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Supreme Court hears cigarette labeling, union fees, arbitration cases

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] heard oral arguments Monday in three cases, including Altria Group v. Good [merit briefs], 07-562, in which the Court will consider whether the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act [text] bars state lawsuits based on allegedly deceptive cigarette advertising. A federal judge originally dismissed a suit brought by three Maine smokers who accused Philip Morris of presenting light cigarettes as less harmful than they really are, but the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit reinstated the case [opinion text]. Appearing on behalf of Altria during Monday's oral arguments [transcript], former Solicitor General Theodore Olson [official profile] noted that the state law claims "track nearly verbatim the Cigarette Labeling Act's pre-emption provision." Arguing for the respondents, attorney David Frederick said that Congress had "no intention whatsoever to immunize cigarette makers for the false statements that they made in violation of anti-deception-in-the-marketplace rules." Several members of the Court seemed skeptical of the respondents' argument. Justice Samuel Alito suggested that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) [official website], which is supporting the respondents, had "passively approved" of the use of the allegedly misleading claims in advertisements. AP has more. SCOTUSblog has additional coverage.

Also argued [transcript] on Monday was another First Circuit case, Locke, et al., v. Karass [merits briefs], 07-610, raising the issue of whether a state may constitutionally require nonunion public employees to pay agency fees to a union acting as an exclusive bargaining unit when part of that money pays for litigation conducted by the union's national affiliate. Joining two other circuits, the First Circuit ruled [opinion text] such a requirement did not violate the First Amendment or the Fourteenth Amendment if the expenses "were substantively related to the bargaining process."

Finally, the Court heard arguments [transcript] in Vaden v. Discover Bank [merits briefs], 07-773, presenting the question of whether federal courts have jurisdiction to hear lawsuits brought under the Federal Arbitration Act [text] to compel arbitration when the claim does not raise a federal question but the underlying dispute to be arbitrated involves federal law. Finding that a federal question existed, the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit held [opinion, PDF] that the district court properly compelled arbitration.

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