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Supreme Court hears arguments on legislative prayer, class actions

The US Supreme Court [official website] heard oral arguments [day call, PDF] Wednesday in two cases. In Town of Greece v. Galloway [transcript, PDF; JURIST report] the court heard arguments on whether legislative prayer violates the First Amendment [text], specifically the Establishment Clause. On appeal from the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website], the matter is a conflict between the unconstitutionality of state-endorsed religious practices and government involvement in censorship and the approval or disapproval of prayers. In the Second Circuit decision [opinion], Circuit Judge Calabresi opined, "A legislative prayer practice that, however well-intentioned, conveys to a reasonable objective observer under the totality of the circumstances an official affiliation with a particular religion violates the clear command of the Establishment Clause." In oral arguments, Justice Anthony Kennedy, believed to be the swing vote in the case, questioned [USA Today report] whether such a decision would result in the untoward consequence of governments now editing the content of legislative prayer, a centuries-old tradition practiced at many government meeting. The Obama administration, represented by Solicitor General Donald Verrilli at oral arguments, defended the town of Greece and their use of prayer at town meetings, advocating for the legitimacy and constitutionality of the long-established practice.

In Mississippi ex rel. Hood v. AU Optronics Corp. [transcript, PDF; JURIST report] the court heard arguments over whether a state's parens patriae action is removable as a "mass action" under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA) [text, PDF] when the state is the sole plaintiff, the claims arise under state law, and the state attorney general possesses statutory and common-law authority to assert all claims in the complaint. Appellants, manufacturers and distributors of liquid crystal display (LCD) panels, jointly removed this case to federal district court on the grounds that the action was a "class action" or a "mass action" under the CAFA. The state of Mississippi then moved to remand the case to state court, and the district court granted the motion. The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit held [opinion] that the suit qualifies as a mass action under the CAFA, finding removal to be proper and reversing the district court's remand order.

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