[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] heard oral arguments [day call, PDF] in two cases Tuesday. In Department of Homeland Security v. MacLean [transcript, PDF; JURIST report] the court heard arguments on whether the code of Prohibited Personnel Practices [5 USC § 2302(b)(8)(A)] can bar an agency from taking action against an employee who intentionally divulges sensitive security information. The Aviation and Transportation Security Act (ATSA) [Cornell LII backgrounder], which created the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) [official website], was passed in response to the attacks of September 11, 2001 [JURIST backgrounder]. The ATSA declared that certain security activities, which could be harmful if released to the public, were to be protected from public disclosure. The issue in question occurred when a former federal air marshal revealed TSA plans to the media in an effort to create a controversy that would change the agency’s practices. The air marshal now claims that his subsequent removal was in violation of Prohibited Personnel Practices. This statutory code states that personnel action cannot be taken against an employee for disclosing certain types of information. The statutory protections do not apply, however, where an employee makes a disclosure that is specifically prohibited by law. The Supreme Court is to determine whether the air marshal’s intentional disclosure of TSA plans was specifically prohibited by law, which would render 5 USC § 2302(b)(8)(A) inapplicable.
In Jesinoski v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc. [transcript, PDF; JURIST report] the court heard arguments to determine the requirements of the Truth in Lending Act [15 USC § 1635]. The Jesinoskis refinanced their house with Countrywide Home Loans in 2007, but Countrywide failed to furnish the Jesinoskis with all the information and disclosures required by the Act. The Jesinoskis attempted to rescind their loan transaction under 15 USC § 1635(a), sparking the case at hand. The federal courts of appeals are split on whether “a borrower [may] exercise his right to rescind a transaction in satisfaction of the requirements of Section 1635 by ‘notifying the creditor’ in writing within three years of the consummation of the transaction,” or “must a borrower file a lawsuit within three years of the consummation of the transaction.”