Supreme Court Columns

SCOTUS Cert update

Timothy Courtney December 15, 2016

The Supreme Court granted cert in four new cases yesterday.

(1 & 2) Turner v. United States and Overton v. United States (consolidated): Whether the petitioners’ convictions must be set aside under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U. S. 83 (1963)

(3) Lee v. United States:  Whether it is always irrational for a noncitizen defendant with longtime legal resident status and extended familial and business ties to the United States to reject a plea offer notwithstanding strong evidence of guilt when the plea would result in mandatory and permanent deportation.

(4) TC Heartland v. Kraft Food Brands Group: Whether the patent venue statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1400(b), which provides that patent infringement actions “may be brought in the judicial district where the defendant resides[,]” is the sole and exclusive provision governing venue in patent infringement actions and is not to be supplemented by the statute governing “[v]enue generally,” 28 U.S.C. § 1391, which has long contained a subsection (c) that, where applicable, deems a corporate entity to reside in multiple judicial districts.


Article: Supreme Court Season of Turmoil

SCOTUS order updates

Timothy Courtney December 02, 2016

This afternoon the Supreme Court issued an order granting certiorari in seven cases, three of which were consolidated:

(1) Howell v. Howell: Whether the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act pre-empts a state court’s order directing a veteran to indemnify a former spouse for a reduction in the former spouse’s portion of the veteran’s military retirement pay, when that reduction results from the veteran’s post-divorce waiver of retirement pay in order to receive compensation for a service-connected disability.

(2) Impression Products v. Lexmark Int'l: (1) Whether a “conditional sale” that transfers title to the patented item while specifying post-sale restrictions on the article's use or resale avoids application of the patent-exhaustion doctrine and therefore permits the enforcement of such post-sale restrictions through the patent law’s infringement remedy; and (2) whether, in light of this court’s holding in Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. that the common-law doctrine barring restraints on alienation that is the basis of exhaustion doctrine “makes no geographical distinctions,” a sale of a patented article – authorized by the U.S. patentee – that takes place outside the United States exhausts the U.S. patent rights in that article. 

(3-5) The ERISA church-plan exemption cases (consolidated, one hour for oral argument):  Whether the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974's church-plan exemption applies so long as a pension plan is maintained by an otherwise-qualifying church-affiliated organization, or whether the exemption applies only if, in addition, a church initially established the plan.

-Advocate Health Care v. Stapleton

-St. Peter's Healthcare v. Kaplan

-Dignity Health v. Rollins

(6) Water Splash v. Menon: Whether the Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters authorizes service of process by mail.

(7) Los Angeles County v. Mendez: (grant limited to questions 1 and 3): (1) Whether the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit's “provocation” rule should be barred as it conflicts with Graham v. Connor regarding the manner in which a claim of excessive force against a police officer should be determined in an action brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for a violation of a plaintiff's Fourth Amendment rights, and has been rejected by other courts of appeals; ... and (3) whether, in an action brought under Section 1983, an incident giving rise to a reasonable use of force is an intervening, superseding event which breaks the chain of causation from a prior, unlawful entry in violation of the Fourth Amendment.