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Justices add new cases on bankruptcy, workers’ comp, and relief from final judgments

The Supreme Court on Monday morning added three new cases — involving bankruptcy law, civil procedure, and workers’ compensation — to its docket for the 2021-22 term. But the orders that the justices issued from their private conference on Jan. 7 were just as noteworthy for what they did not do: The court did not act on a pair of petitions challenging the consideration of race in the undergraduate admissions process at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina, nor did it act on a petition filed by a website designer who does not want to design wedding websites for same-sex couples.

Monday’s order list was the first regularly scheduled order list in nearly a month, following the justices’ recess for the winter holidays. The justices added three new cases to their merits docket:

  • United States v. Washington, the federal government’s challenge to a special Washington state worker’s compensation law for over 100,000 federal contract workers employed at the Hanford site in the state, which produced much of the weapons-grade plutonium used in the early days of the country’s nuclear program but which also generated large amounts of radioactive waste. The law creates a presumption that workers will be eligible for benefits if they contract certain illnesses, including cancer.
  • Siegel v. Fitzgerald, in which the justices will decide whether a 2017 law that increases fees in some bankruptcy courts but not others violates a provision of the Constitution’s bankruptcy clause that directs Congress to establish “uniform laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States.”
  • Kemp v. United States, involving whether a district court can reopen a judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(1), which allows the court to do so because of “mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect,” if the original judgment was based on a legal error by the district court.

The justices also called for the views of the U.S. solicitor general in two cases: Strauss v. Credit Lyonnais, involving the scope of civil liability under the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, and the patent case Olaf Soot Design v. Daktronics. There is no deadline for the federal government to file its brief in these cases. [Disclosure: Goldstein & Russell, P.C., whose attorneys contribute to SCOTUSblog in various capacities, is counsel to the petitioners in Strauss.]

The court did not act on Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard University or Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina, the challenges to those schools’ consideration of race as part of their undergraduate admissions process, nor did they act on 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, in which web designer Lorie Smith has asked the court to weigh in on (among other things) whether Colorado can compel her to create custom wedding websites for same-sex couples. The justices will meet again for another private conference on Friday, Jan. 14.

This article was originally published at Howe on the Court.

Recommended Citation: Amy Howe, Justices add new cases on bankruptcy, workers’ comp, and relief from final judgments, SCOTUSblog (Jan. 10, 2022, 5:19 PM),