The US Supreme Court [official website] heard oral arguments [day call, PDF] Monday in two cases. In NLRB v. Noel Canning [transcript, PDF; JURIST report] the court will decide: (1) whether the president's recess-appointment power may be exercised during a recess that occurs within a session of the Senate or is instead limited to recesses that occur between enumerated sessions of the Senate; and (2) whether the president's recess-appointment power may be exercised to fill vacancies that exist during a recess or is instead limited to vacancies that first arose during that recess. The court also requested the parties argue a third question: whether the president's recess-appointment power may be exercised when the Senate is convening every three days in pro forma sessions. The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] ruled [JURIST report] last January that the recess appointment of three members of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) [official website] by President Barack Obama was unconstitutional, and the government appealed [JURIST report]. The case has generated some controversy over the powers [JURIST op-eds] of the president and the courts.
In Law v. Seigel [transcript, PDF] the court will consider whether a bankruptcy trustee may surcharge a debtor's constitutionally protected homestead property. Stephen Law filed for and was granted Chapter 7 bankruptcy [US Courts backgrounder] but had defrauded the bankruptcy court during the proceedings. The court granted Law's bankruptcy trustee, Alan Seigel, a request to revoke exempting Law's protected assets from consideration in payment of the administrative expenses. Law argues that § 522 [text] of the Bankruptcy Code shows a congressional intent to exempt certain assets from bankruptcy collection, regardless of whether the debtor has acted in bad faith. Siegel contends that bankruptcy courts may revoke such exemptions to prevent abuses of the judicial process. The bankruptcy court permitted the surcharge, which was then affirmed by the Bankruptcy Appellate Panel of the Ninth Circuit [official website], and ultimately also affirmed [opinion] by the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website].