Constitution Daily

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Seven Supreme Court cases to watch this week

November 4, 2013 by NCC Staff


The nation’s highest court will be hearing seven cases this week, and two have received a lot of attention. Here’s a quick guide to the cases in front of the nine Supreme Court Justices in the next three days.


350px-Supreme_Court_US_2010The case with the most publicity is Town of Greece v. Galloway, which involves public prayer and the First Amendment’s Establishment cause.


The court will hear arguments on Wednesday in Town of Greece. The issue is about a legislative prayer practice in upper New York State and whether it violates the Establishment Clause prohibition of a state endorsement of religion.


Constitution Daily contributor Lyle Denniston has a detailed preview of the case over at SCOTUSblog.


You can also read arguments about the broader implications of the case on Constitution Daily, from Marci Hamilton from the Cardozo School of Law and Greg Randall Lee of Widener Law.


Town of Greece v. Galloway involves the legality of saying a prayer before the start of public township board meeting. In 2008, two Greece, New York, residents sued over the town’s practice of having a prayer delivered before board meetings, in a community heavily dominated by Christian churches. The residents who sued say the board’s policy about the prayers was tantamount to the endorsement of a religion.


They believed the practice violated the First Amendment because of the types of prayers offered. A U.S. district court said the prayers didn’t violate the First Amendment. But the 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in May 2012 overturned the lower court decision.


The other case that has generated a lot of interest will be heard on Tuesday and it is about international treaties and the 10th amendment: Bond v. the United States.


The big picture issue in the Bond case is the possible fate of a landmark 1920 Supreme Court decision: Missouri v. Holland. The Holland decision gave Congress the power to pass laws to carry out the U.S. government’s obligations under international treaties.


How the Bond case got to the Court is a saga in itself. Carol Anne Bond of Lansdale, Pennsylvania, according to court documents, discovered that her best friend was pregnant and Bond’s husband was the father of the child.


Bond was arrested after she was obtained a toxic chemical where she worked, and she was caught under Postal Office surveillance smearing it on her former friend’s mailbox.


Bond was charged by the feds under the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act of 1998, which is linked to an international treaty. Bond’s lawyers argued the decision violated the 10th amendment and Bond should have faced local charges in the state of Pennsylvania.


The Bond case first appeared before the Supreme Court in 2011, when the Court agreed with Bond’s defense that she could contest the lower court’s decision as an individual under the 10th Amendment.


However, when the case was returned to a lower court, Bond lost and the judges cited the Holland decision as a factor. On appeal, the case is now in front of the Supreme Court for a second time.


The case is significant because it could lead to a redefinition of the powers of federalism and a possible rethinking of the Holland decision. Also, in front of the Justices will be two legal heavyweights: Paul Clement and Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr.


Here are the other cases in front of the Court this week:


Walden v. Fiore (Monday). The issue in the case is whether two professional gamblers can sue a Georgia police officer working as a Drug Enforcement Administration agent in federal district court in Nevada. The gamblers say their Fourth Amendment rights were violated after authorities took their money without probable cause, at an Atlanta airport inspection, and held the money for more than six months before it was returned to them.


Sandifer v. United States Steel Corporation (Monday). The Supreme Court will interpret a provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act that allows employers and labor unions to negotiate bargaining agreements that exclude paid time for “any time spent in changing clothes or washing at the beginning or end of each workday.”


Sprint Communications Company v. Jacobs (Tuesday). This case will call into examination the case of Younger v. Harris, which requires federal courts to refrain from injunctions against an ongoing state criminal prosecution. The question presented is whether Younger requires the federal district court to stay the a federal lawsuit while a state lawsuit proceeds.


Medtronic, Inc. v. Boston Scientific Corp. (Tuesday). This case involves a dispute over the rights of patent owners for a medical device for restoring faltering heart function. The Court will decide who has the burden of proof when the holder of a patent license is accused of infringing on the owner’s exclusive rights.


Mississippi ex rel. Hood v. AU Optronics Corp. (Wednesday). The Court will consider the Class Action Fairness Act of 2001, which allows defendants to move class action suits filed in state court to federal court. The question is whether an action brought by the state of Mississippi based on alleged injuries caused to a large number of Mississippi residents, can be moved to federal court.


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