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SCOTUS issues rulings in two cases argued during April sitting

The U.S. Supreme Court issued rulings in two cases on May 24, United States v. Palomar-Santiago and Guam v. United States. As of this writing, the court had issued opinions in 38 cases this term. Seven cases were decided without argument.

United States v. Palomar-Santiago was argued before the court on April 27 and originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. The case concerned removable offenses and the validity of removal orders under federal immigration law.

In a unanimous opinion, the court reversed the 9th Circuit’s ruling and remanded the case for further proceedings, holding that each of the statutory requirements of §1326(d) were mandatory. Justice Sonia Sotomayor delivered the opinion of the court.

Guam v. United States was a case argued before the court on April 26 and originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The case concerned Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) claims.

In a unanimous opinion, the court reversed the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit’s ruling and remanded the case for further proceedings, holding that a CERCLA contribution requires resolution of a CERCLA-specific liability. Justice Clarence Thomas delivered the opinion of the court.

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SCOTUS issues four opinions in cases argued this term

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) issued opinions in four cases on May 17 that were argued during the 2020-2021 term. 

Edwards v. Vannoy

• The case: A non-unanimous jury found Thedrick Edwards guilty of nine counts of armed robbery, one count of attempted armed robbery, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, and one count of aggravated rape. Edwards was sentenced to 30 years imprisonment on each armed robbery count and to life imprisonment on the aggravated kidnapping and aggravated rape counts. Edwards appealed his conviction and sentence, which was denied in state and federal court. He then filed a petition for habeas corpus with the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana. The district court denied Edwards’ claim. Edwards appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, which refused to issue a certificate of appealability. In a habeas corpus proceeding, an applicant seeking to file an appeal from a state court is unable to do so without a certificate of appealability.

• The question presented: Whether the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Ramos v. Louisiana (2020) applies retroactively to cases on federal collateral review. In Ramos, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the 6th Amendment’s right to a unanimous jury verdict to support a conviction applies in both federal and state courts.

• The outcome: In a 6-3 opinion, SCOTUS upheld the 5th Circuit’s ruling, holding that the jury-unanimity rule does not apply retroactively on federal collateral review. Justice Brett Kavanaugh delivered the majority opinion of the court. Justice Elena Kagan filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justices Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor joined. 

BP P.L.C. v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore

• The case: The mayor and city council of Baltimore, Maryland (“Baltimore”) filed a claim and sought relief in state court against 26 multinational oil and gas companies, alleging that the companies contributed to and were responsible in part for climate change and that the companies’ actions caused injury to Baltimore. Two of the companies filed to move the case to federal court, claiming that the issues concerned federal law. Baltimore filed a motion to remand the case back to state court. The district court granted Baltimore’s request. The companies appealed to the 4th Circuit and the court affirmed the district court’s ruling.

• The question presented: Whether 28 U.S.C. 1447(d) allows a court of appeals to review any issue included in a district court’s order remanding a case to state court where the removing defendant premised removal in part on the federal officer removal statute, §1442, or the civil rights removal statute, §1443.

• The outcome: In a 7-1 ruling, the court vacated the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit’s ruling and remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with the court’s opinion. The court held that the 4th Circuit erred in its conclusion that it lacked jurisdiction to consider all of the defendants’ grounds for removal under §1447(d). Justice Neil Gorsuch authored the majority opinion and Justice Sotomayor filed a dissenting opinion. Justice Samuel Alito recused himself from the case and took no part in its consideration or decision.

CIC Services v. Internal Revenue Service

• The case: In 2004, Congress authorized the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to identify and gather details about potential tax shelters. In 2016, the IRS identified certain “micro-captive transactions” as “transactions of interest,” under the umbrella of transactions that must be reported to the IRS. In 2017, risk management consulting firm CIC Services challenged the updated requirements in district court as being beyond the scope of the IRS’ authority and sought to block enforcement. The IRS argued that the court should dismiss the case because it lacked subject matter jurisdiction. The court agreed with the IRS and dismissed the case. On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal. 

• The question presented: Whether a suit to block the updated requirements triggered the Anti-Injunction Act (AIA), a federal law barring lawsuits to prevent the assessment or collection of taxes, even though a violation of the notice may result in a tax penalty.

• The outcome: In a unanimous decision, the court reversed the 6th Circuit and remanded the case for further proceedings, holding that the AIA does not apply to lawsuits challenging certain IRS regulations. Justice Elena Kagan authored the majority opinion. Justices Sotomayor and Kavanaugh filed concurring opinions. 

Caniglia v. Strom

• The case: In 2015, Edward Caniglia and his wife had an argument at their Rhode Island home. The next day, the police conducted a wellness check on Caniglia and seized firearms and ammunition from the home. Later, Caniglia attempted to retrieve his firearms from the police department several times. His requests were denied. Caniglia filed suit in U.S. district court, alleging violations to the U.S. Constitution and to state law. The firearms were returned to Caniglia. The district court held that the police officers’ seizures were protected under the community caretaking exception to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement, where police officers are permitted to perform community caretaking functions on private premises. On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeal for the 1st Circuit upheld the district court’s ruling.

• The question presented: Whether the community caretaking exception extends to the home.

• The outcome: In a unanimous opinion, the court vacated the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit’s ruling and remanded the case for further proceedings, holding that neither the ruling nor logic of Cady v. Dombrowski justifies the removal of Caniglia’s firearms from his home by police officers under a community caretaking exception. Justice Clarence Thomas delivered the opinion of the court. Chief Justice John Roberts filed a concurring opinion, in which Justice Breyer joined. Justices Samuel Alito and Kavanaugh also filed concurring opinions.

To date, SCOTUS has issued 36 opinions this term. Seven cases were decided without argument. 

The court is scheduled to conference on May 20 and to issue orders on May 24.

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Unanimous U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of pre-enforcement challenge against IRS regulation

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously in CIC Services v. Internal Revenue Service that CIC Services, a risk management consulting firm, may challenge an IRS records reporting regulation without first violating the new regulation and paying a tax penalty.

At issue was whether the Anti-Injunction Act (AIA), a federal law that bars lawsuits to prevent the assessment or collection of taxes, blocked CIC’s challenge in this case. 

Elena Kagan delivered the opinion of the court on May 17, arguing that a “suit to enjoin a requirement to report information is not an action to restrain the ‘assessment or collection’ of a tax, even if the information will help the IRS collect future tax revenue.” For the court, that distinction meant that the AIA did not block challenges to such reporting requirements.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a concurring opinion arguing that the ruling in CIC may not apply to cases brought by individual taxpayers. Justice Brett Kavanaugh also wrote a concurring opinion, arguing that the CIC decision narrowed earlier court precedent about the AIA in a way he supported.

The U.S. Supreme Court sent the case back to the circuit court for further proceedings.

 To learn more about the case, see here: 

CIC Services v. Internal Revenue Service

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Link to the U.S. Supreme Court opinion:

https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/20pdf/19-930_d1o3.pdf



U.S. Supreme Court dismisses case challenging regulations related to abortion under Title X family planning program

The U.S. Supreme Court dismissed American Medical Association v. Becerra in its order list published on May 17. The case concerned whether the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and federal healthcare laws when it issued a 2019 rule that placed abortion-related restrictions on healthcare providers receiving federal funds under a Title X family planning program. 

The court’s order dismissing the case stated that the Joe Biden (D) administration had filed a letter saying that it would enforce the challenged regulations outside the state of Maryland while it worked through the notice and comment rulemaking process to override them. The administration said it aimed to have a new final rule published early in the fall of 2021 so that it could go into effect before the 2022 Title X funding announcement.

The court also rejected requests from 19 states and the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians & Gynecologists to intervene to defend the rule.

The case was consolidated with Oregon v. Cochran and Cochran v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, which were also dismissed. 

To learn more about the case or the Administrative Procedure Act see here:

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Link to the U.S. Supreme Court order:

https://www.supremecourt.gov/orders/courtorders/051721zor_6537.pdf

Link to the docket for _AMA v. Becerra_:

https://www.supremecourt.gov/search.aspx?filename=/docket/docketfiles/html/public/20-429.html

Link to the letter from the Biden administration:

https://www.supremecourt.gov/DocketPDF/20/20-429/177132/20210503144133267_20-429%20Am%20Med%2020-454%20and%2020-539.pdf



SCOTUS accepts three new cases for its 2021-2022 term

The U.S. Supreme Court accepted three new cases for review during its 2021-2022 term on May 17. With the addition of these cases, the court has agreed to hear 17 cases during the term, which is scheduled to begin on October 4, 2021.

Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization concerns the constitutionality of a Mississippi state law prohibiting abortions after the fifteenth week of pregnancy except in cases of medical emergencies or fetal abnormalities. The question before the court is: “Whether all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional.” Dobbs originated from the United States Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.

Shinn v. Ramirez concerns the scope of evidence a federal appellate court can consider when reviewing a petition for habeas relief. The question presented to the court asks: “Does application of the equitable rule this Court announced in _Martinez v. Ryan_ render 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(2) inapplicable to a federal court’s merits review of a claim for habeas relief?” Shinn originated from the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.

Badgerow v. Walters concerns the federal courts’ jurisdiction to confirm or vacate an arbitration award under the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA). The question presented to the court is: “Whether federal courts have subject-matter jurisdiction to confirm or vacate an arbitration award under Sections 9 and 10 of the FAA where the only basis for jurisdiction is that the underlying dispute involved a federal question.” Badgerow came from the United States Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.

The Supreme Court concluded hearing oral arguments for its 2020-2021 term on May 4 with one hour of argument in Terry v. United States. No additional cases had been scheduled for oral argument during the term as of May 17. The court agreed to hear 62 cases during its 2020-2021 term and had issued opinions in 36 cases as of May 17. Seven cases were decided without argument.

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U.S. Supreme Court holds rare May sitting on May 4

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) held its May argument sitting on May 4, hearing one case in a one-hour session. In keeping with each sitting of this term, the court heard arguments remotely and provided live audio to the public.

Terry v. United States concerns sentencing reductions for crack cocaine offenses. In 2008, Tarahrick Terry was convicted of and pled guilty to possessing cocaine base, also referred to as crack cocaine, with the intent to distribute. In 2010, Congress passed the Fair Sentencing Act, modifying the weight limits for drug offenses. In 2018, Congress enacted the First Step Act, which defined covered offenses, including crack cocaine offenses, and set out rules for making relevant sentencing reductions. Terry petitioned the U.S. district court to reduce his sentence. The district court ruled that his offenses were not covered and were not eligible for reduction. On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit upheld the district court’s judgment. Terry petitioned the Supreme Court to review the lower court’s findings.

The case was originally scheduled for argument on April 20, 2021, but the session was postponed due to a change in legal counsel.

During the 2019-2020 term, the Supreme Court heard 10 hours of oral argument in 13 cases during its May argument session. Those cases had been postponed from the March and April sittings earlier in the term due to public health recommendations in response to COVID-19. According to SCOTUSblog, the last time the Supreme Court held a full May sitting was during the 1968 October Term.

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SCOTUS issues opinions

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) issued opinions in two cases this week. One case, Niz-Chavez v. Garland, was argued before the court on Nov. 9. The case Alaska v. Wright was decided without argument.

Alaska v. Wright originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. In 2009, Sean Wright was convicted of 13 counts of sexual abuse of a minor in an Alaska state court. Wright finished serving his sentence in 2016 and then moved to Tennessee. In Tennessee, Wright did not register as a sex offender, which is required by federal law. He pled guilty to one count of failing to register and filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus with the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska. Wright argued that the state court had acted unconstitutionally in affirming his conviction and sentencing. The District of Alaska denied the motion since Wright’s sentence had expired and he was no longer in state custody. On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit reversed, holding that Wright could challenge his state conviction even if he’d completed the sentence.

On April 26, SCOTUS issued a unanimous per curiam ruling in the case, vacating the 9th Circuit’s ruling and remanding the case for further proceedings. Per curiam opinions are unsigned and are delivered by the court as a whole.

Niz-Chavez v. Garland originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit and concerned the government’s ability to serve a Notice to Appear to a non-citizen, and the immigration stop-time rule. The stop-time rule is when a non-citizen’s accrual of continuous residence ends when that person is served with a notice to appear. The question presented to the Supreme Court asked whether the government must provide the time and place of deportation hearings in a single Notice to Appear document to trigger the stop-time rule, or whether the government can trigger the rule by providing the information in multiple documents.

In a 6-3 ruling, SCOTUS reversed the 6th Circuit’s decision, holding that a Notice to Appear that is sufficient to trigger the stop-time rule is a single document containing all of the information about an individual’s removal hearing specified in §1229(a)(1). Justice Neil Gorsuch delivered the majority opinion of the court. To date, Justice Gorsuch has authored two majority opinions this term. Justice Brett Kavanaugh filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito. This was Kavanaugh’s first dissent this term.

To date, SCOTUS has issued 32 opinions this term. Seven cases were decided without argument.



SCOTUS concludes April sitting

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) concluded its April sitting for its 2020-2021 term on April 28. This sitting ran from April 19 through April 28, during which time the court heard 12 hours of oral argument. The cases argued before SCOTUS during its April sitting included:

• April 19: Yellen v. Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation (Consolidated with Alaska Native Village Corporation Association v. Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation) and Sanchez v. Mayorkas

• April 20: Greer v. United States and United States v. Gary

• April 21: City of San Antonio, Texas v. Hotels.com, L.P. and Minerva Surgical Inc. v. Hologic Inc.

• April 26: Americans for Prosperity v. Becerra (Consolidated with Thomas More Law Center v. Becerra) and Guam v. United States

• April 27: HollyFrontier Cheyenne Refining, LLC v. Renewable Fuels Association and United States v. Palomar-Santiago

• April 28: Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L. and PennEast Pipeline Co. v. New Jersey

The court is currently slated to hear one hour of oral argument during its May sitting scheduled for May 4. The case was originally scheduled to be heard in April. SCOTUS began hearing cases for the 2020-2021 term on Oct. 5. Its yearly term begins on the first Monday in October and lasts until the first Monday in October the following year. The court generally releases the majority of its decisions in mid-June.

As of April 22, the court had agreed to hear 62 cases during its 2020-2021 term. Of those, 12 were originally scheduled for the 2019-2020 term but were delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Five cases were removed from the argument calendar. The court had also issued opinions in 30 cases this term. Six cases were decided without argument.

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SCOTUS grants review in three new cases for its 2021-2022 term

The U.S. Supreme Court accepted three additional cases for review during its 2021-2022 term on April 26. With the addition of these three cases, the court has agreed to hear 14 cases during the term, which is scheduled to begin on Oct. 4. 

Houston Community College System v. Wilson concerns free speech protections and limitations on an elected governing body’s authority to censure a member for their speech. The question presented to the court asks, “Does the First Amendment restrict the authority of an elected body to issue a censure resolution in response to a member’s speech?” The case originated from the United States Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.

United States v. Zubaydah concerns the state-secrets privilege. The question the court will decide is, “Whether the court of appeals erred when it rejected the United States’ assertion of the state-secrets privilege based on the court’s own assessment of potential harms to the national security, and required discovery to proceed further under 28 U.S.C. 1782(a) against former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) contractors on matters concerning alleged clandestine CIA activities.” Zubaydah came from the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.

New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Corlett concerns a person’s right to carry a firearm for self-defense under the Constitution’s Second Amendment. The question presented to the court is, “Whether the State’s denial of petitioners’ applications for concealed-carry licenses for self-defense violated the Second Amendment.” The case originated from the United States Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.

The Supreme Court is currently hearing oral arguments as part of its 2020-2021 term. Its April argument sitting began on April 19 and will conclude on April 28, with the court hearing 12 hours of oral argument during that period. The court is scheduled to hear one hour of oral argument during its May sitting on May 4.

As of April 22, the court had agreed to hear 62 cases during its 2020-2021 term. Of those, 12 were originally scheduled for the 2019-2020 term but were delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Five cases were removed from the argument calendar. Also as of April 22, the court had issued opinions in 30 cases this term. Six cases were decided without argument.

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Unanimous U.S. Supreme Court: People may raise Appointments Clause challenges in federal court they did not mention during agency proceedings

On April 22, 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a unanimous opinion in Carr v. Saul, ruling that people who were denied Social Security disability benefits by the Social Security Administration (SSA) do not lose the chance to challenge the appointment of SSA administrative law judges (ALJs) in court even if they do not first present Appointments Clause challenges during agency proceedings. 

The court held unanimously that issue exhaustion requirements, which say that people must bring up all legal objections in front of an agency before they can use those objections in federal court, do not apply to these Appointments Clause challenges.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor delivered the opinion of the court, which gave the following three reasons people should be allowed to make Appointments Clause challenges even if they did not raise the issue during SSA proceedings:

*The SSA process at issue was not adversarial enough to require issue exhaustion in the absence of an explicit statutory or regulatory requirement

*Agency adjudicators usually lack the technical expertise to address structural constitutional challenges

*Court precedent says exhaustion requirements do not apply to challenges agency officials lack the power to resolve

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a concurring opinion, joined by Justices Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett, agreeing with the outcome of the case but saying he would have ended his analysis with the first point, that nonadversarial agency processes do not require issue exhaustion.

Justice Stephen Breyer wrote a concurring opinion agreeing with the outcome but arguing that the nonadversarial nature of an agency proceeding “is generally irrelevant to whether the ordinary rule requiring issue exhaustion ought to apply.”

The U.S. Supreme Court sent the case back to the circuit court for further proceedings.

To learn more about the case or agency adjudication, see here:

Additional Reading:

Link to the opinion:

https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/20pdf/19-1442_971e.pdf