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Justices issue more orders, but no action on high-profile cases

This morning the Supreme Court issued additional orders from the justices’ private conference last Friday. After granting three new petitions for review last week, the justices did not add any new cases to their merits docket for the fall. They called for the views of the federal government in three cases, but they did not act on a wide variety of high-profile petitions, scheduling most (but not all) of them for reconsideration at their next conference.

The justices asked the U.S. solicitor general for the views of the federal government in two cases, Nestle v. Doe I and Cargill v. Doe I, involving the scope of the Alien Tort Statute, an 18th-century federal law that gives federal courts jurisdiction over “any civil action filed by an alien, for a tort only, committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States.” The two companies were sued for buying cocoa from, and providing assistance to, farmers in the Ivory Coast, who used child labor trafficked from Mali. In a third case, N.B.D. v. Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family, the government will weigh in on whether federal law requires state courts, when asked, to make the findings required for young people to apply for a special immigration visa that allows abused or neglected children to remain in the United States. [Disclosure: Goldstein & Russell, P.C., whose attorneys contribute to this blog in various capacities, is among the counsel to the petitioner in N.B.D.] There is no deadline for the solicitor general to submit the government’s briefs.

The justices will not hear the case of Michelle Carter, who was challenging the constitutionality of her conviction for involuntary manslaughter, which stemmed from her role in convincing another teen to commit suicide. The justices also turned down a request to weigh in on the constitutionality of a Laconia, N.H., ordinance that punishes women, but not men, for being topless in public.

The justices did not act on several high-profile petitions for review that they had considered at last week’s conference, including petitions involving: the extent to which an employer must accommodate an employee’s religious practices; a First Amendment dispute over whether to treat all Catholic institutions in Puerto Rico as one entity; a challenge to Philadelphia’s exclusion of Catholic Social Services from its foster-care system because CSS will not consider same-sex couples as foster parents; a challenge to a federal rule expanding the definition of machine guns; the case of a florist who cited her religious beliefs in refusing to create custom arrangements for a same-sex wedding; and a challenge to the federal government’s expansion of the “conscience exemption” to the Affordable Care Act’s birth-control mandate. All of these petitions have been redistributed so that the justices can consider them again at their next conference, on Friday, January 17.

The Supreme Court does not appear to have redistributed the petition in Worman v. Healey, the challenge to the Massachusetts ban on possession of assault weapons and large-capacity magazines. The justices considered the case for the first time at their conference last week; if the petition is not redistributed for this week’s conference, it could signal that the justices are holding the case until they rule on another gun-rights case that was argued in December, New York Rifle & Pistol Association v. City of New York. The justices also did not act on or redistribute Collins v. Mnuchin (or the government’s related petition, Mnuchin v. Collins), a challenge to the constitutionality of the structure of the Federal Housing Finance Authority. Although there is no way to be certain, it is possible that the justices are waiting to act on these petitions until they decide Seila Law v. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a challenge to the constitutionality of the CFPB’s leadership structure, scheduled for oral argument in early March.

This post was originally published at Howe on the Court.

Recommended Citation: Amy Howe, Justices issue more orders, but no action on high-profile cases, SCOTUSblog (Jan. 13, 2020, 4:24 PM),