Supreme Court takes up 14 more cases for 2020-21 term
MarkThomas / Pixabay
Supreme Court takes up 14 more cases for 2020-21 term

The US Supreme Court granted review in 14 new cases on Friday on issues ranging from the eligibility of temporary protected status immigrants to become lawful permanent residents to the application of the CARES Act to Alaska Native Corporations.

The first two cases are Americans for Prosperity v. Becerra and Thomas More Law Center v. Becerra, which have been consolidated. These cases arise from a First Amendment challenge to a California law that requires charities to disclose their major donors. The Ninth Circuit concluded that the state of California could compel disclosure. The federal government filed a brief with the Supreme Court asking them to overturn that decision.

The next case for review is Greer v. United States. The question before the court is whether an appellate court may look outside of the trial record to determine if a defendant’s substantial rights were violated when reviewing a case under plain error review. Plain error review arises when a defendant’s lawyer fails to preserve an issue on appeal, and the court reviews to see if a legal error at the trial court affected a defendant’s substantial rights or impacted the fairness, integrity or public reputation of the trial.

Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L. raises an important First Amendment question as it pertains to students. Under Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, public schools may regulate student speech that materially and substantially disrupts the work and discipline of the school. The question before the court now is whether that rule extends to off-campus speech.

Sanchez v. Wolf raises a fairly straightforward question: are immigrants who come to the US under temporary protection status eligible for lawful permanent residency?

In San Antonio v., the court will consider the Fifth Circuit’s interpretation of Rule 39(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which defines what appeals costs are taxable in the district court, such as the cost of a reporter’s transcript and the filing fee. The Fifth Circuit, unlike every other court that has ruled on this issue, has concluded that the district court lacks discretion to deny or reduce these costs.

In Guam v. United States, the court will decide if Guam or the US is responsible for cleaning up a hazardous waste site created by the Navy.

In United States v. Palomar-Santiago, the Supreme Court will decide if the charge of unlawful entry into the US should be dismissed when there was an error in the immigrant’s initial removal based on an error in how his or her initial crime was classified.

In Minerva Surgical Inc. v. Hologic Inc., the court will decide if a defendant in a patent infringement case who assigned the patent can assert a claim of invalidity. Generally, the argument that a patent is invalid is an absolute defense to a claim of patent infringement. However, the DC Circuit created an exception called “assignor estoppel,” which prohibits the initial patent holder, who assigned the patent, from later claiming the patent is invalid. The Supreme Court will have to decide whether or not to end that exception.

In United States v. Gary, the court will decide if a district court’s failure to inform a defendant pleading guilty of being a felon in possession of a firearm that one of the elements the government must prove is that the defendant actually knew he or she was a felon.

HollyFrontier Cheyenne Refining, LLC v. Renewable Fuels Association raises issues related to the Renewable Fuel Standard. That standard requires refiners, blenders, and importers of transportation to blend more renewable fuels into their products each year. Congress provided an exemption for small refineries that would face economic hardship from implementing this rule. The dispute before the court is whether, as the Tenth Circuit held, there is an additional requirement that those small refineries received continuous exemptions since 2011. The cert petition claims this would exclude almost all small refineries.

In Mnuchin v. Confederated Tribes and Alaska Native Village Corp. v. Confederated Tribes, which have been consolidated, the Supreme Court will decide whether Alaska Native corporations count as “Indian tribes” under the CARES Act, which provides COVID-19 relief money.

Lastly, the case granted review in Terry v. United States, a case that can provide reduced sentences to thousands of federal inmates. The question before court is whether those sentenced for crack cocaine offenses before the Fair Sentencing Act, which reduced the disparity in sentences for crack versus powder cocaine are eligible for resentencing under the First Step Act.