SCOTUS issues opinions in cases concerning immigration, trademark use, and the Clean Water Act (CWA)

On April 23, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) issued rulings in three cases argued during its October Term 2019-2020.

1. Barton v. Barr, a case that concerned immigration law, originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit and was argued on November 4, 2019.

  • The issue: “Whether a lawfully admitted permanent resident who is not seeking admission to the United States can be “render[ed] … inadmissible” for the purposes of the stop-time rule, 8 U.S.C. § 1229b(d)(l).”
  • The outcome: The court affirmed the decision of the 11th Circuit in a 5-4 ruling, holding that for purposes of cancellation-of-removal eligibility, a §1182(a)(2) offense committed during the initial seven years of residence does not need to be one of the offenses of removal

2. County of Maui, Hawaii v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund, a case that concerned the Clean Water Act (CWA), originated from the 9th Circuit and was argued on November 6, 2019.

  • The issue: “Whether the CWA requires a permit when pollutants originate from a point source but are conveyed to navigable waters by a nonpoint source, such as groundwater.”
  • The outcome: The court vacated and remanded the 9th Circuit’s decision in a 6-3 ruling. The court held “a permit is required when there is a discharge from a point source directly into navigable waters or when there is the functional equivalent of a direct discharge.” In the majority opinion, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote that the 9th Circuit’s holding was too broad, while the petitioner’s argument was too narrow.

3. Romag Fasteners v. Fossil, a case that concerned trademark law, originated in the Federal Circuit and was argued on January 14, 2020.

  • 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 outcome: The court vacated and remanded the decision of the Federal Circuit in a 9-0 ruling, holding that a plaintiff in a trademark infringement suit is not required to show that a defendant willfully infringed the plaintiff’s trademark as a pre-condition to a profits award.

As of April 23, 2020, the court had issued decisions in 26 cases this term. Between 2007 and 2018, SCOTUS released opinions in 924 cases, averaging between 70 and 90 cases per year.

Additional reading:
Barton v. Barr
County of Maui, Hawaii v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund
Romag Fasteners v. Fossil