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Petitions of the week

Billboard taxes, the mailbox rule and expungement jurisdiction

This week we highlight cert petitions that ask the Supreme Court to consider, among other things, how the First Amendment constrains taxes on billboard owners, whether the “mailbox rule” applies to prisoners represented by counsel, and the scope of district courts’ jurisdiction over expungement motions.

In November, the court will hear argument in City of Austin v. Reagan National Advertising of Texas, a First Amendment challenge to an Austin regulation that bars some digitized billboards but allows others depending on the billboard’s location. A new petition asks the court to take up another challenge to a city policy that involves differential treatment of signs.

The city of Baltimore taxes the owners of displays that advertise services that occur in a different location, meaning many billboards but not other types of signs. One of the country’s largest billboard-advertising companies challenged the tax under the First Amendment. Applying a relaxed standard, Maryland’s highest court upheld the tax as rationally related to the city’s legitimate interest in raising public revenue. In its petition, the billboard owner, one of four such companies in Baltimore, argues that a heightened standard should apply. The company also argues that Baltimore’s distinction between on-premises signs and off-premises signs is “even more problematic” than the one presented in Austin. The case is Clear Channel Outdoor, LLC v. Raymond.

Under the mailbox rule, a prisoner’s filing is timely if mailed by the due date, even if it arrives late to the court. In Cretacci v. Call, Blake Cretacci argues that a circuit split has arisen as to whether the rule applies to prisoners represented by counsel. Cretacci, a pre-trial detainee, submitted to the inmate mail system a civil complaint before the statutory deadline on his claims, but the pleading arrived at the district court too late. Although a lawyer had helped Cretacci to prepare the complaint, Cretacci had filed “pro se” (representing himself) because the lawyer was not a member of the relevant bar. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit denied Cretacci the benefit of the mailbox rule on the ground that he was sufficiently represented by counsel. Cretacci asks the justices to review and reverse this holding.

Valueland Auto Sales, Inc. v. United States concerns the scope of jurisdiction in federal criminal cases. In 2013, the federal government indicted Ron Benit and Valueland Auto Sales on charges that they structured cash deposits at banks to avoid filing required reports, and it seized over $70,000 of their funds. The government later dismissed all charges and returned all the funds. Benit and Valueland then moved to expunge the records of their indictment. However, the district court determined that it did not have any jurisdiction over the expungement motions because the charges had been dropped, a ruling that the 6th Circuit affirmed. Arguing that a circuit split exists over this issue that is important and recurring, Benit and Valueland ask the Supreme Court to reverse the 6th Circuit’s decision.

These and other petitions of the week are below:

Mohamud v. Weyker
Issue: Whether a constitutional remedy is available against federal officers for individual instances of law enforcement overreach in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Valueland Auto Sales, Inc. v. United States
Issue: Whether, when the district court dismisses all criminal charges against a defendant, that court has jurisdiction over a motion to expunge the records relating to those charges, as held by the U.S Courts of Appeals for the 2nd, 10th and D.C. Circuits, or whether the district court lacks jurisdiction over such motions, as held by the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th and 11th Circuits.

Clear Channel Outdoor, LLC v. Raymond
Issue: Whether a tax singling out off-premises billboards is subject to heightened scrutiny under the First Amendment.

Cretacci v. Call
Issue: Whether a prisoner who submits a filing through the prison mail system loses the benefit of the mailbox rule if he has counsel.

Recommended Citation: Andrew Hamm, Billboard taxes, the mailbox rule and expungement jurisdiction, SCOTUSblog (Aug. 27, 2021, 9:12 PM),