TagSupreme Court

U.S. Supreme Court rules Federal Housing Finance Agency has unconstitutional structure

In Collins v. Yellen, the U.S. Supreme Court held that restrictions on the president’s authority to remove the director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) violated the separation of powers. In its June 23 decision, the court also rejected the argument that the FHFA actions at issue in the case went beyond the agency’s legal authority.

Justice Samuel Alito delivered the opinion of the court, writing that the Housing and Economic Recovery Act (HERA) blocks shareholders from challenging FHFA decisions in court since the agency acted within the bounds of its powers. However, he also wrote that “the Constitution prohibits even ‘modest restrictions’ on the President’s power to remove the head of an agency with a single top officer.” The end of the opinion says that FHFA officers were properly appointed but that lower courts should resolve whether the unconstitutional restriction on the president’s removal power inflicted harm that gives the shareholders a right to request relief in federal court.

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a concurring opinion arguing that actions taken by federal officials are not necessarily unlawful just because a restriction on the president’s removal power over them is unlawful in the abstract.

Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote an opinion concurring in part in which he argued that the distinction between unconstitutionally _appointed_ officials and unconstitutionally _insulated_ officials should not prevent the court from ruling that an official acted without constitutional authority.

Justice Elena Kagan wrote an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment and Justices Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor joined part II of her opinion. Kagan agreed with the majority that the FHFA did not exceed the limits of its powers, but she only agreed to hold the agency structure unconstitutional out of respect for precedent. Part II of her opinion agreed with the majority that it would be right to undo the FHFA’s actions only if the president’s inability to fire the director affected those actions.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, joined by Justice Breyer. Sotomayor agreed with the parts of the majority opinion upholding the FHFA’s actions under the HERA and discussing potential remedies following remand of the case. Regarding the constitutional question, she argued that the court misapplied the precedent from Seila Law (2020). She wrote, “The Court has proved far too eager in recent years to insert itself into questions of agency structure best left to Congress.”

The court’s decision to hold the structure of the FHFA unconstitutional articulated limits on the kinds of administrative agencies Congress may create and reaffirmed the court’s decision in Seila Law. Each of the Justices’ opinions referenced arguments from the debate surrounding presidential control over administrative officials across the federal government.

The case was consolidated with Yellen v. Collins.

To learn more about the case or executive control of agencies see here:

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Link to the U.S. Supreme Court decision:



SCOTUS issues rulings in four cases

The U.S. Supreme Court issued rulings in four cases on June 23. With the addition of these cases, the court has issued 56 opinions for its 2020-2021 term. Two cases were decided in one consolidated opinion, and seven cases were decided without argument. Eight cases argued during the term have yet to be decided.

Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L. was a case argued before the court on April 28. It concerned Title 42 of the United States Code and whether Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District (1969) applies to students’ off-campus speech. In an 8-1 opinion, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit’s ruling, holding that while public schools may have a special interest in regulating some off-campus student speech, the special interests offered by the Mahanoy Area School District were not sufficient to overcome B.L.’s interest in free expression in the case. Justice Stephen Breyer delivered the opinion of the court and Justice Clarence Thomas filed a dissent.

Cedar Point Nursery v. Hassid was argued before the court on March 22. The case concerned the regulation of labor union organizers’ access to employees at worksites. In a 6-3 opinion, the court reversed the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit’s ruling and remanded the case for further proceedings, holding that California’s access regulation constitutes a per se physical taking. Chief Justice John Roberts delivered the court’s majority opinion. Justice Breyer filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

Lange v. California was a case argued before the court on February 24. It concerned the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. In a unanimous ruling, the court vacated the California First District Court of Appeal’s ruling and remanded the case for further proceedings, holding that under the Fourth Amendment, the pursuit of a fleeing misdemeanor suspect does not always or categorically justify a warrantless entry into a home. Justice Kagan authored the court’s majority opinion.

Collins v. Yellen was a case argued before the court on December 9, 2020. It concerned the extent of the president’s removal powers and control of independent federal agencies. In a 7-2 decision, the court held that restrictions on the president’s authority to remove the director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency violated the separation of powers. The court also rejected the argument that the FHFA exceeded its authority as conservator of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored corporations that deal in mortgages. Justice Samuel Alito delivered the opinion of the court. Justice Sotomayor wrote an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, joined by Justice Breyer.

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U.S. Supreme Court issues opinions in three cases on June 21

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) issued opinions in three cases on June 21 and released orders in pending cases from its June 17 conference. The court did not accept any new cases for the upcoming 2021-2022 October term.

United States v. Arthrex Inc. (Consolidated with Smith & Nephew Inc. v. Arthrex Inc. and Arthrex Inc. v. Smith & Nephew Inc.) concerned the appointment of administrative patent judges (APJs) of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The case originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

In a 5-4 opinion, SCOTUS concluded that the unreviewable authority of APJs during inter partes review is incompatible with their appointment by the Secretary of Commerce to an inferior office. The lower court’s judgment was vacated and the case was remanded for further proceedings. Chief Justice John Roberts authored the court’s majority opinion. 

Goldman Sachs Group v. Arkansas Teacher Retirement Sys. concerned class action lawsuits pertaining to securities fraud and demonstrating the element of materiality in such cases. The case originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.

In an 8-1 opinion, SCOTUS held that (1) the generic nature of a misrepresentation is often important evidence of price impact that courts should consider at class certification, including in inflation-maintenance cases, and (2) defendants bear the burden of persuasion to prove a lack of price impact by a preponderance of the evidence at class certification. The lower court’s judgment was vacated and the case was remanded for further proceedings. Justice Amy Coney Barrett authored the court’s majority opinion. 

National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) v. Alston (Consolidated with American Athletic Conference v. Alston) concerned federal antitrust law and the NCAA’s compensation rules. The case originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the district court’s injunction was consistent with established antitrust principles, upholding the lower court’s ruling in the case. Justice Neil Gorsuch penned the majority opinion.

To date, the court has issued 52 opinions for the term. Two cases were decided in one consolidated opinion. Seven cases were decided without argument. Twelve cases argued this term have yet to be decided.

Additional reading:

United States v. Arthrex Inc.

National Collegiate Athletic Association v. Alston

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. v. Arkansas Teacher Retirement System

Supreme Court cases, October term 2021-2022



U.S. Supreme Court: Constitution requires more supervision over administrative patent judges from Patent and Trademark Office director

In United States v. Arthrex, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Appointments Clause does not allow administrative patent judges (APJs) to resolve patent disputes without more supervision from higher-level agency officials. In its June 21 decision, the court decided to sever the parts of the patent statute that prevented the director of the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) from reviewing APJ decisions unilaterally.

Chief Justice John Roberts delivered the opinion of the court. Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett joined parts I and II of his opinion, which held that the director of the PTO improperly lacked direct review power over APJ decisions, giving them power that conflicted with the “design of the Appointments Clause ‘to preserve political accountability.’”

Justices Samuel Alito, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett joined part III of Roberts’ opinion and Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan concurred with the result. In part III, the court blocked enforcement of the patent statute at issue “to the extent that its requirements prevent the Director from reviewing final decisions rendered by APJs.”

Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part. He agreed with the majority opinion about the relation of the Appointments Clause to APJs but rejected the idea that the court had the power to sever (remove) portions of statutes when they violate the constitution.

Justice Stephen Breyer wrote an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, joined by Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Breyer agreed with parts I and II of Justice Clarence Thomas’ dissenting opinion but agreed to go along with the majority’s remedy in the case, to make Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) decisions reviewable by the director of the PTO.

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a dissenting opinion, joined by Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan in parts I and II, arguing that the court ruled “for the very first time” that “Congress violated the Constitution by vesting the appointment of a federal officer in the head of a department.” Thomas argued that neither court precedent nor the Appointments Clause requires the U.S. Senate to confirm officers inferior to two officers below the president.

The court’s ruling preserved the authority of the secretary of commerce to appoint APJs while increasing the supervision powers of the director of the Patent and Trademark Office. Each of the Justices’ opinions referenced arguments from the debate surrounding presidential control over other administrative officials across the federal government.

The case was consolidated with Smith & Nephew Inc. v. Arthrex Inc. and Arthrex Inc. v. Smith & Nephew Inc.

Additional reading:

Article II, United States Constitution

Oil States Energy Services v. Greene’s Energy Group

Free Enterprise Fund v. Public Company Accounting Oversight Board

Judicial review

Administrative state

Link to the U.S. Supreme Court decision:

United States v. Arthrex,



U.S. Supreme Court issues three rulings on June 17

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) issued rulings in three cases on June 17. Two of the cases, Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and California v. Texas, were argued during the court’s November 2020 sitting. The third case, Nestlé USA v. Doe I, was argued during the court’s December 2020 sitting.

Fulton v. City of Philadelphia concerned the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. In a unanimous ruling, the court reversed the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit’s decision and remanded the case for further proceedings, holding that the City of Philadelphia violated Catholic Social Service’s (CSS) right to free exercise under the First Amendment by excluding CSS from the foster care program due to CSS’s refusal to certify same-sex couples. Chief Justice John Roberts delivered the court’s majority opinion.

With a 7-2 opinion in the case California v. Texas, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit’s ruling and remanded the case for further proceedings, holding that the plaintiffs did not have standing to challenge the ACA’s minimum essential coverage provision because they had not shown past or future injury fairly traceable to the defendants’ conduct enforcing the provision. Justice Stephen Breyer delivered the majority opinion. Justice Clarence Thomas filed a concurring opinion. Justice Samuel Alito filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Justice Neil Gorsuch.

With an 8-1 opinion in the case Nestlé USA v. Doe I, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit’s ruling and remanded the case for further proceedings, holding that to plead facts sufficient to support a domestic application of the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), plaintiffs must allege more domestic conduct than general corporate activity common to most corporations. Justice Clarence Thomas announced the judgment of the court and delivered the opinion of the court with respect to Parts I and II, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett, and an opinion with respect to Part III, in which Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh joined. Justice Gorsuch filed a concurring opinion, in which Justice Alito joined as to Part I, and in which Justice Kavanaugh joined as to Part II. Justice Sotomayor filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, in which Justices Breyer and Kagan joined. Justice Samuel Alito filed a dissenting opinion.

The court has issued 49 opinions this term. Two cases were decided in one consolidated opinion. Seven cases were decided without argument. Of the cases argued this term, 18 remain to be decided.

Additional reading:



U.S. Supreme Court decides three cases in two rulings on June 14

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) issued rulings in three cases on June 14. Two of the cases, Greer v. United States and United States v. Gary, were decided in one consolidated opinion, though they were argued separately. The cases were argued during the court’s April sitting. The third case, Terry v. United States, was argued on May 4.

Greer and Gary concerned plain-error review in felon-in-possession cases in light of SCOTUS’ ruling in Rehaif v. United States. Justice Brett Kavanaugh authored the majority opinions in both cases. Justice Sonia Sotomayor concurred in part and dissented in part from the judgment. 

In Greer, the court unanimously upheld the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit’s ruling, while in Gary, the court reversed the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit’s judgment in an 8-1 ruling. In its consolidated opinion, the court held that in felon-in-possession cases, a Rehaif error is not a basis for plain-error relief unless the defendant first makes a sufficient argument or representation on appeal that they would have presented evidence at trial that they did not in fact know they were a felon.

In the case Terry v. United States, the court ruled unanimously that an offender convicted of a crack cocaine offense is eligible for a sentence reduction under the First Step Act only if that prior conviction triggered a mandatory minimum sentence. Justice Clarence Thomas authored the court’s majority opinion. Justice Sonia Sotomayor filed a concurring opinion.

The court has issued 46 opinions this term. Seven cases were decided without argument. Of the cases argued this term, 18 remain to be decided.

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SCOTUS decides case concerning Armed Career Criminal Act in 5-4 opinion

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) issued an opinion in one case on June 10, Borden v. United States, which involved the use-of-force clause in the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA). The case was argued during the November argument sitting.

Charles Borden Jr. pleaded guilty to possessing a firearm as a felon. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, relying on the 6th Circuit Court’s decision in United States v. Verwiebe (2017), sentenced Borden to nine years and seven months of imprisonment under the ACCA. Borden objected to his sentence, arguing the district court’s application of Verwiebe to his case violated due process protections. On appeal, the 6th Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling. Borden petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for review.

In a 5-4 opinion, the court reversed the 6th Circuit’s ruling and remanded the case for further proceedings, holding that a reckless offense cannot qualify as a “violent felony” if it only requires a mens rea of recklessness—a less culpable mental state than purpose or knowledge.

Justice Elena Kagan delivered the court’s majority opinion, joined by Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Neil Gorsuch. Justice Clarence Thomas filed a concurring opinion. Justice Brett Kavanaugh filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito and Amy Coney Barrett.

To date, the U.S. Supreme Court has issued 44 opinions during the 2020-2021 term. Seven cases were decided without argument.

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U.S. Supreme Court issues opinion in case regarding grants of Temporary Protected Status to non-citizens

Image of the front of the United States Supreme Court building.

The U.S. Supreme Court issued orders on June 7 emanating from their June 3 conference and issued an opinion in one case.

The court accepted one new case to be argued during the upcoming 2021-2022 term, Federal Bureau of Investigation v. Fazaga. The case concerns the state-secrets privilege and originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.

To date, the court has accepted 19 cases for argument next term. Including FBI v. Fazaga, the court has granted review in four cases originating from the 9th Circuit. 

The court decided one case, Sanchez v. Mayorkas, on June 7. The case was argued in April and concerned grants of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to non-citizens. In a unanimous ruling, the court upheld the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit’s ruling, holding that a TPS recipient who entered the United States unlawfully is not eligible for lawful-permanent-resident (LPR) status because of their TPS grant. Justice Elena Kagan authored the court’s majority opinion. 

To date, the court has decided 43 cases this term, nine of which originated from the 9th Circuit. 

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Supreme Court issues opinion in case concerning civil procedure

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) issued an opinion in one case, City of San Antonio, Texas v. Hotels.com, L.P. on May 27. The case involved Rule 39 of the Federal Rules for Appellate Procedure. The case was argued before SCOTUS during the April argument sitting last month.

A class of 173 Texas municipalities (“San Antonio”) sued several online travel companies (“OTCs”) over the calculation of hotel occupancy taxes and was awarded a multi-million dollar judgment in federal district court. On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit ruled in favor of the OTCs, holding that they had not underpaid their taxes. The OTCs filed a bill of costs in the district court. San Antonio objected and asked the district court to deny or reduce the amount owed. The district court ruled that it was not permitted to alter the appellate cost awards under Rule 39. The municipalities appealed to the 5th Circuit. The 5th Circuit affirmed the district court’s conclusion.

In a unanimous opinion, SCOTUS affirmed the 5th Circuit’s ruling, holding that Rule 39 does not allow a district court to change a court of appeals’ allocation of the costs. Justice Samuel Alito delivered the opinion of the court. 

To date, the U.S. Supreme Court has issued 39 opinions during the 2020-2021 term. Seven cases were decided without argument.

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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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