SCOTUS picks some low hanging fruit today (Updated)


No major decisions today. The Supreme Court focused on picking some low hanging fruit of easy-to-decide decisions, with only one 5-4 decision that produced an unexpected alignment of justices.

In Azar v. Allina Health Services, Justice Neal Gorsuch writing for the 7-1 majority affirmed the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Justice Stephen Breyer dissented. The case involves the Medicare statute, which guarantees the right to notice and comment before the government can make substantive changes to policies governing Medicare benefits. The court today holds that the policy at issue (which reduced payments to hospitals serving low-income patients) must be vacated because the government had not identified any lawful excuse for neglecting those notice and comment requirements. Note: Justice Kavanaugh did not particiapte in the decision.

In Taggart v. Lorenzen, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote for a unanimous court, vacating and remanding a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision. In this bankruptcy case, the court holds that a court may hold a creditor in civil contempt for violating a discharge order if there is no grounds for doubt as to whether the order barred the creditor’s conduct. I seem to recall this was always the rule, so I’m not exactly sure why this issue was before the court.

In Fort Bend County v. Davis, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for a unanimous court, affirming the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. The court holds that the “charge-filing” requirement of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which requires a complainant to file a charge with the EEOC before going to court, is not jurisdictional; instead, the requirement is a prudential prerequisite to suit. Title VII’s charge-filing requirement is a nonjurisdictional claim-processing rule.

In Mont v. United States, Justice Clarence Thomas writes for the majority in an oddly aligned 5-4 split: Justices Roberts, Ginsburg, Alito and Kavanaugh joined Justice Thomas’ majority opinion; Justice Sotomayor dissented, joined by Justices Breyer, Kagan, and Gorsuch. So you see, the classic “conservatives v. liberals” analysis you are used to seeing in the media is not always the case. In any event, in this criminal case the court holds that pretrial detention which is later credited as time served for a new conviction is “imprisonment in connection with a conviction,” and therefore tolls the supervised-release term under federal law, even if the court must make the tolling calculation after learning whether the time will be credited.

This leaves 27 cases still pending.

H/T SCOTUSblog’s Amy Howe for her analysis.

UPDATE: I guess I should have checked the orders list. Supreme Court rejects Trump request to fast track decision on DACA case:

The Supreme Court on Monday rejected the Trump administration’s request to fast track a decision on whether it will hear a case over the president’s rescission of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

The justices, in an unsigned order, denied the request, which was filed on behalf of the administration last month to expedite a decision on whether to review the case.

Solicitor General Noel Francisco, who represents the administration in cases before the Supreme Court, urged the justices to announce their decision on whether they will hear the case by the end of their term later this month.

But the justices on Monday denied that request, meaning the court could wait until their next term starts in the fall to decide whether they will hear a DACA case. They issued their ruling hours after the court released its orders for the day.

The Supreme Court is weighing several requests to take up cases surrounding the end of DACA. But the justices have acted slowly in determining whether they will take up the legal challenges, allowing lower court rulings blocking the program from ending to stand for the time being.

A pair of appeals courts had ruled against Trump officials who sought to end the Obama-era program.

The justices had also previously declined to take up the administration’s challenge to a district court ruling that temporarily blocked officials from winding down the program.