Supreme Court hears arguments in overtime pay, Sixth Amendment cases
Supreme Court hears arguments in overtime pay, Sixth Amendment cases

The US Supreme Court [official website] heard oral arguments in two cases on Wednesday: one concerning overtime-pay, and another concerning constitutional protections to criminal defendants.

The first case, Encino Motorcars v. Navarro [docket], asks the court two questions. First, whether the overtime-pay requirement under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) [text, PDF] applies to “service advisors” at a car dealership. The FLSA exempts from the requirement, “any salesman, partsman, or mechanic primarily engaged in selling or servicing automobiles.” Second, whether the court should defer to the Department of Labor’s (DOL) expertise in finding that service advisors are afforded overtime protection. The second question consumed the majority of the argument time.

The petitioner-dealership argues [transcript, PDF] that the employees perform services and are exempt from overtime protection. Furthermore, the court should not defer to the DOL because the DOL’s determination is inconsistent with previous findings that service persons are exempt from overtime.

The respondents argue that they should receive overtime-pay because they neither sell nor service cars. Rather, they advise customers about the services they should buy. Further, they argue that the court should rely on the DOL’s determination because FLSA interpretation is better left to the experts.

The second case, McCoy v. Louisiana [docket], is a capital case, which asks the court whether it is constitutional for defense counsel to concede an accused’s guilt over the accused’s express objection. The case arose [SCOTUSblog report] after McCoy’s defense attorney pleaded guilty, despite McCoy’s express objection, because he believed it was his ethical duty to save his client’s life and conceding guilt would do so. The attorney’s strategy failed, however, and McCoy was sentenced to death.

McCoy argues [transcript, PDF] that he has a constitutional right to make certain decisions in his defense, and pleading guilty or not guilt is one of those. Louisiana agrees that a defendant has the right to make some basic decisions, but that conceding guilt to a jury is not one of them.

During the argument, Justice Kagan reframed the issue, stating:

[T]his lawyer was in a terrible position because this lawyer wants to defeat the death penalty. And he has a client who says: That’s not my goal here. But the question is when that happens, does the lawyer have to step back and say: You know what? That’s not his goal. His goal is to avoid admitting that he killed his family members.

The court’s opinion will likely depend on its interpretation of the Sixth Amendment.