- Professor Richard Duncan, Nebraska Law
In recent years, the Supreme Court appears to have taken a greater interest in "business" issues. Does this reflect a change in the Court's orientation, or is it the natural outcome of the appellate process? Is the Court "pro-business"? If so, in what ways do the Court's decisions support business interests and what does that mean for the law and the American public? Business and the Roberts Court provides the first critical analysis of the Court's business-related jurisprudence. Author and Editor Jonathan Adler joined us along with two chapter authors, Brian Fitzpatrick and Richard Lazarus, to discuss their contributions to this important volume.
On November 2, 2016, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Venezuela v. Helmerich & Payne International. Helmerich & Payne International Drilling Company owns a subsidiary that, in 2007, contracted to provide Venezuela's state-owned oil corporation the use of Helmerich’s drilling rigs. When unpaid invoices to the state-owned company surpassed $100 million in 2009, Helmerich refused to renew the contract and prepared to remove its equipment. Employees of the Venezuelan corporation, along with the Venezuelan National Guard, blockaded the equipment yards, and then-President Hugo Chavez issued a Decree of Expropriation.
Helmerich sued in federal district court under the expropriation and commercial activity exceptions to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. Venezuela moved to dismiss, and the district court granted the motion with respect to the expropriation claim but denied it with respect to the commercial activity claim. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reversed, holding that because the expropriation claim was neither insubstantial nor frivolous, the district court should not have granted the motion to dismiss that claim--but should have dismissed the commercial activity claim because the subsidiary’s commercial activity had no “direct effect” in the United States.
The question before the Supreme Court is whether the pleading standard for alleging that a case falls within the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act’s expropriation exception is more demanding than the standard for pleading jurisdiction under the federal-question statute, which allows a jurisdictional dismissal only if the federal claim is wholly insubstantial and frivolous.
To discuss the case, we have Donald Earl “Trey” Childress III, who is Professor of Law at the Pepperdine University School of Law.
Six years after its enactment, Obamacare remains one of the most controversial, divisive, and enduring political issues in America. In this much-anticipated follow-up to his critically acclaimed Unprecedented: The Constitutional Challenge to Obamacare (2013), Professor Blackman argues that, to implement the law, President Obama has broken promises about cancelled insurance policies, exceeded the traditional bounds of executive power, and infringed on religious liberty. At the same time, he writes that conservative opponents have stopped at nothing to unravel Obamacare, including a three-week government shutdown, four Supreme Court cases, and fifty repeal votes. Author Joshua Blackman and Michigan Law Professor Nicholas Bagley joined us to discuss the book and the saga of Obamacare.
The Federalist Society's Teleforum series, Legal Classics Revisited, will consider Professor Alexander Bickel's 1962 book, The Least Dangerous Branch. In a life cut short just before his 50th birthday, Professor Bickel contributed to our understanding of American constitutional law. Among his more provocative concepts was the "counter-majoritarian difficulty." It is not unique to observe that in a nation governed by elected representatives, an unelected Federal judiciary with lifetime tenure represents an anomaly. Alexander Hamilton penned Federalist No. 78 to explain and defend the idea. Professor Bickel takes Hamilton's idea and his title and spends his book exploring the questions: How can an unelected branch of government be a co-equal branch of government? How can society enjoy the benefits of an impartial judiciary without seismic jolting along the fault line between majoritarian and counter-majoritarian institutions? Professor Bickel's questions are still extremely relevant today.