Order List

June 24, 2009 Supreme Court Update

Greetings, Court fans!
As I indicated in Part I of the Update, the Court has recently added a number of cases to its docket for the 2009 Term (bringing its total to 40; 38 if you don't include consolidated cases). Here they are:
The consolidated cases of Shell Oil Products v. Mac's Shell Service (08-372) and Mac's Shell Service v. Shell Oil Products (08-240), ask the Court to determine whether the Petroleum Marketing Practices Act ("PMPA"), 15 U.S.C. §§ 2801-2806, which regulates the circumstances under which an oil refiner or distributer can "terminate" a service station franchise, covers claims for "constructive termination."
Graham County Soil v. United States (08-304), presents a single question for review: "Whether an audit and investigation performed by a State or its political subdivision constitutes an ‘administrative . . . report . . . audit, or investigation' within the meaning of the public disclosure jurisdictional bar of the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. § 3730 (e)(4)(A)."
Florida v. Powell (08-1175), where the Court will determine whether a suspect must be expressly advised of the right to counsel during custodial interrogation even if he has been given prior Miranda warnings "advising of both (A) the right to talk to a lawyer ‘before questioning' and (B) the ‘right to use' the right to consult a lawyer ‘at any time' during questioning."
Stop the Beach Renourishment v. Florida Dep't of Environmental Protection (08-1151), presents three questions for review (which are too lengthy to set out in full here), but which all address the constitution protections, if any, for "littoral rights." (I admit, I had to look this one up. "Littoral rights" apparently refer to rights concerning properties abutting an ocean, sea or lake and are concerned with the use and enjoyment of the shore.) Plaintiff contends that Florida's legislature improperly eliminated constitutional littoral rights and replaced them with statutory rights in violation of the due process clause of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, and allowed "an executive agency to modify a private landowner's property boundary without judicial hearing or the payment of just compensation" in violation of those same Amendments.
Stolt-Nielsen S.A. v. AnimalFeeds International (08-1198), addresses a key issue under the FAA: "Whether imposing class arbitration on the parties whose arbitration clauses are silent on that issue is consistent with the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. § § 1 et. seq."
United States v. Comstock (08-1224), asks "Whether Congress had the constitutional authority to enact 18 U.S.C. § 4248, which authorizes court-ordered civil commitment by the federal government of (1) ‘sexually dangerous' persons who are already in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons, but who are coming to the end of their federal prison sentences, and (2) ‘sexually dangerous' persons who are in the custody of the Attorney General because they have been found mentally incompetent to stand trial."
Bilski v. Doll (08-964), presents an issue critical to all patent lawyers (and inventors): Whether a "process" must be tied to a particular machine or apparatus, or transform a particular article into a different state or thing (the "machine-or-transformation" test), as the Federal Circuit held, to be eligible for patenting under 35 U.S.C. § 101.
United Student Aid Funds v. Espinosa (08-1134), will consider the circumstances under which an individual filing for bankruptcy under Chapter 13 may discharge student loans, which are statutorily non-dischargeable unless repayment would cause the debtor an "undue hardship." Specifically, the Court will consider whether a Chapter 13 debtor can declare discharge of his student loans in his Chapter 13 plan without proving "undue hardship" in an adversary proceeding, and whether mailing a "declaration of discharge" to a creditor's post office box is sufficient procedure to satisfy the demands of due process so as to entitle the resulting bankruptcy court orders confirming the debtor's plan to respect under principles of res judicata.
The Court also asked the SG to weigh in with its views on another scintillating bankruptcy case, Hamilton, Trustee, v. Lanning (08-998), in which the Court would address how the 2005 Amendments to the Bankruptcy Code affect the method for calculating "projected disposable income" of an above-median income Chapter 13 debtor in deciding how much that Chapter 13 debtor should pay unsecured creditors, when the debtor's repayment plan is being fashioned.
I'll be back in your inbox soon with summaries of more opinions.
From the Appellate Practice Group at Wiggin and Dana
For more information, contact Kim Rinehart or any other member of the Practice Group at 203-498-4400