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SCOTUS News, End of January 2017: Lightfoot v. Cendant

Opinion Released

The Supreme Court released a ruling on Lightfoot v. Cendant Mortgage Group this week. Justice Sotomayor wrote for a unanimous Court. They reversed a lower court decision declaring that cases brought against the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) were only under the jurisdiction of the federal district courts. By statute, Fannie Mae can “sue or be sued” in any state or federal “court of competent jurisdiction”. Previous court precedent has interpreted that other agencies with “sue or be sued” clauses should conduct litigation in federal court. This led to the lower courts deciding that Fannie Mae must go to federal court. However, in Fannie Mae’s charter, the phrase “court of competent jurisdiction” indicates any court with jurisdiction in the matters relevant to the case. This makes state courts, the Justices state, capable of jurisdiction, hence the reversal in Lightfoot.

That wily {Marshall}+ algorithm had a closer bead on this case. In the final analysis, though, it seems both the Algorithm and the FantasySCOTUS Crowd were a bit more uncertain about the ultimate outcome when compared to other case predictions this session.

Certiorari Denied

A high-profile case against Backpage.com was reviewed in a recent conference. Backpage was accused of allowing third parties to facilitate illicit sex trafficking on its online platform. Certiorari was ultimately denied in this case. SCOTUS left intact the decision of the lower courts that cited free speech grounds. We do not ordinarily comment on cases not granted certiorari. But what is interesting about this case is that, though ultimately denied, the Justices granted a great many amicus curiae briefs. This could be a sign that the case may get greater attention once SCOTUS has 9 Justices again.

Certiorari Granted

A slew of cases were recently granted certiorari. Here’s a quick list:

Sandoz v. Amgen and Amgen v. Sandoz will tackle patent issues related to products like vaccines, viruses, and other so-called “biologics”.

National Association of Manufacturers v. Department of Defense will attempt to settle which courts have jurisdiction over United States waters, and what powers those courts have. In this case, states and local authorities think they should have more freedom to make decisions about their own public areas. The federal government and the EPA disagree.

California Public Employees’ Retirement System v. ANZ Securities, Inc. concerns the timing of class action suits under the Securities Act.

National Labor Relations Board v. Murphy Oil USA, Ernst & Young LLP v. Morris, and Epic Systems v. Lewis are now consolidated into one hour of argument. The cases concern employer-employee dispute arbitration, and whether these cases should be decided as class actions or as individual arbitrations under the Federal Arbitration Act.

– In Weaver v. Massachusetts, the Court will decide whether a defendant who receives inadequate representation must also prove that they were prejudiced by this inadequacy.

Maslenjak v. United States concerns a naturalized citizen stripped of citizenship in a criminal proceeding.

– Another case dealing with debt collectors, Henson v. Santander Consumer USA concerns a company that attempts to collect debts after default. The Court will determine if that company qualifies as a “debt collector”. If so, that company is subject to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

Perry v. Merit Systems Protection Board is another jurisdiction case like Lightfoot. This time, the Supreme Court will decide on a “mixed” ruling. A “mixed” ruling is when a case has elements that could be tried in state courts, and others that could be tried in federal courts. Jurisdiction for Perry could go to either the federal district court or the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

BNSF Railway Co. v. Tyrrell deal with the extent of the due process clause. A suit in one state (Montana) concerns defendants who broke the law in other states.

– In Kokesh v. SEC the Court will determine whether a five-year statute of limitations applies in a disgorgement case.

Town of Chester v. Laroe Estates seeks to settle a circuit court disagreement on the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure.

– In McWilliams v. Dunn, an indigent defendant had the assistance of a psychiatrist. This case will determine whether that psychiatrist must be independent of the prosecution.

Davila v. Davis will decide if a rule concerning ineffective trial counsel in habeas corpus cases also applies to similarly ineffective counsel in appeals court.

District of Columbia et al. v. Wesby looks at another qualified immunity case. This time, police arrested partiers they suspected of unlawful entry into a home. The officers had no probable cause, and the arrestees claimed they were innocent. The dispute stems partially from the lack of a clearly established law about the circumstances of this situation.

Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court of California et al. is similar to the BNSF case above. Plaintiffs sought damages from Bristol-Meyers over prescription drug Plavix. The company tried to dismiss the complaints of plaintiffs who did not reside in California. The Supreme Court will determine whether the circumstances of the case allow for a widening of jurisdiction.

With the ruling in Lightfoot, as well as granting of cert to NAM v. DoD and the Perry and Bristol-Meyers cases, the Supreme Court continues its trend of taking cases where federal and state jurisdictions clash.

Keep up to date with FantasySCOTUS here. Follow @LexPredict and @MarshallPlus on twitter. The Supreme Court takes today off for the inauguration. We’ll see you back here soon.