Supreme Court Round-Up: A Summary of Recent Opinions, Upcoming Arguments, and Other Developments – June 4, 2010

June 4, 2010

As the Supreme Court proceeds through its busiest season for issuing opinions, Gibson Dunn’s Supreme Court Round-Up is summarizing key developments at the Court.

Most recently, the Court granted certiorari in Mayo Foundation for Medical Education & Research v. United States, a case in which the Court will determine the validity of a Treasury Department regulation that purports to categorically exclude all medical residents from a federal statute that exempts "students" from Social Security taxation.  Gibson Dunn prepared the successful petition for a writ of certiorari.

In addition, since the last edition of the Round-Up, the Court has issued opinions in the following argued cases:

  • Samantar v. Yousuf The Court held that the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act does not provide individual officials with immunity from suit based on actions taken in their official capacity.
  • Carr v. United States:  The Court concluded that 18 U.S.C. § 2250(a)–which makes it a crime for a person who knowingly fails to register or update a registration under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act to travel in interstate commerce–does not apply to sex offenders whose interstate travel occurred prior to the Act’s effective date.
  • Berghuis v. ThompkinsThe Court held that a criminal defendant’s silence during an interrogation did not invoke the Miranda right to remain silent because such right must be invoked unambiguously.
  • Levin v. Commerce Energy, Inc.The Court held, under the comity doctrine, that a claim of allegedly discriminatory state taxation that is framed as a request to increase a commercial competitor’s tax burden must proceed originally in state court.
  • Alabama v. North Carolina:  In this original-jurisdiction case in which four States are suing the State of North Carolina over enforcement of a regional pact on disposal of radioactive wastes, the Court overruled a host of exceptions to the Special Master’s reports.
  • Hardt v. Reliance Standard Life Insurance Co.The Court held that a fee claimant need not be a "prevailing party" to be eligible for an attorney’s fee award under 29 U.S.C. § 1132(g)(1), the fee-shifting provision that applies in most lawsuits brought pursuant to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974.
  • United States v. MarcusThe Court held that the Second Circuit’s plain-error standard for review of a claim not raised at trial conflicted with the Court’s interpretation of the plain-error standard under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 52(b).
  • United States v. O’BrienThe Court held, under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1) (which prohibits, among other things, using or carrying a firearm during a crime of violence), that the fact that the firearm was a machine gun (triggering a 30-year minimum prison sentence rather than the default 5-year minimum) is an element of the offense, and so must be proved to the jury beyond a reasonable doubt instead of proved to the sentencing judge by a preponderance of the evidence.
  • Lewis v. City of Chicago:  The Court held that a plaintiff who does not file a timely charge challenging the adoption of an employment practice under Title VII may assert a disparate impact claim challenging the employer’s later use of that practice, so long as the plaintiff alleges each of the elements of a disparate impact claim.
  • American Needle, Inc. v. National Football LeagueThe Court held that the National Football League’s licensing activities constitute concerted action under § 1 of the Sherman Act and that the legality of that concerted action must be judged under the Rule of Reason.
  • Abbott v. Abbott:  The Court found that a father’s ne exeat right to consent before his child’s mother could take the child out of the country was a "right[ ] of custody" under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.
  • United States v. ComstockThe Court concluded that the Necessary and Proper Clause provided Congress with the authority to enact 18 U.S.C. § 4248, which authorizes a district court to order the civil commitment of a mentally ill, sexually dangerous federal prisoner beyond the date he would otherwise be released.
  • Graham v. FloridaThe Court held that the Eighth Amendment’s Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause categorically forbids sentencing any juvenile nonhomicide offender to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
  • Renico v. LettThe Court held that the defendant was not entitled to a writ of habeas corpus, because the Michigan Supreme Court’s application of United States v. Perez, 9 Wheat. 579 (1824), was not unreasonable.  Perez held that the Double Jeopardy Clause does not apply when the trial court exercises its sound discretion and concludes that the jury was deadlocked and that there is "manifest necessity" for a mistrial.
  • Hui v. CastanedaThe Court held that 42 U.S.C. § 233(a)’s plain language precludes an action under Bivens v. Six Unknown Federal Narcotics Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), against U.S. Public Health Service personnel for constitutional violations committed in the course of their official duties, and limits recovery for such conduct to Federal Tort Claims Act suits against the United States.
  • Salazar v. BuonoJustice Kennedy’s plurality opinion concluded that Buono had standing to challenge a religious symbol on federal land and that the district court erred when it prohibited the government from transferring the land underneath the cross at issue.  Justice Scalia’s opinion concurring in the judgment concluded that Buono lacked Article III standing.

Spearheaded by former Solicitor General Theodore B. Olson, the Supreme Court Round-Up is updated each month to keep clients apprised of the Court’s most recent actions.  The Round-Up recaps each of this Term’s opinions, previews the cases scheduled for the upcoming 2010 Term, and tracks the actions of the highly influential Office of the Solicitor General.  The Round-Up provides a concise, substantive analysis of the Court’s actions.  Its easy-to-use format allows the reader to identify what is on the Court’s docket at any given time, and to see what issues the Court will be taking up next.  The Round-Up is the ideal resource for busy practitioners seeking an in-depth, timely, and objective report on the Court’s actions.

To view the Round-Up, click here.

Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP 

Gibson Dunn’s Appellate and Constitutional Law Practice Group is one of the nation’s leading appellate practices.  In recognition of its achievements, Gibson Dunn was named the 2010 Litigation Department of the Year by American Lawyer, with the appellate practice described as "perhaps the firm’s greatest asset."  The preeminence of Gibson Dunn’s Appellate Group is also underscored by its placement on The National Law Journal’s 2008 through 2010 "Appellate Hot List," a survey of top appellate law practices.

Our Supreme Court statistics speak for themselves.  In the 2007 Term, Gibson Dunn went 3-0.  In the 2008 Term, Gibson Dunn argued six cases — winning four, including the recent win in a case challenging the constitutionality of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform legislation, where the Court took the extraordinary step of ordering re-argument.  Gibson Dunn’s seven oral arguments in the 2008 Term were more than any other law firm (tied in cases handled, at six).  Moreover, while the grant rate for cert petitions is below 1%, Gibson Dunn has persuaded the Court to grant its cert petitions more than 30 percent of the time in the last five years.

Gibson Dunn’s lawyers are available to assist in addressing any questions you may have regarding developments at the Supreme Court.  Please feel free to contact the following attorneys in the firm’s Washington, D.C. office, or any member of the Appellate and Constitutional Law Practice Group.

Theodore B. Olson (202.955.8500, [email protected])
Amir C. Tayrani (202.887.3692, [email protected])
Ryan J. Watson (202.955.8295, [email protected])

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