[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] heard oral arguments on Tuesday in two cases. In Henderson v. United States [SCOTUSblog backgrounder; transcript, PDF], the court must decide the property interest in a collection of firearms relinquished to law enforcement by a former border patrol agent after the commission of a felony offense. The case turns on a conflict [SCOTUSblog op-ed] between a federal criminal statute and a procedural rule. The petitioner in the case, Tony Henderson, was arrested for a felony offense in 2006 and turned over his collection of firearms to federal agents as a condition of his release. The collection of guns includes a number of valuable items and antique guns. Under applicable federal criminal law, 18 USC § 922(g)(1) [text], it is unlawful for convicted felons to possess firearms. But, under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 41(g) [text] the government usually must return a defendant’s lawful property. Beginning in 2008, Henderson has asked the courts to transfer ownership in his weapons to his wife or a third party that has agreed to pay for them, on the basis that he would not be “in possession of a firearm” under the language of 922(g)(1). The government argues possession extends to actual possess and constructive possession [Cornell LLI backgrounder].
In Tibble v. Edison International [SCOTUSblog backgrounder; transcript, PDF], the court heard arguments on whether the fiduciaries of an Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) [DOL backgrounder] plan have a continuing duty of prudence [SCOTUSblog op-ed], an ongoing duty to monitor an ERISA portfolio; or whether the fiduciary duty is measured at a specific point in time, i.e. when an investment election is made. The fiduciaries in this case offered higher-cost retail class mutual funds to plan participants, even though identical lower-cost institution class funds were available. The only material difference in the two plans were lower fees with the institutional funds. Plan participants from Edison International selected the retail mutual funds as plan elections more than six years ago, which is beyond the reach of ERISA’s statute of limitations 29 USC § 1113(1) [text], but both sides of the dispute are in agreement an action of this type is not barred by the statute. Thus, the Court has narrowed its focus to whether the ongoing duty of prudence requires the fiduciary to conduct a periodic full review of the assets in the portfolio, or whether a cursory review is suitable until triggered by a substantive change in the plan or character of an asset.