The U.S. Supreme Court handed down four rulings on Tuesday and made news by accepting a new appeal which they will hear in the fall. The new case, Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, will decide a challenge to Ohio’s voter roll purging process. Husted is Ohio’s Secretary of State, and the case is about Ohio’s removal of voters who haven’t voted in six years or who fail to respond to notices of possible removal.
Court watchers speculate that the addition of this case to the next term means that conservatives on the court would like to see the practice held to be legal. Parties appeal cases to the Supreme Court, and then the Justices vote on whether to take them. Under the current rules the Supreme Court has set for itself, four Justices need to vote to hear the appeal before adding it to the docket. Ohio lost in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, and so the thinking is that if the Justices were pleased with the lower court ruling, they would have let it stand.
On with the new decisions:
Impression Products, Inc. v. Lexmark International, Inc. The Court ruled seven to one for Impression Products with Justice Ginsburg filing an opinion concurring in part, and dissenting in part, in a pre-Gorsuch ruling. Lexmark wants to sell printer ink cartridges at the highest prices possible. Impression Products found that they could buy Lexmark cartridges cheaply abroad, then resell them here to undercut Lexmark and still turn a profit. Lexmark sued to stop them, but this ruling doesn’t allow Lexmark to use the Patent Act to prevent Impression Products from selling legally obtained Lexmark cartridges. These post-sale patent restrictions are anti-free-trade, and the ruling benefits the consumer. Lexmark cannot choose to keep Americans on a high-priced island while selling cheap to the rest of the world.
Esquivel-Quintana v. Sessions This was a unanimous decision by the Court on a case that stemmed from the federal government’s attempt to deport an illegal alien after the state convicted him of illegally having consensual sex with his then 16-year-old girlfriend. Justice Thomas wrote the decision, and Justice Gorsuch did not participate. As SCOTUSblog describes:
As described by Thomas, the question before the court was “whether a conviction under a state statute criminalizing consensual sexual intercourse between a 21-year-old and a 17-year-old qualifies as sexual abuse of a minor under the INA.” The court’s answer was brief and straightforward: “We hold that it does not.”
BNSF Railway Co. v. Tyrrell The Federal Employers’ Liability Act is a federal law that allows railroad workers to sue their employers for injuries that occur on the job. The Court ruled seven to one that the law does not permit employees to sue the Delaware-based company with operations in Texas in Montana, as neither employee lived in Montana or was injured there. Justice Ginsburg wrote the decision, with Sotomayor concurring in part and dissenting in part. This case, along with last week’s TC Heartland LLC v. Kraft Foods Group Brands LLC, has seen the Court correct some much-abused excesses, whereby plaintiffs go to a forum most detrimental to their opponents and beneficial to themselves. Liberty Nation will have more detailed analysis of these opinions in the near future.
County of Los Angeles v. Mendez In a unanimous opinion in which Gorsuch did not participate, Justice Alito wrote for the Court vacating the lower court decision. Here the Court ruled on whether a police officer acts illegally if he uses force after he first “intentionally or recklessly provokes a violent confrontation.” This rule was made up by the Ninth Circuit to protect victims of police crimes, and the Supreme Court struck it down claiming that the Fourth Amendment does not provide for such a “provocation rule.” More’s the pity – in the battle between the state and the individual, it would be nice to see the Court err on the side of protecting citizens against criminal police.
The Supreme Court’s calendar shows June 25 as the last day of the term. All remaining submitted cases should be ruled upon before the Justices break for their three-month summer vacation.