Supreme Court April Oral Argument Docket

The United States Supreme Court will hear oral argument in ten cases in April this year.  The following is a summary of each case:

Monday, April 18th

United States vs. Texas:  This is the very important case involving Obama’s deferred action executive order regarding illegal immigrants to the United States.  A detailed examination of the case will be forthcoming as oral argument draws near.  It should be noted that a 4-4 tie would affirm the lower court decision and allow the injunction against the executive order to remain in effect and thus represent a “loss” for the Obama administration.

Tuesday, April 19th

United States vs. Bryant:  This case will decide whether a conviction by an Indian tribal court should count as a “third offense,” even when the conviction was for a misdemeanor until tribal law, for so-called “three strikes” legislation outside the tribal court system.

Universal Health Services vs. United States:  A profoundly complicated case involving reimbursement rates which was accepted by the Court to resolve a difference in opinion between two Circuit Courts of Appeal.

Wednesday, April 20th

Birchfield vs. North Dakota:  This is an interesting Fourth Amendment case and this writer wonders why it was not even considered previously by the Supreme Court.  North Dakota, like 13 other states, makes it a separate offense to refuse a breathalyzer test for drivers accused of driving under the influence of alcohol.  Birchfield argues that such tests cannot be Constitutional unless law enforcement first obtains a warrant.   The Court previously ruled in Missouri vs. McNeely that law enforcement’s insistence on an immediate roadside test absent a warrant could potentially be suspect.  This case was consolidated with one out of Minnesota where a driver was legitimately arrested for drunk driving and in police custody and refused to take the test absent a warrant.  In the North Dakota instance, Birchfield was stopped based on police suspicion of DUI, refused the test, and was convicted on refusing to take the test which carried the same punishment as if he was convicted of drunk driving.

 Encino Motor Cars vs. Navarro:  An interesting labor law case and one of the type that is increasing in frequency as the United States adjusts to a service-sector economy.  Specifically, this case asks whether “service advisers” at car dealerships should be exempt from the overtime pay provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Monday, April 25th

Kirtsaeng vs. John Wiley and Sons:  If this case sounds familiar, great for you.  Previously, this case was adjudicated in the Court with a victory for Kirtsaeng.  To recap, he was a college student who purchased college textbooks from Taiwan and resold them in the United States at a discount under the publisher’s cost and made extra money for himself to earn his way through college.  John Wiley and Sons usually sold excess college texts at a lower cost in foreign countries.  The Court previously ruled that Kirtsaeng’s actions did not violate copyright laws.  Upon remand, the publisher refused to pay Kirtsaeng’s attorney fees.  This current case will decide that issue.

Cuozzo Speed Technologies vs. Lee:  A patent case and the role of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board.  This is the monthly obligatory as much excitement as paint drying case.

Tuesday, April 26th

Mathis vs. United States:  This is yet another case arising under the Armed Career Criminal Act, otherwise known as three-strikes law, and the level of involvement required to qualify under the law.  In this particular case, at least two of the convictions involved non-violent burglary convictions.  The details arise in the definition of levels of burglary under Iowa state law.  Mathis pled guilty to possession of a firearm- a federal offense- as a previously convicted felon and sentenced to the statutory minimum of 15 years.  However, because one of the previous convictions was classified a “felony” because he burglarized an “occupied structure,” it counted towards his previous felony convictions.  If anything, this case illustrates how the ACCA can sometimes increase sentences unnecessarily given the vagaries of crime definitions at various levels.

Dietz vs. Bouldin:  An interesting case for anyone who has ever served jury duty.  In this particular case involving a car accident and jury trial, the defendant assumed responsibility for the medical expenses of the plaintiff.  However, the jury returned a verdict of $0 damages.  The judge then discharged the jury.  Several had left the courtroom and talked to the court clerk.  At least one left the courthouse itself before the judge ruled that the award was invalid based upon the facts and applicable law.  He then recalled the jury, set aside their verdict and instructed them to deliberate again.  They returned with a verdict for $15,000 in damages.  The case went to the Ninth Circuit which ruled, in conflict with out Circuits, that recalling a jury to redeliberate was acceptable.

Wednesday, April 27th

McDonnell vs. United States: This case involves the definition of “official action” under federal fraud statutes and whether that action involves using actual statutory authority or power, threatening to exercise that power, or directing another to exercise that power.  Further, the case asks whether the jury should be instructed on these distinctions and finally whether portions of the federal Hobbs Act are unconstitutional.

This is the appeal by former Virginia Governor Rob McDonnell.  As the petition states, this is the first conviction of a public official who never “put a thumb on the scales of any government decision.”  In this case, McDonnell was accused of arranging meetings and later taking gifts which is routine for campaign donors.  What was missing in this case is absolute proof that any of the alleged gifts or donations actually influenced any government action.  That is what is at dispute in this case.

Well, that is it for April oral arguments as the Court prepares to release more opinions in argued cases in May and June.