Supreme Court adds 13 cases to 2015 docket
Supreme Court adds 13 cases to 2015 docket

The US Supreme Court [official website] on Thursday granted certiorari [order list, PDF] in 13 cases, following its annual long conference Monday. In Bank Markazi v. Peterson [docket; cert. petition, PDF] the court will rule on a separation of powers issue involving terrorism victims’ rights to funds held by the Central Bank of Iran. Plaintiffs hold default judgments against Iran and sought to seize more than $2 billion in bonds held by the Central Bank of Iran. While the case was pending, Congress enacted § 502 of the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012 [22 USC § 8772], which applies only to this case and essentially orders the federal court to require the surrender of assets. The question before the court is “[w]hether § 8772—a statute that effectively directs a particular result in a single pending case—violates the separation of powers.

In Sturgeon v. Masica [docket] the court will decide [SCOTUSblog report] “[w]hether Section 103(c) of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980 [text, PDF] prohibits the National Park Service from exercising regulatory control over State, Native Corporation, and private Alaska land physically located within the boundaries of the National Park System.” The case involves a ban on using hovercraft to hunt moose.

In Heffernan v. Paterson, N.J. [docket; cert. petition, PDF] the court will consider “[w]hether the First Amendment [text] bars the government from demoting a public employee based on a supervisor’s perception that the employee supports a political candidate.”

In Utah v. Strieff [docket] the court must decide a Fourth Amendment [text] question: if police learn of an outstanding arrest warrant during a stop that turns out to have been illegal, can they use evidence obtained as a result of the search incident to arrest?

In Americold Logistics v. Conagra Foods [docket; cert. petition, PDF] the court will decide how to determine the citizenship of a trust for purposes of diversity jurisdiction [Cornell LII backgrounder].

In Nebraska v. Parker [docket; cert. petition, PDF] the court will determine whether the town of Pender, Nebraska, is outside Indian property and thus not subject to a tribal tax on liquor sales. According to the petition for certiorari:

In Solem v. Bartlett [opinion], the Court articulated a three-part analysis designed to evaluate whether a surplus land act may have resulted in a diminishment of a federal Indian reservation. The Court found that the “statutory language used to open the Indian lands,” “events surrounding the passage of a surplus land Act,” and “events that occurred after the passage of a surplus land Act” are all relevant to determining whether diminishment has occurred. The questions presented by the petition are:

  1. Whether ambiguous evidence concerning the first two Solem factors necessarily forecloses any possibility that diminishment could be found on a de facto basis.
  2. Whether the original boundaries of the Omaha Indian Reservation were diminished following passage of the Act of August 7, 1882.

MHN Government Services v. Zaborowski [docket; cert. petition, PDF] is an arbitration case. The Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) [text] provides that an arbitration agreement shall be enforced “save upon such grounds as exist at law or in equity for the revocation of any contract.” California law applies one rule of contract severability to contracts in general, and a separate rule of contract severability to agreements to arbitrate. According to petitioners, “[t]he arbitration-only rule disfavors arbitration and applies even when the agreement contains an express severability clause. Its application in this case conflicts with binding precedent of this Court and with opinions of four other courts of appeals.” The question presented is “whether California’s arbitration-only severability rule is preempted by the FAA.”

In Duncan v. Owens [docket; cert. petition, PDF] the court will rule on whether a judge can make findings regarding a criminal defendant’s motive based on evidence not produced at trial.

In Taylor v. United States [docket] the court will determine whether the Hobbs Act [DOJ backgrounder] requires the government to prove that robbery of a drug dealer does actually affect interstate commerce.

In Molina-Martinez v. United States [docket] the court will decide what effect a federal appeals should court give to a district court’s ruling applying the wrong Sentencing Guideline range to a convicted individual.

In Puerto Rico v. Valle [docket; cert. petition, PDF] the court must determine “[w]hether the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the Federal Government are separate sovereigns for purposes of the Double Jeopardy Clause [Cornell LII backgrounder] of the United States Constitution.”

In RJR Nabisco v. European Community [docket; cert. petition, PDF] the court will rule on “[w]hether, or to what extent, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) [text] applies extraterritorially.”

Finally, in Williams v. Pennsylvania [docket; cert. petition] the court will determine whether an individual’s rights are violated when a judge joins in a ruling in a capital case when he has previously been accused of bias in his role as a prosecutor.