The US Supreme Court [official website] granted certiorari [order list, PDF] in five cases Friday, including a controversial dispute over a Virginia transgender student’s right to use the restroom of his choice. In Gloucester County School Board v. G.G. [docket; cert. petition, PDF] the court will rule on a Virginia school board’s policy preventing a transgender who student who identifies as male from using the boys’ restroom. The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled in favor of the student [JURIST report], Gavin Grimm, last April, giving deference to a 2015 Department of Education [official website] memo stating that schools must treat transgender students consistently with their gender identities under the doctrine of Auer v. Robbins (1997) [opinion]. The questions before the Supreme Court are:
- If Auer is retained, should deference extend to an unpublished agency letter that, among other things, does not carry the force of law and was adopted in the context of the very dispute in which deference is sought?
- With or without deference to the agency, should the Department’s specific interpretation of Title IX [Ed backgrounder] and 34 CFR § 106.33 [text] be given effect?
The Supreme Court had granted the school board’s application to stay the Fourth Circuit ruling [JURIST report] in August.
Also Friday the court agreed to rule in Packingham v. North Carolina [docket; cert. petition, PDF] on a challenge to a North Carolina law prohibiting sex offenders from accessing social media. North Carolina General Statute § 14-202.5 [text] makes it a crime for a registered sex offender to access websites such as Facebook and YouTube. The question before the court is, “Whether, under this Court’s First Amendment precedents, such a law is permissible, both on its face and as applied to petitioner—who was convicted based on a Facebook ‘post’ in which he celebrated dismissal of a traffic ticket, declaring ‘God is Good!'”
In Dean v. United States [docket; cert. petition, PDF] the court will rule in a drug robbery case. The grant was limited to question 2:
Whether Pepper v. United States (2011) [JURIST report] overruled United States v. Hatcher (2007) [opinion] and related opinions from the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals to the extent those opinions limit the district court’s discretion to consider the mandatory consecutive sentence or sentences under 18 USC § 924(c) [text] in determining the appropriate sentence for the felony serving as the basis for the 18 USC § 924(c) convictions.
In Kindred Nursing Centers Limited Partnership v. Clark [docket; cert. petition, PDF] the court will rule on the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) [text]. The court must decide, “Whether the FAA preempts a state-law contract rule that singles out arbitration by requiring a power of attorney to expressly refer to arbitration agreements before the attorney-in-fact can bind her principal to an arbitration agreement.”
Finally, in Esquivel-Quintana v. Lynch [docket; cert. petition, PDF] the court will decide whether a conviction under a state statute criminalizing sexual contact between a 21-year-old and 17-year-old “constitutes the ‘aggravated felony’ of ‘sexual abuse of a minor’ under 8 USC § 1101(a)(43)(A) [text] of the Immigration and Nationality Act [USCIS backgrounder]—and therefore constitutes grounds for mandatory removal.” Such sexual content is only illegal in seven states.