It’s the last week of our February sitting, gentle reader, and we have some new arguments coming your way. Let’s dig in, shall we?
We #SCOTUS and you can, too!
SCOTUS has not accepted any new cases to its merits docket since our Feb. 21 edition.
Upcoming SCOTUS dates
Here are the court’s upcoming dates of interest:
- Feb. 27, 2023: SCOTUS will hear arguments in one case.
- Feb. 28, 2023: SCOTUS will hear arguments in two cases.
- Mar. 1, 2023: SCOTUS will hear arguments in one case.
- Mar. 3, 2023: SCOTUS will conference. A conference is a private meeting of the justices.
The Supreme Court will hear three arguments this week. Click here to read more about SCOTUS’ current term.
Click the links below to learn more about these cases:
Feb. 27, 2023
Dubin v. United States concerns the legal standard to prove aggravated identity theft, and a Medicaid fraud claim.
- The questions presented: “Whether a person commits aggravated identity theft any time he mentions or otherwise recites someone else’s name while committing a predicate offense.”
- A predicate offense is a crime that may be considered a component of a larger crime.
Feb. 28, 2023
- The questions presented: “(1) whether respondents [the state of Nebraska] have Article III standing, and (2) whether the plan exceeds the [Education] Secretary’s statutory authority or is arbitrary and capricious.”
Department of Education v. Brown concerns the Biden Administration’s student loan debt relief program.
- The questions presented: “(1) Whether respondents [Myra Brown and Alexander Taylor] have Article III standing; and (2) Whether the Department’s plan is statutorily authorized and was adopted in a procedurally proper manner”
Mar. 1, 2023
New York v. New Jersey concerns New York and New Jersey’s Waterfront Commission Compact and the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor.
- The questions presented: “Whether the Supreme Court should issue declaratory judgment and/or enjoin New Jersey from withdrawing from its Waterfront Commission Compact with New York, which grants the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor broad regulatory and law-enforcement powers over all operations at the Port of New York and New Jersey.”
SCOTUS has ruled on three cases since our Feb. 21 edition. The court has issued rulings in five cases so far this term. Fifty-five cases are still under deliberation.
Click the links below to read more about the specific cases SCOTUS ruled on since our previous edition:
Feb. 22, 2023
Helix Energy Solutions Group, Inc. v. Hewitt was argued before the court on Oct. 12, 2022.
The case: Michael Hewitt was a supervisor for Helix Energy Solutions Group’s (Helix) offshore oil and gas operations from 2015 to 2017. During that time, he earned more than $200,000 per year through a daily rate of at least $963. Hewitt filed a lawsuit against Helix, claiming he was entitled to overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The district court ruled he was exempt from overtime pay. On appeal, the 5th Circuit ruled that he was not exempt. Helix appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The outcome: The court affirmed the decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in a 6-3 ruling, holding that Michael Hewitt was not an executive exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act’s overtime pay guarantee; daily-rate workers, of whatever income level, qualify as paid on a salary basis only if the conditions set out in §541.604(b) are met. Justice Elena Kagan delivered the majority opinion of the court. Justice Neil Gorsuch and Justice Brett Kavanaugh filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Justice Samuel Alito.
Cruz v. Arizona was argued before the court on Nov. 1, 2022.
The case: John Montenegro Cruz was sentenced to death in 2005. Cruz argued that he was unable to inform the jury that if he were given a sentence of life in prison, he would be ineligible for parole. After several appeals, Cruz petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review his case. Cruz argued the Arizona Supreme Court violated U.S. Supreme Court precedent from two previous cases.
The outcome: The court ruled to vacate and remand the decision of the Arizona Supreme Court in a 5-4 ruling. According to the Arizona Rule of Criminal Procedure 32.1(g), petitioners can challenge their sentences if “there has been a significant change in the law that, if applicable to the defendant’s case, would probably overturn the defendant’s judgment or sentence.” Referencing Lynch v. Arizona, Cruz appealed his sentencing to the Arizona Supreme Court, arguing that Lynch v. Arizona created a significant change in the law. The Arizona Supreme Court disagreed and found that Cruz was not entitled to post-conviction relief.
If a case originated from a state court, the Supreme Court usually will not make rulings on questions of federal law if the state court’s decision can be supported by an “adequate and independent state-law ground for the judgment.” In Cruz v. Arizona, the state of Arizona argued that the Arizona Supreme Court’s decision to deny Cruz post-conviction relief constituted as an adequate and independent state-law ground for the judgment. The Supreme Court rejected this argument. The Court’s decision invalidated Arizona’s ruling denying Cruz post-conviction relief and allows Cruz to receive a new sentencing hearing where he will be able to inform the jury that if he were given a sentence of life in prison, he would be ineligible for parole.
- To vacate a case means to void, cancel, nullify, or invalidate a verdict or judgment of a court.
- To remand means to return a case or claim to a lower court for additional proceedings.
Bartenwerfer v. Buckley was argued before the court on Dec. 6, 2022.
The case: The case concerns a bankruptcy debtor’s liability for another individual’s fraud, even if the debtor was unaware of the fraud.
The outcome: The court affirmed the lower court’s ruling by a vote of 9-0. The court held pursuant to Section 523(a)(2)(A) of the Bankruptcy Code, a debtor like Kate Bartenwerfer who is liable for her partner’s fraud cannot discharge that debt in bankruptcy, regardless of her own culpability.
Federal court action
President Joe Biden has announced three new Article III nominees since our Feb. 21 edition.
- Molly Silfen, to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims
- Kato Crews, to the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado
- Jabari Wamble, to the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas
Since taking office in January 2021, President Joe Biden has nominated 152 individuals to Article III positions. For more information on the president’s judicial nominees, click here.
The U.S. Senate has confirmed no new nominees since our previous edition.
As of Jan. 1, 2023, the Senate had confirmed 105 of President Biden’s judicial nominees—74 district court judges, 30 appeals court judges, and one Supreme Court justice.
Comparison of Article III judicial appointments over time by president (1981-Present)
- Presidents have appointed an average of 90 judges through Feb. 1 of their third year in office.
- President Bill Clinton (D) made the most appointments through Feb. 1 of his third year with 128. President Barack Obama (D) made the fewest with 62.
- President Donald Trump (R) made the most appointments through four years with 234. President Ronald Reagan (R) made the fewest through four years with 166.
- President Ronald Reagan (R) made the most appointments through one year in office with 41. President Barack Obama (D) made the fewest with 13.
- President Bill Clinton (D) made the most appointments through two years with 128. President Barack Obama (D) made the fewest with 62.
The federal judiciary currently has 86 vacancies, 84 of which are for lifetime Article III judgeships. As of publication, there were 40 pending nominations.
According to the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts, there are 24 upcoming vacancies, where judges have announced they will leave active status.
For more information on judicial vacancies during President Biden’s term, click here.
Do you love judicial nomination, confirmation, and vacancy information? We figured you might. Our monthly Federal Vacancy Count 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.
We’ll be back on Mar. 6 with a new edition of Robe & Gavel. Until then, gaveling out!
Myj Saintyl compiled and edited this newsletter, with contributions from Samantha Post.