Bold Justice: SCOTUS begins April sitting

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April sitting

The Supreme Court begins its April sitting the week of April 19. The court will hear arguments via teleconference and will provide live audio streams to the public for each of the argument sessions. The court has not heard arguments in person during the 2020 term. SCOTUS will hear arguments in seven cases for a total of six hours. 

Click the links below to read more about the specific cases before SCOTUS during the first week of its April sitting.

April 19

The question presented: “Whether Alaska Native regional and village corporations established pursuant to the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act are “Indian Tribe[s]” for purposes of the CARES Act, 42 U.S.C. 801(g)(1).”

Note: When SCOTUS originally accepted the case, the case name was Mnuchin v. Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation, because Steven Mnuchin was the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury at that time.

  • Sanchez v. Mayorkas is a case concerning grants of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to non-citizens. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) granted and later re-granted TPS to El Salvadoran citizens and married couple José Sanchez and Sonia Gonzalez. Sanchez and Gonzalez filed for permanent resident status. USCIS denied their applications, saying TPS did not make them eligible for permanent residence. Sanchez and Gonzalez challenged the determination in U.S. district court and were awarded summary judgment. USCIS appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit, which reversed the district court’s ruling.

The question presented: “Whether, under 8 U.S.C. § 1254a(f)(4), a grant of Temporary Protected Status authorizes eligible noncitizens to obtain lawful-permanent-resident status under 8 U.S.C. §1255.”

Note: When SCOTUS originally accepted the case, the case name was Sanchez v. Wolf, because Chad Wolf was the acting secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security at that time.

April 20

In 2018, Gregory Greer was convicted of possession of a firearm, a felony offense. Greer appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, arguing that the law was unconstitutional, based on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Rehaif. In Rehaif, the court held that in order to convict an individual of unlawful possession of a firearm, prosecutors must prove the individual knew they possessed a firearm and knew they were barred from doing so.

The 11th Circuit affirmed the conviction. Greer appealed to the Supreme Court. SCOTUS vacated the 11th Circuit’s ruling and remanded the case for reconsideration in light of Rehaif. On remand, the 11th Circuit affirmed Greer’s conviction, holding that unlike the plaintiff in Rehaif, Greer knew he was a felon when he possessed the firearm and therefore could not establish that any errors during the district court proceedings affected his substantial rights.

The question presented: “Whether when applying plain-error review based upon an intervening United States Supreme Court decision, a circuit court of appeals may review matters outside the trial record to determine whether the error affected a defendant’s substantial rights or impacted the fairness, integrity, or public reputation of the trial?”

In 2017, Michael Andrew Gary was arrested twice for felony possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Gary was indicted in U.S. district court for the offenses under Title 18 of the United States Code and he pled guilty. During his plea hearing, Gary’s legal counsel did not tell Gary that an additional element of the offense was that he possessed the firearm while knowing he was prohibited from doing so. Gary appealed his sentence to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit and the court vacated his plea and convictions. The United States petitioned the court for a rehearing and the 4th Circuit denied the request.

The question presented: “Whether a defendant who pleaded guilty to possessing a firearm as a felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1) and 924(a), is automatically entitled to plain-error relief if the district court did not advise him that one element of that offense is knowledge of his status as a felon, regardless of whether he can show that the district court’s error affected the outcome of the proceedings.”

April 21

A class of 173 Texas municipalities filed a lawsuit against several online travel companies (“OTCs”) alleging that the OTCs had not paid and/or had underpaid municipal taxes emanating from the OTCs’ service fees. 

In separate but similar litigation, a U.S. district court held that the OTCs retail rate was subject to hotel occupancy tax. A state court held that the hotel occupancy tax only applies to the discounted room rate that the OTC pays to the hotel. 

On appeal from the U.S. district court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit ruled in favor of the OTCs, concluding that the state court’s decision in the separate case was correct. The OTCs filed a bill of costs with the class of municipalities. The municipalities asked the district court to refuse or reduce the amount owed. The district court ruled that it lacked the authority to alter the costs. The municipalities appealed to the 5th Circuit. The 5th Circuit affirmed the district court’s conclusion.

The question presented: “Whether, as the Fifth Circuit alone has held, district courts “lack[] discretion to deny or reduce” appellate costs deemed “taxable” in district court under Fed. R. App. P. 39(e).”

  • Minerva Surgical Inc. v. Hologic Inc. concerns patent infringement claims and the doctrine of assignor estoppel. The doctrine of assignor estoppel prevents a party that assigns a patent to a new party from later challenging the validity of that patent in U.S. district court.

Csaba Truckai was listed as an inventor on two patents related to endometrial ablation procedures and devices that he later assigned to the company he co-founded, Novacept. Later, Hologic acquired Novacept and the company inherited the patents’ interests. Truckai left the company and co-founded Minerva Surgical. At Minerva, he developed a new endometrial ablation product. 

Hologic filed patent infringement claims against Minerva in U.S. district court. Minerva filed review claims for the patents with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The office found that one patent was not patentable, meaning that the invention could not be patented, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld the ruling. Hologic argued Minerva could not challenge the claims’ validity based on the doctrine of assignor estoppel. Both parties cross-appealed to the Federal Circuit. The court affirmed-in-part and vacated-in-part the U.S. district court’s orders.

The question presented: “Whether a defendant in a patent infringement action who assigned the patent, or is in privity with an assignor of the patent, may have a defense of invalidity heard on the merits.”


SCOTUS has not issued any opinions in cases argued this term since our April 12 issue. The court has issued 26 opinions to date. Five cases were decided without argument.


SCOTUS has not accepted any new cases since our April 12 issue. The court has granted review in a total of 10 cases for the 2021-2022 term, which is scheduled to begin on October 4, 2021. 

Noteworthy court announcements

On April 9, SCOTUS blocked California from enforcing restrictions on in-home religious gatherings that were originally imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic in the case Tandon v. Newsom. Justice Elena Kagan wrote a dissenting opinion, joined by Justices Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor, concluding that because the California law treated both secular and religious in-home gatherings equally, the injunction should be denied.

Upcoming SCOTUS dates

Here are the court’s upcoming dates of interest:

  • April 19: 
    • SCOTUS will release orders
    • SCOTUS hear arguments in three cases.
  • April 20: SCOTUS will hear arguments in two cases.
  • April 21: SCOTUS will hear arguments in two cases.
  • April 23: SCOTUS will conference. A conference is a private meeting of the justices.
  • April 26:
    • SCOTUS will release orders. 
    • SCOTUS will hear arguments in three cases.
  • April 27: SCOTUS will hear arguments in two cases.
  • April 28: SCOTUS will hear arguments in two cases.
  • April 30: SCOTUS will conference. 

SCOTUS trivia

SCOTUS has nine active justices–eight associate justices and one chief justice. How many chief and associate justices have there been in the court’s history?

  1. 17 chief justices, 200 associate justices
  2. 17 chief justices, 103 associate justices
  3. 22 chief justices, 111 associate justices
  4. 18 chief justices, 103 associate justices

Choose an answer to find out!

Federal court action

Nominations and confirmations

President Joe Biden (D) announced no new nominees and the U.S. Senate has confirmed no new nominees since our April 12 issue.

To date, President Biden has announced his intent to nominate 10 individuals to Article III judgeships.

The official nominations of these judges have not been submitted to the U.S. Senate as of this writing.

In comparison to previous presidential administrations, Presidents Donald Trump (R) and George H.W. Bush (R) made their first successful Article III judicial appointments by June 1 of the first year of their presidencies. Presidents George W. Bush (R) and Ronald Reagan (R) made their first appointments by August 1, and Presidents Barack Obama (D) and Bill Clinton (D) made their first Article III judicial appointments by October 1 of their first years in office. These figures do not include appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court.


The federal judiciary currently has 77 vacancies, 73 of which are for lifetime Article III judgeships. As of this writing, there were 10 pending Article III nominations.

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

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, keep an eye on our list for updates on federal judicial nominations.

Spotlight: Presidential nominations to federal courts

It’s time to feather our hair and put on our boogie shoes because we’ve crossed into the 1970s! Before you tune into Weekend Update with Jane Curtin or put on Star Wars (The Empire Strikes Back, of course), let’s take a look at President Jimmy Carter’s (D) judicial nominees.

During his term in office, President Carter made 262 successful judicial appointments where the nominee was confirmed to their relevant court. Of those appointments, 259 were Article III judges. Carter made no nominations to the Supreme Court.

Of his Article III appointees Carter appointed 56 judges to the United States Courts of Appeal and 203 judges to U.S. district courts.

President Carter made the most judicial appointments relative to his tenure in the White House. He averaged 65.5 judicial appointments per year during his one term in office.