases set for argument in the March session, the justices also granted review in four other new cases, involving issues ranging from “immoral” copyright marks to  vagueness in a federal criminal law.

In Iancu v. Brunetti, the justices will take up a First Amendment challenge to a federal law that bans the registration of “immoral” or “scandalous” trademarks. The question comes to the court in the case of Erik Brunetti, who tried to register the trademark “FUCT” in connection with his clothing line; after the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office rejected Brunetti’s application, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit agreed with him that the ban violates the Constitution. The federal government went to the Supreme Court, which today agreed to weigh in.

The Securities Exchange Act of 1934 prohibits false statements and significant omissions in connection with a tender offer – that is, a public offer to purchase shareholders’ stock in a corporation. In Emulex Corp. v. Varjabedian, the justices will consider whether a private plaintiff has to show that a person who made a false statement intended to do so, or whether it is enough that the false statement was made negligently.

In Taggart v. Lorenzen, the justices add another bankruptcy case to their docket. A “discharge” in bankruptcy is the bankruptcy equivalent of a fresh start: Creditors can no longer attempt to collect debts covered by the discharge, and bankruptcy laws allow courts to hold creditors who violate the discharge in contempt. The question before the court in Taggart is whether a creditor can be held in contempt if he believes in good faith that the discharge does not apply. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled that a creditor’s good-faith belief can excuse a violation of a discharge order, so that the creditor should not be held in contempt, even if the creditor’s belief is unreasonable.

And in United States v. Davis, the justices will once again consider whether a provision of federal law is so vague that it is unconstitutional. The question arises in the cases of Maurice Davis and Andre Glover, who were found guilty of a series of armed robberies, stealing money and cigarettes from convenience stores in the Dallas area. The counts on which they were convicted included a federal criminal law that bars the use or carrying of a gun during a “crime of violence,” which is defined as any crime that involves “a substantial risk that physical force” may be used against someone or something.

A federal appeals court struck down the law. The lower court agreed with Davis and Glover that the law was unconstitutionally vague in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling from earlier this year, which concluded that a similar definition in the immigration context was unconstitutional. The federal government asked the Supreme Court to weigh in, telling the justices that the question is “of critical importance to the prosecution of violent crime,” and today the justices agreed to do so.

More orders from today’s conference are expected on Monday morning at 9:30 am.

This post was first published at Howe on the Court.

Recommended Citation: Amy Howe, More on today’s orders, SCOTUSblog (Jan. 4, 2019, 6:05 PM),