John Elwood previews next Monday’s likely relists.

With my long-awaited argument finally out of the way, my preparations will no longer keep me from creating humorous and informative posts on the relisted cases the Supreme Court is considering; instead, my lack of talent will.

We had fairly little movement at the last conference. We got an opinion respecting the denial of certiorari in two cases that had been relisted five times. And one new grant in a case involving Yeezy’s latest persona.

But things are afoot with respect to some of the repeat relists. Remember United States v. Wheeler, 18-420? That’s one of four cases (all on their third relist) now before the court that present the question whether a prisoner whose 28 U.S.C. § 2255 motion challenging the applicability of a statutory minimum was denied based on circuit precedent may later seek habeas relief on the ground that the circuit’s interpretation of the relevant statutes has changed. On the day before conference, the solicitor general wrote the court a letter to tell it that Gerald Wheeler had that very day won habeas relief and been resentenced to time served; the government argued that “the grant of habeas relief to shorten [Wheeler’s] term of imprisonment means that this case continues to present a live controversy regarding the permissibility of such relief.” But Wheeler’s counsel wrote the very next day to argue that this “development counsels against a grant of certiorari at this time, not in favor of it.” That represents one more complicating factor as the Supreme Court decides which of the four cases represents the best vehicle for resolving this obviously recurring question. The likeliest beneficiary is Detric Lewis, the only other counseled prisoner who is raising the same issue, and who earlier filed a supplemental brief that suggested that this kind of complication made Wheeler’s case a bad vehicle.

On to the new relists. The court typically doesn’t relist cases until the Monday before the next conference, which won’t occur until March 15. But we can make an informed guess about what the relisted cases will be. We think there will be two, both from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. (There are also two cases that are likely holds for United States v. Davis; one of the petitioners argues that his case is a better vehicle than Davis and should be heard in tandem with it. I think that’s unlikely to happen, but it’s hard to tell holds from relists before the docket is updated. Check back after the March 15 conference.)

First up is Patterson v. Walgreen Co., 18-349. Darrell Patterson is a Seventh-day Adventist. He was scheduled for work as a trainer for customer-care representatives one Saturday morning, during his sabbath. Walgreen proposed to accommodate Patterson the same way it previously had, by allowing him to swap shifts with someone else working in the same job, but that person was unable to accommodate the switch. (Patterson also says he was discouraged from swapping with that person.) After being unable to reach a supervisor, Patterson didn’t show up for the shift. Walgreens then offered to transfer Patterson back to the position he had previously held as a customer-care representative. (Patterson says this would have been a demotion; Walgreens argues it was not shown that the transfer would have entailed a pay cut.) Although Patterson could have been scheduled for Saturday shifts even after the job change, there would be a larger pool of people for Patterson to swap shifts with. After Patterson declined the change in position, Walgreens fired him.

Patterson sued, saying he was fired because of his religion in violation of Title VII; Walgreens said it had reasonably accommodated Patterson’s religious observance and that doing any more would impose an “undue hardship on the conduct of the employer’s business,” and that its conduct therefore was lawful under 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(j). The district court held that Walgreens had reasonably accommodated Patterson’s religious beliefs by permitting him to swap shifts and by offering him the possibility of transferring to other positions that would make it easier to swap shifts when needed; it further held that Walgreens would suffer undue hardship by ensuring that Patterson would never be scheduled for Saturday hours. The 11th Circuit affirmed. Patterson, supported by five amicus briefs (including one filed by the person who moved my admission to the Supreme Court bar during an earlier century), argues that his case implicates two circuit splits, one involving whether an accommodation is “reasonable,” and the second involving when a burden constitutes “undue hardship” for an employer, and that it also gives the court the opportunity to revisit some ill-considered language in Trans World Airlines Inc. v. Hardison. The case has already been rescheduled twice, so clearly, someone at the court has been paying attention to it. Because the case seems fairly fact-intensive, it will be interesting to see whether it gets traction.

That brings us to our second apparent relist, Tharpe v. Ford, 18-6819. Keith Tharpe was convicted of murdering his sister-in-law and raping his estranged wife, and he was sentenced to death. After conviction, Tharpe’s lawyers obtained a “remarkable affidavit” from one juror that – in the words of the Supreme Court’s last opinion in this case – “presents a strong factual basis for the argument that Tharpe’s race affected [the juror’s] vote for a death verdict.” (About the mildest statement in it was: “After studying the Bible, I have wondered if black people even have souls.”) After Tharpe’s sentence became final, he unsuccessfully challenged it on federal habeas, arguing that the affidavit was proof that racial animus may have affected the jury’s decision to sentence him to death. But the district court denied relief, stating that at the time of the trial, Georgia law prohibited impeaching the jury’s verdict with extrinsic evidence. Although the district court noted that the Supreme Court had later ruled in Pena-Rodriguez v. Colorado that there is an exception to the no-impeachment rule when a prisoner comes forward with “compelling evidence” that racial animus was a significant motivating factor in the verdict, it held that Pena-Rodriguez did not apply retroactively.

During this case’s last trip to the Supreme Court, the justices held 6-3 that the 11th Circuit had erred in holding that it is “indisputable among reasonable jurists that [the juror’s] service on the jury did not prejudice Tharpe.” (Writing for himself and Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch in dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas noted that the juror gave a second affidavit in which he said he had been drunk at the time he signed the first affidavit, and had voted as he had because of the evidence and not his views of African-Americans; and that the other 11 jurors, two of whom were black, gave evidence that race had played no role in the jury’s deliberations.) On remand, the court of appeals again denied a certificate of appealability, holding that Pena-Rodriguez did not apply retroactively to cases on collateral review, and that Tharpe had failed to show cause to excuse his procedural default. Tharpe seeks to revisit that determination.

That’s all for this week. Thanks to Tom Mitsch for compiling the relists.

 

New Relists

Patterson v. Walgreen Co., 18-349

Issues: (1) Whether an accommodation that merely lessens or has the potential to eliminate the conflict between work and religious practice is “reasonable” per se, as the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the 1st, 4th and 11th Circuits hold; does it instead create a jury question, as the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the 8th and 10th Circuits hold; or must an accommodation fully eliminate the conflict in order to be “reasonable” as the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the 2nd, 7th and 9th Circuits hold; (2) whether speculation about possible future burdens is sufficient to meet the employer’s burden in establishing “undue hardship,” as the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the 5th, 6th and 11th Circuits hold, or must the employer demonstrate an actual burden, as the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the 4th, 8th, 9th and 10th Circuits hold; and (3) whether the portion of Trans World Airlines Inc. v. Hardison opining that “undue hardship” simply means something more than a “de minimis cost” should be disavowed or overruled.

(rescheduled before February 15 and February 22 conferences; likely relisted after the March 1 conference)

 

Tharpe v. Ford, 18-6819,

Issues: (1) Whether Pena-Rodriguez v. Colorado applies retroactively to cases on collateral review; and (2) whether the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit erred in concluding that no reasonable jurist could debate whether petitioner’s colorable claim – that his death sentence is invalid because a juror voted to impose it based on petitioner’s race – together with the Supreme Court’s intervening decision in Pena-Rodriguez constitute extraordinary circumstances under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) that would warrant reopening petitioner’s federal habeas proceeding to address the merits of that claim.

(likely relisted after the March 1 conference)

 

Returning Relists

Newton v. Indiana, 17-1511

Issues: (1) Whether Miller v. Alabama applies to discretionary sentences of life without parole imposed for juvenile offenses, as 16 states have held, or whether it is limited to mandatory sentences of life without parole, as 10 others have found; and (2) whether an evidentiary hearing is required to assess whether juveniles sentenced before Miller are irreparably corrupt.

(rescheduled before the September 24 and November 30 conferences; relisted after the December 7, January 4, January 11, January 18, February 15, February 22 and March 1 conferences)

 

Mathena v. Malvo, 18-217

Issue: Whether the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit erred in concluding—in direct conflict with Virginia’s highest court and other courts—that a decision of the Supreme Court, Montgomery v. Louisiana, addressing whether a new constitutional rule announced in an earlier decision, Miller v. Alabama, applies retroactively on collateral review may properly be interpreted as modifying and substantively expanding the very rule whose retroactivity was in question.

(relisted after the December 7, January 4, January 11, January 18, February 15, February 22 and March 1 conferences)

 

Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, 17-1618

Issue: Whether discrimination against an employee because of sexual orientation constitutes prohibited employment discrimination “because of … sex” within the meaning of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2.

(relisted after the January 4, January 11, January 18, February 15, February 22 and March 1 conferences)

 

Altitude Express Inc. v. Zarda, 17-1623

Issue: Whether the prohibition in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1), against employment discrimination “because of … sex” encompasses discrimination based on an individual’s sexual orientation.

(relisted after the January 4, January 11, January 18, February 15, February 22 and March 1 conferences)

 

R.G. and G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 18-107

Issues: (1) Whether the word “sex” in Title VII’s prohibition on discrimination “because of … sex,” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1), meant “gender identity” and included “transgender status” when Congress enacted Title VII in 1964; and (2) whether Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins prohibits employers from applying sex-specific policies according to their employees’ sex rather than their gender identity.

(relisted after the January 4, January 11, January 18, February 15, February 22 and March 1 conferences)

 

Box v. Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, Inc., 18-8

Issues: (1) Whether a state may require health-care facilities to dispose of fetal remains in the same manner as other human remains, i.e., by burial or cremation; and (2) whether a state may prohibit abortions motivated solely by the race, sex or disability of the fetus and require abortion doctors to inform patients of the prohibition.

(relisted after the January 4, January 11, January 18, February 15, February 22 and March 1 conferences)

 

Ramos v. Louisiana, 18-5924

Issue: Whether the 14th Amendment fully incorporates the Sixth Amendment guarantee of a unanimous verdict.

(relisted after the January 4, January 11, January 18, February 15, February 22 and March 1 conferences)

 

Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California, 18-587

Issues: (1) Whether the Department of Homeland Security’s decision to wind down the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy is judicially reviewable; and (2) whether DHS’ decision to wind down the DACA policy is lawful.

(relisted after the January 11 conference; now held)

 

Trump v. NAACP, 18-588

Issues: (1) Whether the Department of Homeland Security’s decision to wind down the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy is judicially reviewable; and (2) whether DHS’ decision to wind down the DACA policy is lawful.

(relisted after the January 11 conference; now held)

 

Nielsen v. Vidal, 18-589

Issues: (1) Whether the Department of Homeland Security’s decision to wind down the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy is judicially reviewable; and (2) whether DHS’ decision to wind down the DACA policy is lawful.

(relisted after the January 11 conference; now held)

 

Kahler v. Kansas, 18-6135

Issue: Whether the Eighth and 14th Amendments permit a state to abolish the insanity defense.

(relisted after the January 11, January 18, February 15, February 22 and March 1 conferences; record requested and received)

 

Kansas v. Garcia, 17-834

Issues: (1) Whether the Immigration Reform and Control Act expressly pre-empts the states from using any information entered on or appended to a federal Form I-9, including common information such as name, date of birth, and social security number, in a prosecution of any person (citizen or alien) when that same, commonly used information also appears in non-IRCA documents, such as state tax forms, leases, and credit applications; and (2) if IRCA bars the states from using all such information for any purpose, whether Congress has the constitutional power to so broadly pre-empt the states from exercising their traditional police powers to prosecute state law crimes. CVSG: 12/04/2018.

(rescheduled before the January 4, January 11, and January 18 conferences; relisted after the February 15, February 22 and March 1 conferences)

 

Lewis v. English, 18-292

Issue: Whether a federal prisoner may file a petition for habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 in order to raise arguments that were foreclosed by binding (but erroneous) circuit precedent at the time of his direct appeal and original application for post-conviction relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, but that are meritorious in light of a subsequent decision overturning that erroneous precedent.

(rescheduled before the December 3 conference; relisted after the February 15, February 22 and March 1 conferences)

 

United States v. Wheeler, 18-420

Issue: Whether a prisoner whose 28 U.S.C. § 2255 motion challenging the applicability of a statutory minimum was denied based on circuit precedent may later seek habeas relief on the ground that the circuit’s interpretation of the relevant statutes has changed.

(relisted after the February 15, February 22 and March 1 conferences)

 

Delancy v. Pastrana, 18-5773

Issue: Whether a prisoner whose 28 U.S.C. § 2255 motion challenging the applicability of a statutory minimum was denied based on circuit precedent may later seek habeas relief on the ground that the circuit’s interpretation of the relevant statutes has changed.

(relisted after the February 15, February 22 and March 1 conferences)

 

Dusenbery v. Holt, 18-5781

Issue: Whether a prisoner whose motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 challenging the applicability of a statutory minimum was denied based on circuit precedent may later seek habeas relief on the ground that the circuit’s interpretation of the relevant statutes has changed.

(relisted after the February 15, February 22 and March 1 conferences)

***

Past cases linked to in this post:

Pena-Rodriguez v. Colorado, 137 S. Ct. 855 (2017)
Trans World Airlines, Inc. v. Hardison, 432 U.S. 63 (1977)

Posted in Cases in the Pipeline, Featured

Recommended Citation: John Elwood, Relist Watch, SCOTUSblog (Mar. 8, 2019, 11:32 AM), https://www.scotusblog.com/2019/03/relist-watch-138/