Court adds seven cases to next term’s docket

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The justices added seven cases to the 2024-25 docket on Monday. (Katie Barlow)

The Supreme Court on Monday added seven new cases to its merits docket for the 2024-25 term, including a challenge to Tennessee’s ban on gender-affirming care for minors. (That case is covered in a separate story.) In a list of orders from the justices’ private conference on June 20, the court agreed to take up a wide variety of issues, ranging from the interpretation of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act to compensation for civilians called up for active-duty military service.

Just a few weeks after the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings, the Supreme Court agreed to take up a case by survivors of the Hungarian Holocaust seeking compensation for the seizure of their property by the Hungarian government.

The issue at the center of Republic of Hungary v. Simon is the interpretation of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which generally bars lawsuits against foreign governments in U.S. courts but carves out an exception – known as the “expropriation exception” – when (among other things) the lawsuit involves property taken in violation of international law and there is a commercial connection between that property and the United States.

The plaintiffs allege that the Hungarian government took their property, sold it, put the proceeds from the sales in the general state treasury, and then later used funds from the treasury in connection with the country’s commercial activities in the United States.

A federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., agreed that these allegations were enough unless the Hungarian government can show otherwise, while a federal appeals court in New York ruled that the plaintiffs needed to show a connection between the funds from the expropriated property and the commercial activity in the United States. On Monday, the justices agreed to weigh in.

In United States v. Miller, the justices agreed to decide a complicated bankruptcy question that arose after All Resort Group, a Utah transportation firm, filed for bankruptcy in 2017. The bankruptcy trustee attempted to reverse a 2014 payment that the company had made of approximately $145,000 to the Internal Revenue Service to cover the personal tax debts of two company officials. It relied on state law that allows four years to recover fraudulent transfers.

Federal bankruptcy law allows bankruptcy trustees to reverse transfers that a bankruptcy debtor made before filing for bankruptcy if they would be invalid “under applicable law” outside bankruptcy by one of the debtor’s actual creditors. In ARG’s case, the trustee pointed to a debt owed to a former employee, who had sued the company for discrimination and won. But the federal government contended that sovereign immunity would have barred the former employee from suing it to recover the tax payments that ALG had made to the IRS. The question that the justices agreed to take up on Monday is whether a bankruptcy trustee can reverse a debtor’s tax payment to the United States when no actual creditor could have obtained relief.

In Feliciano v. Department of Transportation, the justices agreed to weigh in on whether a federal civilian employee who is called to active military duty during a national emergency is entitled to receive differential pay – compensation for the difference between his civilian pay and his military pay – even if his duty is not directly connected to that national emergency. The question comes to the court in the case of Nick Feliciano, an air traffic controller who was called to active duty in the Coast Guard, where he manned a vessel in and around the Charleston, S.C., harbor.

In Stanley v. City of Sanford, Fla., the justices will consider a question arising under the Americans with Disabilities Act: Does a former employee lose her right to sue over discrimination in the provision of benefits that she earned while she was employed? The question comes to the court in the case of Karyn Stanley, who worked as a firefighter for the city of Sanford, Fla., for more than two decades before Parkinson’s disease forced her to retire. She filed a lawsuit under the ADA alleging that the city’s benefits policy discriminated against disabled retirees, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled that she was not a “qualified individual” protected by the ADA because she was not currently employed by the city. 

In Seven County Infrastructure v. Eagle County, Colo., the court agreed to decide whether the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires federal agencies to examine the environmental effects of proposed actions by the federal government and inform the public of the environmental issues that it considered when making its decisions, requires an agency to study environmental impacts beyond the immediate effects of the action that the agency has authority to regulate. The question comes to the court in a challenge to the scope of an environmental review by the Surface Transportation Board of a new rail line in Utah.

And in Dewberry Group v. Dewberry Engineers, the justices will consider whether, when a plaintiff obtains an award of the “defendant’s profits” in a lawsuit brought under the Lanham Act for a trademark violation, that award can include an order for the defendant to turn over the profits by a separate corporate affiliate that is not part of the case.

The justices declined to hear the case of James Broadnax, a Black man who was convicted and sentenced to death for the robbery and shooting death of two men, Stephen Swan and Matthew Butler, both of whom were white. At his trial in Dallas, prosecutors used almost half of their peremptory strikes – for which no explanation is required – to remove all seven of the potential Black jurors from the jury pool. (The judge later returned one of the Black jurors to the jury.)

In 2016, the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office disclosed a spreadsheet that its prosecutors had used during jury selection to track the race of potential jurors – and in particular, to highlight all of the prospective Black jurors. Five years later, the office disclosed handwritten notes from jury selection about the one of the Black jurors – mentioning that that the prosecutors’ “[o]nly concern” was the parallel between Broadnax’s age and race and that of the juror’s son.

After the Texas state courts rejected Broadnax’s efforts to obtain post-conviction relief, Broadnax came to the Supreme Court, asking the justices to take up his case. Arguing that [r]eview is necessary here because the newly disclosed evidence establishes that a DA’s office with a long and notorious history of racially discriminatory jury selection continued to flout this Court’s direction,” he argued that the new evidence establishes “multiple” violations of the Supreme Court’s 1986 landmark decision in Batson v. Kentucky, holding that prosecutors cannot use their peremptory challenges to exclude potential jurors based on their race.

In a brief unsigned order and without any explanation, the justices turned down Broadnax’s request. Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ketanji Brown Jackson indicated that they would have reversed the state court’s decision.

The addition of seven new cases to the court’s docket brings the total number of cases granted for next term to 23. The cases granted on Monday’s order list will be argued in the fall, with a decision to follow sometime next year.

This article was originally published at Howe on the Court.



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