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  • June 07, 2023

    Significant U.S. Supreme Court Decisions Still Pending

    The U.S. Supreme Court has decided 34 cases this term, but the Court has not yet issued decisions in 25 cases heard in oral argument.
    supreme court building colored red blue and purple

    June 7, 2023 – The U.S. Supreme Court typically issues some of its highest profile decisions towards the end of June. This month, we’ll know the outcome on a number of cases, including ones involving student loans, redistricting, and water rights.

    As of June 5, the U.S. Supreme Court has decided 34 cases, but the Court has not yet issued decisions in 25 cases that were argued for the 2022-23 term.

    Here’s a look at a number of outstanding cases that will likely be released in the coming weeks. On June 28, State Bar of Wisconsin PINNACLE® will hold a live webcast to discuss some of these major decisions and their implications for Wisconsin.

    Biden v. Nebraska

    This case involves a challenge to a student loan debt relief program that President Joe Biden announced last year. Under the program, the Department of Education would grant eligible borrowers up to $20,000 in debt cancellation for borrowers with incomes less than $125,000 (under $250,000 for married couples).

    The administration argued that it had the authority to provide debt cancellation under the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students Act of 2003.

    Nebraska, Missouri, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, and South Carolina, sued to block the debt relief plan, alleging the Department of Education does not have the authority to cancel the debt and the plan violated the separation of powers doctrine.

    The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a preliminary injunction to block implementation of the debt-relief program until the U.S. Supreme Court could decide on the merits. According to SCOTUS Blog, the Supreme Court “appeared skeptical” of the Department of Education’s authority to provide debt relief.

    Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina & Students for Fair Admissions v. President and Fellows of Harvard College

    In these cases, challengers argue that Harvard College and the University of North Carolina violate Title VI of the Civil Rights Act by considering race in the admissions process. In 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the University of Michigan Law School could consider race in making admissions decisions.

    But the challengers want the Court to overturn that case, arguing that any admission policy that considers race violates the Equal Protection Clause. The schools say the admissions policies are intended to further a diverse student body.

    Moore v. Harper

    In this election law case, the Supreme Court may decide whether the North Carolina Supreme Court had the authority to set aside congressional redistricting maps adopted by the Republican-controlled state legislature. The North Carolina Supreme Court reversed its earlier ruling – prompting some challengers to argue that the case should be dismissed – but the case is still pending at the U.S. Supreme Court.

    At least one challenger wants the U.S. Supreme Court to decide the case on the “independent state legislature theory,” which would allow the legislature to draw district boundaries for congressional elections that could not be challenged in court.

    303 Creative LLC v. Elenis

    This case involves a Colorado web designer’s challenge of the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act, which prohibits businesses that serve the general public from discriminating against members of the LGTBQ community.

    In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court decided a similar case, when a bakery in Colorado refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. The U.S. Supreme Court majority ruled in favor of the baker based on a “sincerely held religious belief.”

    In this case, the owner of 303 Creative LLC argues that the Colorado anti-discrimination law violates her free speech rights under the First Amendment. The owner, Lori Smith, lost at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.

    Smith v. United States

    Timothy Smith, an avid fisherman, software engineer, and resident of Alabama, hacked into a Florida company’s website to obtain the location of artificial fishing reefs. The company, Strikelines, sells these coordinates.

    He was convicted in the Northern District of Florida, where the company is located, on charges of computer fraud and theft of trade secrets. Smith had moved to dismiss all counts for lack of venue. The company’s servers were in the Middle District of Florida, and he hacked them from his computer in the Southern District of Alabama.

    The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ultimately ruled that venue was improper. The U.S. Supreme Court may decide whether improper venue means Smith must acquitted with re-prosecution barred, or if the government can re-try him in the proper venue.

    Arizona v. Navajo Nation

    This case is about the Navajo Nation’s water rights to the Colorado River, as the Western region continues to experience extreme drought.

    The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit Court ruled that Navajo Nation’s complaint “properly stated a breach of trust claim premised on the Nation’s treaties” with the U.S., and the federally reserved Winters rights.

    “The Nation’s complaint … asks the court to compel the Secretary of the Interior to determine the amount of water needed to fulfill the purposes of the Navajo Nation reservation beyond what is already appropriated under the Law of the River,” wrote Matthew L.M. Fletcher at SCOTUS Blog.

    Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians v. Coughlin

    This is a bankruptcy case which examines whether the Bankruptcy Code abrogates tribal sovereign immunity. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit noted that there is a circuit split on the issue.

    Brian Coughlin took out a $1,100 loan from a payday lender owned by the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians. Coughlin later filed for bankruptcy, which placed a stay on the Tribe’s collection efforts.

    The tribe did not stop collection efforts, and after Coughlin attempted suicide, he moved to enforce the stay and sought damages. The Tribe moved to dismiss the proceeding, asserting tribal sovereign immunity. The Bankruptcy Court agreed with the Tribe and dismissed Coughlin’s motion. The First Circuit Court of Appeals reversed.

    Mallory v. Norfolk Southern Railway Co.

    This case stems from a challenge to a Pennsylvania law that allows any company doing business in Pennsylvania to be sued in the state, regardless of where the business is headquartered. In other words, the law gives Pennsylvania courts personal jurisdiction over foreign corporations. A resident of Virginia filed an action against a Virginia corporation in Pennsylvania for alleged injuries that occurred in Virginia and Ohio.

    The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the Pennsylvania law“violates due process to the extent that it allows for general jurisdiction over foreign corporations, absent affiliations within the state that are so continuous and systematic as to render the foreign corporation essentially at home in Pennsylvania.”

    U.S. v. Texas

    This immigration case is a challenge to immigration enforcement policy declared by the Department of Homeland Security, under the Biden Administration. Texas and Louisiana sued, arguing the procedures conflict with mandates under federal law.

    According to Amy Howe at SCOTUS Blog, the policy “prioritizes certain groups of unauthorized immigrants for arrest and deportation.” The Court may also decide whether Texas and Louisiana have standing to sue the federal government in this case.

    “After nearly two-and-a-half hours of debate, it was difficult to predict precisely how the justices will resolve the case, which could have significant implications not only for the executive branch’s ability to set immigration policy but also for states’ ability to sue the federal government when they disagree with its actions,” Howe wrote.

    Jack Daniels Properties v. VIP Products

    In this trademark dispute, Jack Daniels Properties sued to block a toy manufacturer from parodying Jack Daniels’ trademarked brand with a dog toy in the shape of a whiskey bottle that says “Bad Spaniels.” The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court, which held that the dog toy was not subject to trademark restriction because of an exception to the Lanham Act for “expressive work.”

    U.S. Supreme Court Considering Petition to Hear Wisconsin OWI Case

    The U.S. Supreme Court may decide soon on whether to take an OWI case on appeal from the Wisconsin Supreme Court. In 2017, Jeffrey Moeser refused to comply with a blood draw after a preliminary beath test indicated his was driving under the influence.

    The officer sought and obtained search warrant to get the blood test. Moeser later argued that the warrant failed to satisfy the oath or affirmation requirements of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the Wisconsin Constitution.

    He argued the officer never took an “oath” and it was not “affirmed.” He simply signed the affidavit, a lieutenant notarized it without being sworn to, and a judicial officer approved it.

    A five-justice majority upheld the warrant. But two justices said it was a close call, and one justice, Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, dissented. She noted that the affidavit said the officer was “first duly sworn on oath,” but he wasn’t.

    The oath and affirmation requirement, she argued, requires “that an oath or affirmation actually take place, whether in writing or orally, and that it is done before a judicial officer in some fashion.” Moeser filed a petition for a writ of certiorari last month.

    The petition was distributed for the U.S. Supreme Court’s conference on June 8, 2023. The court decides whether or not to take cases at its weekly conferences.

    U.S. Supreme Court Cases Not Decided Yet

    • Allen v. Milligan, No. 21-1086
    • Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina, No. 21-707
    • Students for Fair Admissions Inc. v. President & Fellows of Harvard College, No. 20-1199
    • Jones v. Hendrix, No. 21-857
    • Mallory v. Norfolk Southern Railway Co., No. 21-1168
    • Health and Hospital Corporation of Marion County, Indiana v. Talevski, No. 21-806
    • Haaland v. Brackeen, No. 21-376
    • U.S. v. Texas, No. 22-58
    • 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, No. 21-476
    • U.S., ex rel. Polansky v. Executive Health Resources, No. 21-1052
    • Moore v. Harper, No. 21-1271
    • Biden v. Nebraska, No. 22-506
    • ​ Department of Education v. Brown, No. 22-535
    • Arizona v. Navajo Nation, No. 21-1484
    • Coinbase v. Bielski, No. 22-105 [Arg: 03.21.2023
    • Abitron Austria GmbH v. Hetronic Int'l, No. 21-1043
    • Jack Daniel’s Properties v. VIP Products LLC, No. 22-148
    • U.S. v. Hansen, No. 22-179
    • Lora v. U.S., No. 22-49
    • Smith v. U.S., No. 21-1576
    • Pugin v. Garland, No. 22-23
    • Groff v. DeJoy, No. 22-174
    • Counterman v. Colorado, No. 22-138
    • Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians v. Coughlin, No. 22-227
    • Yegiazaryan v. Smagin, No. 22-381

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