Bold Justice: Here’s to a new year—and new cases!

We #SCOTUS, so you don’t have to

Arguments

The Supreme Court will hear arguments in five cases this week. Click here to read more about SCOTUS’ current term.

In its October 2018 term, SCOTUS heard arguments in 69 cases. Click here to read more about SCOTUS’ previous term.

Click the links below to read more about the specific cases SCOTUS will hear this week:

 

January 13

 

  • In Lucky Brand Dungarees v. Marcel Fashion Group, apparel companies Marcel Fashion Group, Inc. (“Marcel”) and Lucky Brand Dungarees, Inc. (“Lucky Brand”) filed several lawsuits against each other for trademark infringement. In 2011, Marcel sued Lucky Brand a third time for trademark infringement. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled a previous lawsuit barred Marcel from suing Lucky Brand. On appeal, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision.

    On remand, Lucky Brand moved to dismiss the suit, arguing a previous legal settlement agreement barred Marcel from suing Lucky Brand. The district court agreed, dismissing the case. Marcel appealed to the 2nd Circuit, which vacated the Southern District of New York’s ruling and remanded the case a second time.

    Lucky Brand appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing the 2nd Circuit’s decision conflicted with decisions from other circuit courts on similar issues.

    The issue: Whether, when a plaintiff asserts new claims, federal preclusion principles—which are intended to prevent the same issue or claim from being relitigated between the same parties—can bar a defendant from raising defenses that were not actually litigated and resolved in any prior case between the parties.

  • In Thole v. U.S. Bank, James Thole and Sherry Smith sued U.S. Bank over its management of a defined benefit pension plan. Thole and Smith alleged the bank violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) and engaged in prohibited transactions, causing the plan to become underfunded.

    U.S. Bank sought to dismiss the case, arguing the plaintiffs did not have the legal right to sue and the statute of limitations had run out on the ERISA claims. The district court dismissed in part and granted in part U.S. Bank’s motion.

    In 2014, the plan became overfunded. The district court dismissed the case as moot. Thole and Smith appealed to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, which affirmed the district court’s ruling.

    The plaintiffs then petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case, arguing the 8th Circuit’s ruling conflicted with other circuit court decisions.

    The issues:
    (1) May an ERISA plan participant or beneficiary seek injunctive relief against fiduciary misconduct under 29 U.S.C. 1132(a)(3) without demonstrating actual or imminent financial loss?

    (2) May an ERISA plan participant or beneficiary seek restoration of plan losses caused by fiduciary breach under 29 U.S.C. 1132(a)(2) demonstrating actual or imminent financial loss?

    (3) Whether petitioners have demonstrated Article III standing.

    29 U.S.C. 1132(a) deals with civil enforcement and says a participant or beneficiary can bring civil action to recover benefits, enforce or clarify rights, or ask for “appropriate relief.” 

 

January 14

  • In Kelly v. United States, William Baroni and Bridget Kelly were convicted of defrauding federally funded programs, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud, and conspiracy against civil rights.

    Baroni and Kelly allegedly participated in a scheme to reduce local traffic lanes on the George Washington Bridge, which spans Fort Lee, New Jersey, and New York City, to punish Fort Lee’s mayor for refusing to endorse Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) 2013 re-election bid. The alleged scheme became known as “Bridgegate.”

    Baroni and Kelly appealed their convictions to the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals. The 3rd Circuit affirmed the fraud convictions but reversed and vacated the civil rights convictions.

    Kelly appealed the 3rd Circuit’s ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing the 3rd Circuit decision conflicted with U.S. Supreme Court precedent and decisions from other circuit courts.

    The issue: Does a public official “defraud” the government of its property by advancing a “public policy reason” for an official decision that is not her subjective “real reason” for making the decision?

 

 

  • Romag Fasteners v. Fossil concerns federal trademark law. Romag Fasteners, Inc., sued Fossil for patent and trademark infringement in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut. A jury found Fossil guilty of unintentional patent and trademark infringement. The jury decided Fossil should pay more than $6.8 million in profits to Romag.

    In a separate trial, the district court ruled Romag was not entitled to receive profits because Fossil’s infringement was unintentional.

    On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling that the infringement was unintentional.

    Romag appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, asking the court to clarify a circuit court split on requiring proof of willful infringement for rewarding profits.

    The issue: Whether, under section 35 of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1117(a), willful infringement is a prerequisite for an award of an infringer’s profits for a violation of section 43(a), id. § 1125(a).

    The Lanham Act provides for a national system of trademark registration and trademark protection for federally registered marks.

 

January 15

  • In Babb v. Wilkie, Dr. Noris Babb, a pharmacist working at the VA Medical Center in Bay Pines, Florida, sued the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) secretary, alleging age and gender discrimination and a hostile work environment. The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida rejected Babb’s claims, granting summary judgment to the VA secretary.

    On appeal, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the district court’s ruling on Babb’s gender discrimination claim and affirmed the district court’s ruling on Babb’s age discrimination and hostile work environment claims. The court remanded the case.

    Babb petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for review, arguing the 11th Circuit’s decision disadvantaged federal employees bringing discrimination claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) of 1967.

    The issue: Whether the federal-sector provision of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, which provides that personnel actions affecting agency employees aged 40 years or older shall be made free from any “discrimination based on age,” 29 U.S.C. §633a(a), requires a plaintiff to prove that age was a but-for cause of the challenged personnel action.

    But-for causation indicates that but for an action, the result would not have happened.

 

 

Upcoming SCOTUS dates

Here are upcoming dates of interest in January:

  • January 13: 
    • SCOTUS will release orders.
    • SCOTUS will hear arguments in two cases.
  • January 14: SCOTUS will hear arguments in two cases.
  • January 15: SCOTUS will hear arguments in one case.
  • January 17: SCOTUS will conference. A conference is a private meeting of the justices.

SCOTUS trivia

The Supreme Court originally had only six justices. Your question for the week: Who was the first Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court?

  1. John Jay
  2. Alexander Hamilton
  3. Richard Henry Lee
  4. John Adams

Choose an answer to find out!

Federal court action

Confirmations

The Senate has confirmed 15 nominees since our December 9 issue.

 Overall, the Senate has confirmed 187 of President Trump’s judicial nominees—133 district court judges, 50 appeals court judges, two Court of International Trade judges, and two Supreme Court justices—since January 2017.

Nominations

President Trump has announced four new Article III nominees since our December 9 edition.

The president has announced 238 Article III judicial nominations since taking office January 20, 2017. The president named 69 judicial nominees in 2017, 92 in 2018, and 77 in 2019. For more information on the president’s judicial nominees, click here.

Federal Judicial nominations by month

Vacancies

The federal judiciary currently has 81 vacancies. As of publication, there were 16 pending nominations.

According to the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts, an additional 12 judges have announced their intention to leave active judicial status during Trump’s first term.

For more information on judicial vacancies during Trump’s first term, click here.

Committee action

The Senate Judiciary Committee has not reported any new nominees out of committee since our December 9 edition.

Do you love judicial nomination, confirmation, and vacancy information? We figured you might. Our monthly Federal Vacancy Count, published at the start of each month, monitors all the faces and places moving in, moving out, and moving on in the federal judiciary. Click here for our most current count.

Need a daily fix of judicial nomination, confirmation, and vacancy information? Click here for continuing updates on the status of all federal judicial nominees.

Or, if you prefer, we also maintain a list of individuals President Trump has nominated.

Court in the spotlight

In each issue of Bold Justice, we highlight a federal court you should know more about. Right now, we’re taking a closer look at the 94 U.S. District Courts. The district courts are the general trial courts of the U.S. federal court system.

There is at least one judicial district for each state, and one each for Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.  

In this edition, we’re visiting the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey. The District of New Jersey has original jurisdiction over cases filed in New Jersey. Decisions of the court may be appealed to the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals.

The District of New Jersey has 17 authorized judgeships. There are currently six vacancies. The breakdown of current active judges by appointing president is:

  • George W. Bush (R): Four judges
  • Barack Obama (D): Seven judges



About the author

Sara Reynolds

Sara Reynolds is a staff writer at Ballotpedia and can be reached at sara.reynolds@ballotpedia.org

Bitnami