SCOTUS News, April 14th, 2017

It is official. Judge Gorsuch is the newest Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. He begins his tenure next Monday. Here is a look at next week’s cases, over which he will preside with his new colleagues.

Arguments Monday

– In Perry v. Merit Systems Protection Board, several different legal issues combine into a “mixed” case. SCOTUS must decide whether a federal district court, or a federal appeals court, has jurisdiction in this case.

– In Town of Chester v. Laroe Estates, Laroe intervened in a lawsuit despite having questionable legal standing. Laroe Estates did not own the land when Chester sought a regulatory taking of the property from Steve Sherman. Sherman and Laroe entered into their agreement while the land was under foreclosure. The Circuit Courts disagree on the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure, and whether Laroe has standing to intervene. SCOTUS now intervenes.

California Public Employees’ Retirement System v. ANZ Securities concerns the timing of class action suits under the Securities Act. There are two questions. The first question is whether the class action filing satisfies the statute of repose in the Securities Act. The second question is whether an individual can file a claim for the same causes as the class action, despite the expiration of the statute of repose.

Arguments Tuesday

– In Kokesh v. SEC, SCOTUS will determine whether a five-year statute of limitations applies in a disgorgement case. In the relevant law, the statute of limitations applies to enforcement of any “civil fine, penalty, or forfeiture”. Disgorgement is not specifically mentioned, but its definition is closely related to these others. The question in this case is whether the statute of limitations covers disgorgement as a similar penalty.

Henson v. Santander Consumer USA concerns a company that attempted to collect debts from defaulters. Santander bought debts that had defaulted. But because they buy these debts after default, they are not considered a “debt collection agency”. The Court will determine if this distinction has merits. If Santander qualifies as a “debt collector”, then it is subject to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

Arguments Wednesday

– A big case for the media, Trinity Lutheran Church v. Pauley is another religious freedom case. The question concerns whether churches can receive grants from secular aid programs if the funds are used for purely secular matters. In this case, the church wanted to use such public funds to improve a playground on their property. The playground is a neighborhood fixture and not used for any overtly religious purpose. Circuit Courts disagree on whether this is acceptable under current precedents. This is a highly contentious case, and was granted certiorari over a year ago. The absence of a ninth Justice was one reason why SCOTUS did not schedule this case for argument until this year. The bench is now at full strength. With an overwhelming number of amicus briefs filed, and a full complement of Justices, the stage is finally set.

– In Weaver v. Massachusetts, a defendant claimed inadequate representation. Under previous precedent, petitioner also has to prove that they were prejudiced by this inadequacy. This case concerns the so-called “harmless error” analysis, whereby constitutional errors are dismissed if they are deemed harmless. Lower courts disagree on whether petitioner must show that counsel’s ineffectiveness prejudiced him, or whether the prejudice is presumed. Like Lee v. US – argued a few weeks back – this case turns on a test for ineffective counsel established decades ago in Strickland v. Washington.


Gorsuch is confirmed. The Justices have argued a handful of cases still under review at this time. Once these opinions are all released, the Supreme Court will officially be back at full strength. That means that now is a great time to sign up for FantasySCOTUS. And make sure to follow @LexPredict and @MarshallPlus on twitter.