Overview of Four New SCOTUS Opinions Today
The Supreme Court decided four cases today (three of them unanimous). Unfortunately, we still do not have an opinion from Brown v. EMA and Flores-Villar v. United States, the only remaining cases argued in the November sitting that have not yet been decided. I have a column in the National Law Journal’s Supreme Court Insider that explores the possible hold-up in EMA.
First, in Fox v. Vice, a unanimous opinion from Justice Kagan, held that “When a plaintiff’s suit involves both frivolous and non-frivolousclaims, a court may grant reasonable fees to the defendant, but only for costs that the defendant would not have incurred but for the frivolous claims under 42 USC 1983.” I have an instant analysis of the case here. Justice Kagan’s best line was, “These standards would be easy to apply if life were like the movies, but that is usually not the case.” Also, is it “attorneys’ fees” or “attorney’s fees”? The Supreme Court tends to use the former, but Chief Judge Easterbrook uses the latter.
Second, in McNeill v. United States, a unanimous opinion from Justice Thomas, held “a federal sentencing court must determine whether ‘an offense under State law’ is a ‘serious drug offense’ by consulting the ‘maximum term of imprisonment’ applicable to a defendant’s prior state drug offense at the time of the defendant’s conviction for that offense.” I wrote a brief discussion of how Justice Thomas viewed changing criminal laws, and the permanency of a person’s conviction.
Third, in Eric P. John Fund v. Halliburton, a unanimous opinion from Chief Justice Roberts, held that “Securities fraud plaintiffs need not prove loss causation in order to obtain class certification.
The only non-unanimous opinion was Board of Trustees of Leland Stanford Junior Univ. v. Roche Molecular Systems, Inc., a 7-2 opinion authored by Chief Justice Roberts, with Justice Breyer joined by Justice Ginsbug in dissent. The Court held “the Bayh-Dole Act does not automatically vest title to federallyfunded inventions in federal contractors or authorize contractors to unilaterally take title to such inventions.” Justice Breyer provides an interesting perspective on patent law, citing the views of Thomas Jefferson (who was no fan of intellectual property) and James Madison.
Update: For a contrary view about Jefferson’s understanding of patent policy, see Professor Adam Mossoff’s 2007 Cornell Law Review article, titled Who Cares What Thomas Jefferson Thought About Patents? Reevaluating the Patent ‘Privilege’ in Historical Context.
For what it’s worth, FantasySCOTUS.net went 4/4 on these cases, though it tends to do well on unanimous, or near-unanimous cases.
We should have more opinions on Thursday.