Last week speculation went wild in some corners when Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg did not take the bench for the first time in her 25-year history on the Supreme Court. She’s gone this week, too, but a court spokesperson released a note about her convalescence sure to discourage unfounded rumors. “Her recovery from surgery is on track,” and “[p]ost-surgery evaluation indicates no evidence of remaining disease, and no further treatment is required.”
Justice Ginsburg will no doubt appreciate suspension of any kind of death/retirement watch, as she and the Court get back to business with more cases being heard. This is not a particularly sexy week at the Court, free of abortion, gun control, and other highly divisive topics. Among the six cases are these two interesting ones:
Thacker v. Tennessee Valley Authority decides some intricate questions surrounding the Federal Tort Claims Act, and whether the Eleventh Circuit court of appeals erred in granting a certain exception. The high court will then answer the following, which is necessary in the establishment of liability in the case:
Did the Eleventh Circuit, in any case, correctly apply the discretionary-function test? Did that court correctly hold that safely raising a downed power line from the Tennessee River constitutes the sort of “policy”-laden discretionary work that this exception was designed to immunize from suit?
In 2013, Gary Thacker and Anthony Szozda were boating and fishing on the Tennessee River, while TVA employees, without any warning or notice to boaters, were stringing a water line across the river. When the boat hit the line, Szozda was killed instantly, and Thacker was hit in the head, causing severe spinal injuries. Can Thacker recover damages from the TVA?
As Gregory Sisk writes at SCOTUSblog:
“the Supreme Court will have to choose between two competing lines of precedent. On one side is a series of decisions carefully shielding the United States government itself from tort claims that implicate public policy. Set against those liability-narrowing decisions is a distinct line of Supreme Court cases that treat(s) government corporations and similar entities as having been released into the commercial world and therefore broadly subject to liability in contract and tort.”
In another case at bar, the Court will consider the constitutionality of residency requirements for liquor licenses in Tennessee Wine and Spirits Association v. Blair.
Tennessee law requires anyone who wants a retail license to sell alcohol in Tennessee to have lived in the state for at least two years. A federal appeals court ruled that the law violates the Constitution by discriminating against out-of-state residents. As the petition for certiorari states, “this issue is important. It determines the constitutionality of durational-residency laws in at least twenty-one States.” The circuits currently are split on this issue, so guidance from the Supreme Court is required for consistency of the federal law.
…guidance from the Supreme Court is required for consistency of the federal law.
According to the Tennessee Wine and Spirits Association, the residency requirements have nothing to do with discriminating against those from elsewhere or accruing financial gain to entrenched suppliers. Not at all. The petitioners claim it’s about safety. As in, people who have been residents of Tennessee longer will be better able to determine the true age of someone attempting to buy alcohol and be better able to prevent the under-aged from doing so. Seriously.
The other side disagrees, as Amy Howe summarizes at her Court website:
“[Blair] begins by stressing that Tennessee effectively has a 10-year residency requirement for people who want to own a liquor store in Tennessee: A first-time applicant must have lived in Tennessee for at least two years, but the one-year license ‘cannot be renewed unless the individual has been a Tennessee resident for ten years.’”
Rulings in these and all other cases heard this term are expected to be released by summer.