US Supreme Court will consider liability shields for online platforms, seven additional new cases
MarkThomas / Pixabay
US Supreme Court will consider liability shields for online platforms, seven additional new cases

The US Supreme Court Monday granted certiorari in nine new cases, including two cases on liability shields for online platforms.

In Gonzalez v. Google, the court is asked to consider the scope of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which broadly shields online platforms from liability for content posted by the platforms’ users. Reynaldo Gonzalez sued Google, alleging that the platform recommended ISIS videos on YouTube to its users through various algorithms. Gonzalez brought suit after his daughter was killed in an ISIS attack in November 2015. The court must consider whether Google is responsible for the recommendations or if Section 230 shields Google from liability. The case presents an opportunity for Justice Clarence Thomas to renew his previous concerns over the broad scope of Section 230.

Related to Gonzalez is the case of Twitter v. Taamneh, which also asks the court to determine whether Twitter can be held liable under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) for hosting ISIS videos when Section 230 provides a broad liability shield to online platforms. Gonzalez and Taamneh both originate with a case from the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which held that online platforms could be held liable. In this case, the family of a Jordanian individual killed in an ISIS attack in Istanbul brought suit against Twitter. The family alleged Twitter aided and abetted international terrorism by hosting ISIS videos.

In Perez v. Sturgis Public Schools, Miguel Perez claims that his schooling experience was negatively impacted by the school district’s failure to provide him with a qualified sign language interpreter. Perez filed suit to obtain damages under an Americans with Disability Act (ADA) violation and an IDEA violation. The school district settled with Perez on the IDEA violation, but argued that IDEA prevented Perez from bringing the ADA violation claim in federal court before follow IDEA-prescribed administrative procedures. The court is asked to determine whether a plaintiff must follow all of the administrative procedures in IDEA before bringing a non-IDEA claim.

In re Grand Jury is a case involving grand jury subpoenas and attorney-client privilege. The court is asked to consider whether an unnamed law firm specializing in international tax was allowed to withhold documents in a grand jury proceeding on the basis of attorney-client privilege. At the heart of the contest privilege the nature of the communications between the unnamed law firm and their client, in which the law firm provided legal advice and prepared tax returns (non-legal advice) for the client. The question for the court is whether attorney-client privilege extends to communications involving both legal and non-legal advice when obtaining legal advice was the primary purpose of the communication.

In Santos-Zacaria v. Garland the court is again asked to examine administrative procedure, this time in the context of an immigration proceeding. Leon Santos-Zacaria is an immigrant who was removed from the US but later reentered the country. When the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) initiated proceedings to remove Santos-Zacaria a second time, Santos-Zacaria filed for a withholding of removal, but was denied by an immigration judge. That holding was later upheld by the Board of Immigration Appeals, an administrative body. Santos-Zacaria argues that the Board of Immigration Appeals based their decision on a different set of facts from the original immigration judge and sought review by a federal court of appeals–outside of the administrative proceedings. The question is whether Santos-Zacaria is barred from seeking such review under 8 U.S.C. 1252(d)(1) which holds that immigrants must first exhaust all administrative remedies before turning to a federal court for review.

In Glacier Northwest v. Int’l Brotherhood of Teamsters the court is asked to determine whether the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) preempts a state tort claim against the Teamsters for intentionally destroying an employer’s property during the course of a strike against the employer. In August 2017, the Teamsters called for a strike of cement truck drivers employed by Glacier Northwest to demand a new collective bargaining agreement to replace the one which had expired in the month prior. During the strike, some cement was left in a truck, which was later disposed by Glacier. Glacier brought a tort claim against the Teamsters for the loss of concrete. A lower Washington state court found that the strike was protected by the NLRA, which would mean the issue is properly heard before the National Labor Relations Board. The Teamsters are asking that the court affirm this lower court ruling, while Glacier seeks to enforce state tort law.

The court will decide whether the US can proceed with criminal charges against a Turkish bank owned and controlled by the Turkish government in Turkiye Halk Bankasi A.S. v. United States. The US seeks to enforce a series of bank fraud charges against Turkiye Halk Bankasi under 18 U.S.C. § 3231, which provides original jurisdiction for the US in all offenses against US law. The US alleges that the bank conspired to evade US economic sanctions on Iran by laundering Iranian oil and natural gas proceeds. A US grand jury indicted Turkiye Halk Bankasi, but the bank claimed it was immune from prosecution under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.

Financial Oversight Board v. Centro de Periodismo Investigativo (CPI) revolves around a document request from CPI, a Puerto Rican nonprofit investigative journalism organization. CPI requested access to documents from Puerto Rico’s Financial Oversight Board, a body vested with powers to supervise and modify the laws of Puerto Rico as a US territory. The board denied CPI access without providing a reason. CPI then initiated the case by filing suit in US district court, alleging the board violated the Puerto Rican Constitution’s access-to-public-information guarantee. Now, the court must determine whether the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act’s general grant of jurisdiction to US federal courts over the two parties involved supersedes the Financial Oversight Board’s sovereign immunity.

In Ohio Adjutant General’s Department v. Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA), the court is asked to consider whether the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 empowers the FLRA to regulate the labor practices of state militias. Historically, the act has empowered the FLRA to regulate the labor practices of federal agencies. In this case, the Ohio National Guard argues that it is a state entity, and therefore not subject to FLRA control. The conflict arose when the Ohio National Guard failed to recognize an agreement to renew a prior collective bargaining agreement with dual status technicians. The technicians filed unfair labor practice charges with the FLRA, whose authority over the matter is now in question.