November 27th starts the December sitting of the Supreme Court for oral arguments.  The following is a summary of cases.

Oil States Energy Services vs. Greene’s Energy Group

  • To be argued:                Monday, November 27th
  • Origin of case:               Federal Circuit Court of Appeals
  • Type of case:                  Patent and trademark
  • The case:  Normally patent cases have all the excitement of paint drying.  This one, however, calls into question whether the Patent Office’s method of determining the validity of patent claims is constitutional since it ends private property rights without an Article III judicial forum without a jury.  This could be a very important case in deciding how patent disputes are resolved in the future.

SAS Institute vs. Matal

  • To be argued:                 Monday, November 27th
  • Origin of case:                Federal Circuit Court of Appeals
  • Type of case:                   Patents and trademarks
  • The case:  A less exciting case than the previous patent one.  This is one of statutory interpretation and when the Board issues a final written decision, whether that decision must apply to the entire patent, or only parts of a patent claim.  Yeah… snore.

Cyan, Inc. vs. Beaver County Employees Retirement Fund

  • To be argued:                  Tuesday, November 28th
  • Origin of case:                 California Court of Appeals
  • Type of case:                    Class action jurisdiction
  • The case: This case asks whether state courts lack jurisdiction over covered class action lawsuits that involve the Securities Act of 1933.  As has been happening recently, when the federal courts or agency refuses to act for a financial crime, states often step in and prosecute or allow people to use state courts to sue alleged offenders.  This case will decide whether in class action lawsuits specifically brought under the Securities Act of 1933 state courts can hear such cases.

Digital Realty Trust vs. Somers

  • To be argued:                  Tuesday, November 28th
  • Origin of case:                 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
  • Type of case:                    Statutory interpretation
  • The case:  A somewhat important case that asks the Court to define “whistleblower” under Dodd-Frank.  That law prohibits retaliation against anyone who reports misconduct of a financial nature within a business covered by the law.  Usually, those complaints are made with the SEC.  But, what if the complaint is legitimate and not reported to the SEC, but someone else?  Is the whistleblower also covered under Dodd-Frank in those instances?

Carpenter vs. United States

  • To be argued:                  Wednesday, November 29th
  • Origin of case:                 6th Circuit Court of Appeals
  • Type of case:                    Fourth Amendment- Search and seizure
  • The case:  The 4th Amendment meets the digital age!  In the course of an armed robbery investigation, the FBI sought and received from cell phone providers information on the location and duration of cell phone calls and text messages of a suspect.  Those records revealed his presence near four armed robberies.  These records were provided to the FBI without a warrant, and upon request the records extended over a period of 127 days.  The question is whether this is permissible under the Fourth Amendment.  To this writer, it seems clear-cut that it would be a violation.  Why not just get a warrant if you have probable cause to suspect someone?  However, what this may come down to is whether those records are the “effects” of the defendant, or whether they belong to the provider who can do what they want with them.

Christie vs. NCAA

  • To be argued:                   Monday, December 4th
  • Origin of case:                  3rd Circuit Court of Appeals
  • Type of case:                     Commerce clause
  • This case was previously discussed in another previous entry.

Rubin vs. Islamic Republic of Iran

  • To be argued:                   Monday, December 4th
  • Origin of case:                  7th Circuit Court of Appeals
  • Type of case:                     Foreign relations
  • The case:  An ongoing controversy over compensation for victims of terrorist actions.  Generally, foreign governments, but not individual actors, are immune from lawsuit.  When cases are won, this asks whether that immunity or exceptions from that immunity extend to creditors.

Masterpiece Cakeshop vs. Colorado Civil Rights Commission

  • To be argued:                   Tuesday, December 5th
  • Origin of case:                  Colorado Court of Appeals
  • Type of case:                     First Amendment- Religious Exercise Clause
  • The case:  The infamous gay wedding cake case.  This will be one of the most watched cases this year.  This writer previously detailed this case.

Marinello vs. United States

  • To be argued:                   Tuesday, December 5th
  • Origin of case:                  2nd Circuit Court of Appeals
  • Type of case:                     Statutory interpretation/ Tax law
  • The case:  This is one of statutory interpretation.  Marinello was apparently charged with tax evasion.  The question is one of intent and whether knowledge of an impending IRS action is required to trigger prosecution under the tax laws.

Murphy vs. Smith

  • To be argued:                   Wednesday, December 6th
  • Origin of case:                  7th Circuit Court of Appeals
  • Type of case:                     Statutory interpretation
  • The case:  In prison litigation cases where a prisoner prevails, the law provides that attorney fees be paid from the judgment, but they are qualified by a parenthetical phrase “Not to exceed 25%.”  Several circuits take it literally and automatically award the attorneys 25%.  Other circuits see the phrase as discretionary and setting a cap at 25%.  Why this is even before the Court, other than to settle a circuit split, is beyond me.