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Supreme Court rules in sentencing, securities, First Amendment cases

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court handed down decisions in three cases Thursday, including Rita v. United States [Duke Law case backgrounder; JURIST report], where the Court held that a prison sentence falling within the federal sentencing guidelines may be presumed to be a reasonable sentence on appeal, but the presumption of reasonableness is not binding. Victor Rita was convicted of obstructing justice and making false statements in a federal grand jury investigation. Rita's lawyer argued that because of Rita's poor health he should be sentenced to less jailtime than the 33 to 41 months recommended by the sentencing guidelines. The trial judge refused to take Victor's individual health into account and imposed a 33-month sentence. The decision was later upheld [opinion, PDF] by the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, and the Supreme Court affirmed the Fourth Circuit Thursday. Read the Court's opinion [text] per Justice Breyer, along with a concurrence [text] from Justice Stevens, a second concurrence [text] from Justice Scalia, and a dissent [text] from Justice Souter.

In Tellabbs v. Makor Issues & Rights [Duke Law case backgrounder; JURIST report], the Court held that plaintiffs bringing a lawsuit under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 [PDF text] must show an "inference of scienter" that is "more than merely plausible or reasonable - it must be cogent and at least as compelling as any opposing inference of nonfraudulent intent" in order to meet the law's specific pleading requirements. The ruling comes in a case where shareholders brought a lawsuit against Tellabs [corporate website], alleging that the company intentionally deceived the public about its financial future, ultimately costing its shareholders millions of dollars. The PSLRA requires [15 USC 78u-4(b)(2) text] plaintiffs in their complaint to "state with particularity facts giving rise to a strong inference that the defendant acted with the required state of mind." The Court overturned the Seventh Circuit's decision [PDF text; order modifying opinion, PDF]. Read the Court's opinion [text] per Justice Ginsburg, along with a concurrence [text] from Justice Scalia, a second concurrence [text] from Justice Alito, and a dissent [text] from Justice Stevens.

Finally, the Court held in Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association v. Brentwood Academy [Duke Law case backgrounder; JURIST report] that the TSSAA's attempt to enforce its no-recruiting rule did not violate Brentwood Academy's First Amendment rights. The TSSAA fined the school and suspended it for four years after a Brentwood football coach sent a letter inviting 12 eighth-graders to spring training. The students had already signed agreements to attend the school in the fall. In 2001, the Supreme Court decided the TSSAA was a state actor [decision text] and could be be sued for alleged First Amendment violations. On remand, the Sixth Circuit ruled on the merits in favor of the school [decision text, PDF]. The Supreme Court reversed this decision Thursday, holding that "an athletic league's interest in enforcing its rules sometimes warrant curtailing the speech of its voluntary participants." The Court also determined that the TSSAA held a fair hearing in the case and did not violate Brentwood's due process rights. Read the Court's opinion [text] per Justice Stevens, along with a concurrence [text] from Justice Kennedy and a second concurrence [text] from Justice Thomas.

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