Order List

November 12, 2002 Supreme Court Update

Hi everyone and welcome to another edition of Supreme Court updates!
No opinions today, but three new "grants" for the docket (a big day for the Solicitor General's office), and some business from last week.
First, and most significantly, in United States v. American Library Assn. (02-361), the Court noted probable jurisdiction to review the validity of a provision of the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA). (CIPA provides for direct appeal to the Supreme Court for decisions holding portions of the Act unconstitutional.) The section at issue requires libraries that want to receive federal funding for Internet operations to install software filters that prevent access to web content that is "obscene," "child pornography," or "harmful to minors." A three-judge panel found the provision unconstitutional because it induced libraries to violate patrons' First Amendment rights as a condition of receiving federal financing for Internet access. The Question Presented: Does the Children's Internet Protection Act induce public libraries to violate the First Amendment, thereby exceeding Congress's power under spending clause?"
In addition to this appeal, the Court granted cert in 2 cases. In National Park Hospitality Assn. v. Department of the Interior (02-196), the Court will review the D.C. Circuit's conclusion that contracts for concessions at national parks are not procurement contracts and thus not subject to the 1978 Contract Disputes Act. And in Department of the Treasury v. Chicago (02-322), the Court will decide whether FOIA allows the City of Chicago access to certain ATF records on gun sales and transactions. ATF provided some of the requested information but withheld most of the helpful data -- not an unusual response to a FOIA request. According to ATF, the information it withheld qualified for exemption from disclosure under FOIA because it was information compiled for law enforcement purposes and its disclosure would (1) interfere with law enforcement purposes, and (2) constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy. The Seventh Circuit disagreed, and now the Supreme Court will decide.
In other news today, the Court asked the Solicitor General to file a brief expressing "the views of the United States" in American Cyanamid v. Geye (02-637). That case concerns the preemptive scope of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, so it is not at all unusual that the Court asked the SG to provide the federal government's perspective on the topic.
Finally, in an action that is slightly unusual, the Court entered an order staying an execution last week. On November 5, the Court denied James Colburn's first stay application and cert petition, but then just minutes before his scheduled execution on November 6, Colburn filed a new application to stay his execution. The Court granted this second application, thereby staying his execution pending the timely filing of a new cert petition. This is unusual because the standards for granting a stay are difficult to meet in the context of habeas petitions where Congress has severely restricted federal court review of state court judgments. Perhaps in recognition of this fact, on Friday, the Court issued an order directing Colburn to file his cert petition by December 9.
That's all for today. As always, I welcome any comments, questions, corrections or suggestions. Stay tuned for a new format for future updates!
From the Appellate Practice Group at Wiggin & Dana.
For more information, contact Jeff Babbin or Sandy Glover
at 203-498-4400, or visit our website at www.wiggin.com.