On January 11, 2016, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. Under California law and existing Supreme Court precedent, unions can become the exclusive bargaining representative for the public school employees of their district and establish an “agency shop” arrangement requiring public school employees either to join the union or pay a fee to support the union’s collective bargaining activities. Although the First Amendment prohibits unions from compelling non-members to support activities unrelated to collective bargaining, in California non-members must affirmatively “opt out” to avoid paying for these unrelated or “nonchargeable” expenses.
Here a group of public school employees sued the California Teachers Association and various other entities, arguing that the agency shop arrangement itself--as well as the opt-out requirement--violated the First Amendment. The district court denied their claim and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed based on existing precedent and the 1997 Supreme Court decision Abood v. Detroit Board of Education.
The two questions now before the Supreme Court are: (1) Whether the Abood precedent should be overruled and public-sector “agency shop” arrangements invalidated under the First Amendment; and (2) whether it violates the First Amendment to require that public employees affirmatively object to subsidizing nonchargeable speech by public-sector unions, rather than requiring that employees affirmatively consent to subsidizing such speech.
To discuss the case, we have Richard A. Epstein, the Peter and Kirsten Bedford Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Laurence A. Tisch Professor of Law, New York University School of Law and Professor Emeritus and a senior lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School.
On December 14, 2015, the Supreme Court decided DIRECTV v. Imburgia. This case involves a class action lawsuit against DIRECTV by various California customers. Among other things, the agreement between DIRECTV and its customers contained a waiver of any right by either party to undertake class arbitration, unless “the law of your state” made such waivers unenforceable. At that time class arbitration waivers were unenforceable under California law, but in a subsequent case the United States Supreme Court held that this California rule was preempted by the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA). Concluding that the parties had intended to apply the rule as it existed prior to the Supreme Court decision, California trial and appellate courts refused to enforce the arbitration provision. The question before the Supreme Court was whether the FAA permitted this outcome; namely, the application of state law that had since been preempted by the FAA.
By a vote of 6-3, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the California Court of Appeals and remanded the case. Justice Breyer delivered the opinion of the Court, holding that the arbitration provision must be enforced because the California appellate court’s interpretation was preempted by the FAA.
Justice Breyer’s opinion was joined by the Chief Justice and Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Alito, and Kagan. Justice Thomas filed a dissenting opinion. Justice Ginsburg filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justice Sotomayor joined.
To discuss the case, we have Cory Andrews, who is Senior Litigation Counsel at the Washington Legal Foundation.
On December 7, 2015, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Dollar General Corporation v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. This case concerns a dispute over tribal court jurisdiction relating to allegations that the non-Indian manager of a Dollar General store on Choctaw tribal land sexually molested an Indian minor who interned at the store. When the minor’s parents sought to hold Dolgencorp--the subsidiary that operated the store--vicariously liable for the manager’s conduct, Dolgencorp petitioned in federal district court for an injunction barring tribal court proceedings, on the grounds that the tribal court lacked jurisdiction. The district court denied relief, concluding that while tribal courts typically lack civil authority over the conduct of non-members on non-Indian land within a reservation, Dolgencorp’s situation fell within a “consensual relationship” exception to the rule. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed, and denied rehearing en banc over the dissent of five judges.
The question before the Supreme Court is whether Indian tribal courts have jurisdiction to adjudicate civil tort claims against non-members, including as a means of regulating the conduct of non-members who enter into consensual relationships with a tribe or its members.
To discuss the case, we have Zachary Price, who is Associate Professor of Law at University of California, Hastings College of Law.
On December 8, 2015, the Supreme Court decided Shapiro v. McManus. In this case several Maryland citizens sued state election officials claiming that a 2011 redistricting plan violated their rights to political association and equal representation under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Although federal law normally requires such claims to be heard by a three-judge federal court, a single judge dismissed the suit for failure to state a claim, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed.
The question before the Supreme Court was whether a single-judge federal district court may determine that a claim governed by the Three-Judge Court Act is insubstantial, and that three judges therefore are not required--not because it concludes that the complaint is wholly frivolous, but because it concludes that the complaint fails to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).
By a vote of 9-0, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Fourth Circuit and remanded the case. Justice Scalia delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court, holding that the citizens’ redistricting challenge was not so insubstantial that it could be dismissed by a single judge, and should have been considered by a three-judge Court.
To discuss the case, we have Michael T. Morley, who is Assistant Professor at Barry University School of Law.
On November 2, 2015, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins. Robins sued website operator Spokeo, Inc. under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, complaining that Spokeo had published inaccurate personal information about Robins. The district court determined that Robins had failed to allege an injury-in-fact and dismissed the case for lack of standing. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed, concluding that Spokeo’s alleged violations of Robins’ statutory rights constituted sufficient injury, and that Robins satisfied the other requirements for Article III standing.
The question Spokeo raises before the Supreme Court is whether Congress may confer Article III standing upon a plaintiff who suffers no concrete harm, and who therefore could not otherwise invoke the jurisdiction of a federal court, by authorizing a private right of action based on a bare violation of a federal statute.
To discuss the case, we have Erin Hawley, who is Associate Professor of Law at University of Missouri School of Law.