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The Upper Skagit Indian Tribe purchased land and commissioned a boundary survey, which convinced the Tribe that about an acre of its land lay on the other side of a boundary fence between its land and land owned by the Lundgrens. The Lundgrens filed a quiet title action in Washington state court, arguing adverse possession and mutual acquiescence. The Washington Supreme Court rejected the Tribe’s sovereign immunity claim, reasoning that tribal sovereign immunity does not apply to in rem suits. The U.S. Supreme Court vacated and remanded. The precedent on which the state court relied (Yakima) addressed not the scope of tribal sovereign immunity, but a question of statutory interpretation of the Indian General Allotment Act of 1887. The Act authorized the President to allot parcels of reservation land to individual tribal members and directed the government to issue fee patents to the allottees. In 1934, Congress reversed course but did not withdraw the lands already conveyed so that Indian reservations sometimes contain both trust land held by the government and fee-patented land held by private parties. The Supreme Court held that the state collection of property taxes on fee-patented land within reservations was allowed under the Act; Yakima resolved nothing about the law of sovereign immunity. View "Upper Skagit Tribe v. Lundgren" on Justia Law

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Despite employment contracts providing for individualized arbitration to resolve employment disputes, employees sought to litigate Fair Labor Standards Act claims through collective actions. The Federal Arbitration Act generally requires courts to enforce arbitration agreements, but the employees argued that its “saving clause” removes that obligation if an arbitration agreement violates some other federal law and that the agreements violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The National Labor Relations Board ruled that the NLRA effectively nullifies the Arbitration Act in such cases. The Supreme Court disagreed. The Arbitration Act requires courts to enforce the arbitration terms the parties select, 9 U.S.C. 2-4. The saving clause allows courts to refuse to enforce arbitration agreements only on grounds that exist for the revocation of any contract, such as fraud, duress, or unconscionability. The NLRA, which guarantees employees “the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively . . . , and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection,” 29 U.S.C. 157, does not mention class or collective actions nor indicate a clear and manifest wish to displace the Arbitration Act. The catchall term “other concerted activities” should be understood to protect the things employees do in exercising their right to free association in the workplace. The Board’s interpretation of the Arbitration Act, which it does not administer, is not entitled to Chevron deference. View "Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis" on Justia Law

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A judge normally may issue a wiretap order permitting the interception of communications only “within the territorial jurisdiction of the court in which the judge is sitting,” 18 U.S.C. 2518(3). A District of Kansas judge authorized nine wiretap orders during the investigation of a suspected drug distribution ring. The government primarily intercepted communications from a Kansas listening post but each order contained a sentence purporting to authorize interception outside of Kansas and the government intercepted additional communications from a listening post in Missouri. Defendants moved to suppress the evidence. The government agreed not to introduce any evidence arising from its Missouri listening post. The court denied the motion. The Tenth Circuit and Supreme Court affirmed. Because the orders were not lacking any information that the statute required them to include and would have been sufficient absent the challenged language authorizing interception outside the court’s territorial jurisdiction, the orders were not "facially insufficient" under 2518(10)(a)(ii). While that subparagraph covers at least an order’s failure to include information required by 2518(4)(a)–(e), not every defect that may appear in an order results in an insufficiency. The sentence authorizing interception outside Kansas is surplus; absent the challenged language, every wiretap that produced evidence introduced at trial was properly authorized. The orders set forth the authorizing judge’s territorial jurisdiction and the statute presumptively limits every order’s scope to the issuing court’s territorial jurisdiction. View "Dahda v. United States" on Justia Law

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A judge normally may issue a wiretap order permitting the interception of communications only “within the territorial jurisdiction of the court in which the judge is sitting,” 18 U.S.C. 2518(3). A District of Kansas judge authorized nine wiretap orders during the investigation of a suspected drug distribution ring. The government primarily intercepted communications from a Kansas listening post but each order contained a sentence purporting to authorize interception outside of Kansas and the government intercepted additional communications from a listening post in Missouri. Defendants moved to suppress the evidence. The government agreed not to introduce any evidence arising from its Missouri listening post. The court denied the motion. The Tenth Circuit and Supreme Court affirmed. Because the orders were not lacking any information that the statute required them to include and would have been sufficient absent the challenged language authorizing interception outside the court’s territorial jurisdiction, the orders were not "facially insufficient" under 2518(10)(a)(ii). While that subparagraph covers at least an order’s failure to include information required by 2518(4)(a)–(e), not every defect that may appear in an order results in an insufficiency. The sentence authorizing interception outside Kansas is surplus; absent the challenged language, every wiretap that produced evidence introduced at trial was properly authorized. The orders set forth the authorizing judge’s territorial jurisdiction and the statute presumptively limits every order’s scope to the issuing court’s territorial jurisdiction. View "Dahda v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Southern District of California adopted a districtwide policy permitting the use of full restraints—handcuffs connected to a waist chain, with legs shackled—on most in-custody defendants produced in court for non-jury proceedings by the U.S. Marshals Service. Before the Ninth Circuit could issue a decision on a challenge to the policy, the underlying criminal cases ended. That court—viewing the case as a “functional class action” seeking “class-like relief,” held that the case was not moot and the policy was unconstitutional. A unanimous Supreme Court vacated, finding the case moot. The federal judiciary may adjudicate only “actual and concrete disputes, the resolutions of which have direct consequences on the parties involved.”. Such a dispute “must be extant at all stages of review, not merely at the time the complaint is filed.” Precedent does not support a freestanding exception to mootness outside the Rule 23 class action context. The Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure establish for criminal cases no vehicle comparable to the civil class action, and the Supreme Court has never permitted criminal defendants to band together to seek prospective relief in their individual cases on behalf of a class. The “exception to the mootness doctrine for a controversy that is capable of repetition, yet evading review” does not apply, based only the possibility that some of the parties again will be prosecuted for violating valid criminal laws. View "United States v. Sanchez-Gomez" on Justia Law

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McCoy, charged with murdering his estranged wife’s family, pleaded not guilty, insisting that he was out of state at the time of the killings and that corrupt police killed the victims. Although he adamantly objected to any admission of guilt, the court permitted his counsel, English, to tell the jury that McCoy “committed [the] three murders” and to argue that McCoy’s mental state prevented him from forming the specific intent necessary for first-degree murder. McCoy testified in his own defense, maintaining his innocence and pressing an alibi. At the penalty phase, English again conceded McCoy’s guilt, urging mercy because of McCoy’s mental issues. The jury returned three death verdicts. The Louisiana Supreme Court affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed. The Sixth Amendment guarantees a defendant the right to choose the objective of his defense and to insist that counsel refrain from admitting guilt, even when counsel’s experienced-based view is that confessing offers the best chance to avoid the death penalty. Some decisions are reserved for the client—including whether to plead guilty, waive a jury trial, testify in one’s own behalf, and forgo an appeal. Rejecting the Louisiana Supreme Court’s conclusion that English’s refusal to maintain McCoy’s innocence was necessitated by a Rule of Professional Conduct that prohibits counsel from suborning perjury, the Court noted that there was no avowed perjury. English harbored no doubt that McCoy believed what he was saying. Ineffective-assistance-of-counsel jurisprudence does not apply where the client’s autonomy, not counsel’s competence, is at issue. The violation of McCoy’s protected autonomy right was structural in kind. McCoy must be accorded a new trial without any need to show prejudice. View "McCoy v. Louisiana" on Justia Law

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The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) makes it unlawful for a state or its subdivisions “to sponsor, operate, advertise, promote, license, or authorize by law or compact . . . a lottery, sweepstakes, or other betting, gambling, or wagering scheme based . . . on” competitive sporting events, 28 U.S.C. 3702(1), and for “a person to sponsor, operate, advertise, or promote” those same gambling schemes if done “pursuant to the law or compact of a governmental entity,” 3702(2), but does not make sports gambling itself a federal crime. PAPSA allows existing forms of sports gambling to continue in four states. PAPSA would have permitted New Jersey to permit sports gambling in Atlantic City within a year of PASPA’s enactment but New Jersey did not do so. Voters later approved a state constitutional amendment, permitting the legislature to legalize sports gambling in Atlantic City and at horse-racing tracks. In 2014, New Jersey enacted a law that repeals state-law provisions that prohibited gambling schemes concerning wagering on sporting events by persons 21 years of age or older; at a horse-racing track or a casino in Atlantic City; and not involving a New Jersey college team or a collegiate event. The Third Circuit held that the law violated PASPA. The Supreme Court reversed. When a state repeals laws banning sports gambling, it “authorize[s]” those schemes under PASPA. PASPA’s provision prohibiting state authorization of sports gambling schemes violates the anti-commandeering rule. Under the Tenth Amendment, legislative power not conferred on Congress by the Constitution is reserved for the states. Congress may not "commandeer" the state legislative process by directly compelling them to enact and enforce a federal regulatory program. PASPA’s anti-authorization provision dictates what a state legislature may and may not do. There is no distinction between compelling a state to enact legislation and prohibiting a state from enacting new laws. Nor does the anti-authorization provision constitute a valid preemption provision because it is not a regulation of private actors. It issues a direct order to the state legislature. View "Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association" on Justia Law

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Reed rented a car in New Jersey while Byrd waited outside. Reed’s signed agreement warned that permitting an unauthorized driver to drive the car would violate the agreement. Reed listed no additional drivers but gave the keys to Byrd. He stored personal belongings in the trunk and then left alone for Pittsburgh. After stopping Byrd for a traffic infraction, Pennsylvania State Troopers learned that the car was rented, that Byrd was not listed as an authorized driver, and that Byrd had prior drug and weapons convictions. Byrd stated he had a marijuana cigarette in the car. The troopers searched the car, discovering body armor and 49 bricks of heroin in the trunk. The Third Circuit affirmed the denial of Byrd’s motion to suppress. The Supreme Court vacated. The mere fact that a driver in lawful possession or control of a rental car is not listed on the rental agreement will not defeat his otherwise reasonable expectation of privacy. Expectations of privacy must have a source outside of the Fourth Amendment, either by reference to concepts of property law or to understandings that are permitted by society. One who owns or lawfully possesses or controls property will likely have a legitimate expectation of privacy by virtue of the right to exclude others. That expectation of privacy should not differ if a car is rented or owned by another. Breach of the rental contract, alone, has no impact on expectations of privacy. A thief would not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in a stolen car and, on remand, the court must consider whether one who intentionally uses a third party to procure a car by a fraudulent scheme in order to commit a crime is like a car thief and whether probable cause justified the search in any event. View "Byrd v. United States" on Justia Law

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SAS sought inter partes review (35 U.S.C. 311(a)) of ComplementSoft’s software patent, alleging that all 16 of the patent’s claims were unpatentable. The Patent Office instituted review on some of the claims and denied review on the rest. The Federal Circuit rejected SAS’s argument that section 318(a) required the Board to decide the patentability of every claim challenged in the petition. The Supreme Court reversed. When the Patent Office institutes an inter partes review, it must decide the patentability of all of the claims the petitioner has challenged. Section 318(a), which states that the Board “shall issue a final written decision with respect to the patentability of any patent claim challenged by the petitioner” is mandatory and comprehensive. The Director’s claimed “partial institution” power (37 CFR 42.108(a)) appears nowhere in the statutory text. The statute envisions an inter partes review guided by the initial petition. While section 314(a) invests the Director with discretion on whether to institute review, it does not invest him with discretion regarding what claims that review will encompass. The Director’s policy argument—that partial institution is efficient because it permits the Board to focus on the most promising challenges and avoid spending time and resources on others—is properly addressed to Congress. View "SAS Institute Inc. v. Iancu" on Justia Law

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Oil States sued Greene's Energy for infringement of a patent relating to technology for protecting wellhead equipment used in hydraulic fracturing. Greene’s challenged the patent’s validity in court and petitioned the Patent Office for inter partes review, 35 U.S.C. 311-319. The district court issued a claim-construction order favoring Oil States; the Board concluded that Oil States’ claims were unpatentable. The Federal Circuit rejected a challenge to the constitutionality of inter partes review. The Supreme Court affirmed. Inter partes review does not violate Article III. Congress may assign adjudication of public rights to entities other than Article III courts. Inter partes review falls within the public-rights doctrine. Patents are “public franchises” and granting patents is a constitutional function that can be carried out by the executive or legislative departments without “judicial determination.’ Inter partes review involves the same basic matter as granting a patent. Patents remain “subject to [the Board’s] authority” to cancel outside of an Article III court. The similarities between the procedures used in inter partes review and judicial procedures does not suggest that inter partes review violates Article III. The Court noted that its decision “should not be misconstrued as suggesting that patents are not property for purposes of the Due Process Clause or the Takings Clause.” When Congress properly assigns a matter to adjudication in a non-Article III tribunal, “the Seventh Amendment poses no independent bar to the adjudication of that action by a nonjury factfinder.” View "Oil States Energy Services, LLC v. Greene's Energy Group, LLC" on Justia Law