The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Monday agreed to hear [order list, PDF] an appeal of an order to reduce the California prison population [JURIST news archive]. The court postponed consideration of the question of jurisdiction in Schwarzenegger v. Plata [docket; jurisdictional statement, PDF] to hear the case on its merits. In August, a special panel of federal judges ordered [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] California to reduce its prison population by about 46,000 inmates, finding that the prisons are overcrowded. The panel approved [order, PDF; JURIST report] a revised prison reduction plan [text, PDF] in January, but action on the plan has been delayed, pending the government's Supreme Court appeal. The California government argues that the panel of judges lacked authority to issue the order.
Also Monday, the court granted certiorari in three other cases. In CSX Transportation, Inc. v. Alabama Department of Revenue [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the court will decide whether a state's exemption of railroad competitors, but not railroads, from a generally applicable sales and use tax is subject to challenge as "another tax that discriminates against a rail carrier" under section 306(1)(d) of the Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act of 1976, 49 USC § 11501(b)(4) [text]. The US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled [opinion, PDF] that the sales and use tax on diesel fuel does not unlawfully discriminate against railroad companies.
In Cullen v. Pinholster [docket], the court will decide whether to reinstate the death penalty against defendant Scott Pinholster. Pinholster was convicted of the 1984 killing of two men during a burglary in Los Angeles. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit overturned Pinholster's death sentence, finding that his lawyer failed to disclose evidence of mental illness to the jury.
In Matrixx Initiatives, Inc. v. Siracusano [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the court will decide whether a plaintiff can state a claim under § 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act and SEC Rule 10b-5 [texts] based on a pharmaceutical company's nondisclosure of adverse event reports even though the reports are not alleged to be statistically significant. The plaintiffs allege that Matrixx Initiatives [corporate website] committed securities fraud by failing to disclose "adverse event" reports during a drug trial. The US Courts of Appeals for the First, Second and Third Circuits have held that drug companies have no duty to disclose adverse event reports until the reports provide statistically significant evidence that the adverse events may be caused by, and are not simply randomly associated with, a drug's use. The Ninth Circuit, however, rejected a statistical significance standard [opinion, PDF] and allowed the case to proceed.