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SCOTUS adds Maryland redistricting, tribal immunity, five other cases to docket

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] on Friday granted certiorari [orders list, PDF] in seven cases. In Benisek v. Lamone [docket], the Supreme Court agreed to hear a challenge to Maryland's 2011 electoral map. The petitioners allege [SCOTUSblog materials] that their district was re-drawn to favor Democrats as retaliation against them for their support of Republican candidates. A three-judge panel of the US District Court for Maryland [official website] had previously refused [opinion, PDF] the voters' preliminary injunction request, and the voters appealed to the Supreme Court. The voters assert that the District Court erred in requiring them to show that the gerrymandered district will dictate the outcome of every election, that it applied burden shifting improperly, and that the record allows a finding that the purportedly retaliatory redistricting was the cause of Democratic victories in the district in the last three congressional elections. The parties had originally filed pleadings arguing whether the Supreme Court currently had jurisdiction to hear the appeal. On Friday, the Supreme Court postponed consideration of the jurisdictional question until the case was heard on the merits.

In Upper Skagit Indian Tribe v. Lundgren [docket], the Supreme Court is asked to decide [SCOTUSblog materials] whether a court may exercise jurisdiction over property owned by a tribal government despite a generally applicable sovereign immunity to suit. Here, the Upper Skagit Indian Tribe and the Lundgrens owned adjacent properties. A Washington state trial court denied the tribe's motion to dismiss a quiet title action filed by the Lundgrens based upon an application of tribal sovereign immunity. The Supreme Court of Washington [official website] upheld the denial [opinion, PDF] in a 5-4 decision, finding that the Lundgren's acquisition of the property by adverse possession "decades before the Tribe acquired record title in 2013" would have been uncovered in a pre-purchase title search, and thus that the tribe had "wielded sovereign immunity as a sword in disguise."

Both Hughes v. United States and Koons v. United States [dockets] ask the Court to decide whether retroactive adjustments to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines [official materials] can be applied to defendants who were sentenced under earlier versions of the Guidelines. The Hughes case asks whether such a retroactive reduction applies to defendant who enters into a plea deal with prosecutors, as has been previously approved of by a 4-1-4 plurality in Freeman v. United States [opinion]. The defendants in Koons seek to ascertain the applicability of Freeman to defendants who provide "substantial assistance" to prosecutors in other cases.


In China Agritech, Inc., v. Resh [docket], the Court must determine [SCOTUSblog materials] whether a series of cases beginning with 1974's American Pipe & Construction Co. v. Utah [opinion] justified the tolling of the statute of limitations in a class action suit. Resh is seeking to keep a class action suit against China Agritech alive, despite filing his suit after the applicable statute of limitations, based on the American Pipe court's determination that the filing of a defective class action suit stops the clock. Here, two prior defective suits of which Resh was not a member were filed within the statute of limitations period. The Ninth Circuit allowed the suit to continue [opinion, PDF] despite the expiration of the limitations period based on the reasoning in American Pipe.

United States v. Sanchez-Gomez [docket] asks whether the Ninth Circuit erred in ruling that it could hear a challenge [opinion, PDF] to the use of pre-trial physical restraints prior to a final order being issued. The government asserts that this challenge was interlocutory and beyond the appeal court's scope of review while the trial below was pending. The case also challenges the Ninth Circuit's decision to hear the interlocutory challenge despite what the government says is the defendant's acknowledgement that the challenge was moot.

In Sveen v. Melin [docket], the Court is asked to determine [SCOTUSblog materials] whether a2002 Minnesota law automatically revoking [Minn. Stat. § 524.4-804 text] the designation of a former spouse as beneficiary of an insurance policy, retirement plan or other instrument when a couple divorces violates the Contracts Clause [text] of the federal Constitution.

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