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Preview of selected SCOTUS Arguments – January 2012

January 2, 2012

2. Law, 4. Arrest, 7. Post-Trial

Preview of selected SCOTUS Arguments – January 2012

SCOTUS has 12 cases presently set for oral argument in January 2012.  I’ve grabbed four I thought may be of interest to you.

The first case pits the strong arm of the federal government against us little guys in Sackett v. EPA (10-1062).  It’ll be argued on January 9, 2012.  Check this out:

Chantell and Michael Sackett own a small lot in a built-out residential subdivision that they graded to build a home. Thereafter, the Sacketts received an Administrative Compliance Order from the Environmental Protection Agency claiming that they filled a jurisdictional wetland without a federal permit in violation of the Clean Water Act. At great cost, and under threat of civil fines of tens of thousands of dollars per day, as well as possible criminal penalties, the Sacketts were ordered to remove all fill, replace any lost vegetation, and monitor the fenced-off site for three years.

The Sacketts were provided no evidentiary hearing or opportunity to contest the order. And, the lower courts have refused to address the Sacketts’ claim that the lot is not subject to federal jurisdiction. Do Petitioners have a right to judicial review of an Administrative Compliance Order issued without hearing or any proof of violation under Section 309(a)(3) of the Clean Water Act?

That oughta frost you, eh?  Read more narrative here, and catch supporting documents here.

The second case of interest  puts a union in the hot seat.  Knox v. Service Employees International Union, Local 1000 (10-1121).  It’s set for oral argument on January 10, 2012.  At issue is the legal extortion of money from non-union members that is then used for the union’s political purposes.

Here’s the summary:

California nonunion state employees sued their collective bargaining agent, alleging that the imposition of an additional agency fee assessment used to fund political actions without notice or an opportunity to object violated their First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the nonunion employees. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit reversed. The nonunion employees now appeal. The Supreme Court will determine what disclosures unions must provide when imposing additional agency fees on nonmembers, and the extent to which unions can use nonmembers’ wages to fund expenditures without first obtaining consent.

Read more narrative here, and catch supporting documents here.

The next case will be argued the same day:  FCC v. Fox Television Stations (10-1293).  At issue is trying to reign in the Federal Communications Commission, which seems to have forgotten that the 1st Amendment reads “Congress shall make no law…  abridging the freedom of speech” and that we have these things called “remote controls” to select what we and our families watch on television.  Thank you, kind sir, but, no, I don’t need you to babysit my children.

Here’s the summary:

In 2002 and 2003, the Federal Communications Commission reprimanded Fox Television for fleeting profanities that appeared during Fox’s broadcast of the Billboard Music Awards. In 2003, the FCC also censured ABC, Inc. for a scripted television scene featuring brief nudity. Fox appealed, and the Second Circuit vacated the FCC’s decision, ruling that the FCC’s indecency policy was arbitrary and capricious. After the Supreme Court reversed the holding and remanded the case for reconsideration, the Second Circuit again rejected the FCC’s policy, this time for impermissible vagueness. The Second Circuit also opined that the FCC’s policy raised significant First Amendment concerns. Following another round of appeals, the case now returns to the Supreme Court, which must determine the scope of the FCC’s authority to regulate passing instances of nudity and expletive use. This decision may affect the content that broadcasters will be able to air during daytime and primetime programming.

Read more narrative here, and catch supporting documents here.

The fourth and last case of interest to us is Coleman v. Court of Appeals of Maryland (10-1016).  It’ll be argued on January 11, 2012.  This case may be able to duck the primary (to me) issue because of a broader concern over state immunity.  But the heart of this inquiry is Family & Medical Leave.  Who gets it, just women or both genders? Why are women given it so readily for maternity leave, but men routinely denied when their medical issues arise? We are, after all, trying to equalize everything in society, right?  “Equal Opportunity” should mean “equal for all.”  Just because a person has the immutable characteristics of being white and male doesn’t mean that we can discriminate against him by elevating everyone else, does it?

Here’s the summary:

After respondent Maryland Court of Appeals denied petitioner Daniel Coleman’s request for medical leave and terminated his employment, Coleman filed this suit against the State of Maryland under the self-care provision of the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), which provides that “an eligible employee shall be entitled to a total of 12 workweeks of leave during any 12-month period . . . [b]ecause of a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the functions of the position,” 29 U. S. C. §2612(a)(1) (D). Coleman argues that the Act’s medical leave provisions should be considered as a unified effort against gender discrimination that permits state employees to sue state employers under the self-care provision, and that the purpose of preventing gender discrimination abrogates state immunity. The state responds that the FMLA’s provisions address discrete forms of discrimination that should be examined individually and that the states’ Eleventh Amendment immunity bars lawsuits against a state employer under the self-care provision. By deciding whether a state employee has legal recourse for a violation of the self-care provision, this case will clarify the scope of state exposure to employment lawsuits seeking money damages under the FMLA.

Read more narrative here, and catch supporting documents here.

Cornell University Law School has a free e-mail service that may interest you. You’ll receive SCOTUS opinions typically on the day of issue and previews of oral arguments. Sign up here.  They don’t spam except for a couple of times each year asking for donations.

Another site that may interest you is SCOTUS Blog dot com.  Their feed is in the sidebar to your right.  For mobile readers, you can catch their feed here.  Both sites – Cornell and SB – do a great job of fully briefing you before and after SCOTUS acts.

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About Clyde

Clyde is the lead attorney in the firm. Licensed to practice in 1993, he's also taught Constitutional and Criminal Law for several years at a private university, primarily at the Master's level.

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