John Elwood reviews Monday’s relists.

After last week’s relist commotion, this week the changes are fewer, more subtle, and bad news for petitioners. Eight-time relist Newton v. Indiana, 17-1511, involving whether Miller v. Alabama applies to discretionary sentences of life without parole imposed for juvenile offenses, has been downgraded to a “hold” for last week’s grant in Mathena v. Malvo, 18-217, (itself relisted seven times) which basically covers the same issue. (The news isn’t that bad for Newton, who will get the benefit of any ruling in Malvo’s favor, but he loses the opportunity to make an oral argument and the ability to participate in the case as anything but an amicus.) And the Supreme Court denied without comment the intriguing new relist Rentmeester v. Nike, Inc., 18-728, involving a photo that is iconic for both Red America and Blue America – and more iconic still for red and black America.

That underwhelming introductory paragraph is sadly all it takes to clear out all the old business this week. But at least we have twice as many new relists to discuss as last week.

Right now, 22% of next term’s docket is devoted to reviewing judgments of the Kansas Supreme Court, tying the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit as the still-nascent term’s most-reviewed court. That fact can’t be lost on the respondents in Kansas v. Glover, 18-556, the first of this week’s relists, who are probably wondering whether that figure might increase to 30% next Monday. A Kansas sheriff’s deputy ran a registration check on a pickup truck and learned that the registered owner’s license had been revoked. Although he observed no traffic violations, the deputy stopped the truck because he “assumed the registered owner of the truck was also the driver.” Sure enough, the owner — respondent Charles Glover Jr. — was driving, and the deputy issued him a citation for being a habitual violator of Kansas traffic laws. Glover successfully sought to suppress evidence of the stop in trial court, lost on appeal, but then won before the Kansas Supreme Court, which held that the stop violated the Fourth Amendment because there was no basis for reasonable suspicion – after all, many families have several drivers sharing vehicles registered in the names of only a single family member. The state now seeks cert, asking whether, for purposes of an investigative stop under the Fourth Amendment, it is reasonable for an officer to suspect that the registered owner of a vehicle is the one driving the vehicle absent any information to the contrary. [Note: Goldstein & Russell, P.C., whose attorneys contribute to this blog in various capacities, is among the counsel to the respondent in this case.]

That brings us to Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Juan, Puerto Rico v. Feliciano, 18-921. This one takes some explanation. Although the Holy See has overarching authority over the Catholic Church worldwide, the church is composed of distinct dioceses and parishes that possess their own juridic personality under canon law. There are six dioceses in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. In 1979, the Archdiocese of San Juan sponsored a pension and trust fund to provide compensation and benefits for employees of Catholic schools and other Catholic entities in the archdiocese. Because of reduced birthrates and migration, attendance fell, and the trust fund found itself unable to pay full pensions. Employees and former employees of various schools brought suit against not just the archdiocese of San Juan, but also an entity they claim has authority over the entire Catholic Church in Puerto Rico, the “Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church in Puerto Rico.” The trial court held that despite how the Catholic Church organized itself, Catholic “church-schools, as well as the Archdiocese of San Juan and the Office of the Superintendent of Catholic Schools of San Juan, do not have their own legal personhood because they are part of the Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church, as an entity with its own legal personhood.” It further concluded that all Catholic entities in Puerto Rico (including the Archdiocese of San Juan) “belong[] to” the sole, unified “legal personhood held by the Catholic Church.” The court ordered what it concluded was the single and unified (but, the Archdiocese argues, nonexistent) “Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church in Puerto Rico” to “immediately and without any further delay proceed to continue to make payments to plaintiffs as provided in the pension Plan.” The court ordered the church to pay $4.7 million, and when the church did not comply, the court authorized the sheriff to seize any “assets and moneys of the Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church in an amount of $4,700,000 to secure the payment of plaintiffs’ pensions.” The court of appeals agreed with the defendants and reversed, holding that “it is firmly established” under the First Amendment that the courts “cannot exercise their jurisdiction to determine disputes regarding property rights related to a church when to do so it has to irremediably pass judgment over matters of teachings, discipline and faith of an internal ecclesiastical body.”

The Puerto Rico Supreme Court rejected the defendants’ argument that it must respect “the internal determinations of the Catholic Church[] as to how to administer its institutions,” and concluded that determining whether Catholic entities in Puerto Rico have distinct personhood is not the type of “state court action[] that result[s] in an inappropriate interference on the part of those courts regarding matters of organization or internal disputes” because that determination, it concluded, can be made pursuant to “neutral principles of law.” The trial court’s marshal began to seize property, and the Archdiocese of San Juan declared bankruptcy in an effort to seek protection. The Archdiocese of San Juan seeks review, supported by the schools and the Catholic Employees Pension Trust. While the petition was pending, the Bankruptcy Court for the District of Puerto Rico, in reliance on the Puerto Rico Supreme Court’s decision, dismissed the Archdiocese’s bankruptcy petition, reasoning that it could not proceed because not all the Catholic dioceses covered by the decision were participating in the bankruptcy proceedings.

The Supreme Court has repeatedly denied cert on a number of cases that raise related issues of church property in the context of local congregations seeking to break away from national churches while retaining possession of their houses of worship. Perhaps this is the case in which the Supreme Court will once again wade into the thicket of property ownership by hierarchical church organizations.

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

 

New Relists

Kansas v. Glover, 18-556

Disclosure: Goldstein & Russell, P.C., whose attorneys contribute to this blog in various capacities, is among the counsel to the respondent in this case.

Issue: Whether, for purposes of an investigative stop under the Fourth Amendment, it is reasonable for an officer to suspect that the registered owner of a vehicle is the one driving the vehicle absent any information to the contrary.

(relisted after March 22 conference)

 

Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Juan, Puerto Rico v. Feliciano, 18-921

Issue: Whether the First Amendment empowers courts to override the chosen legal structure of a religious organization and declare all of its constituent parts a single legal entity subject to joint and several liability.

(relisted after March 22 conference)

 

Returning Relists

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, March 1, March 15 and March 22 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, March 1, March 15 and March 22 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, March 1, March 15 and March 22 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, March 1, March 15 and March 22 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)

Posted in Featured, Cases in the Pipeline

Recommended Citation: John Elwood, Relist Watch, SCOTUSblog (Mar. 27, 2019, 2:19 PM), https://www.scotusblog.com/2019/03/relist-watch-140/