SCOTUS: Decisions

I’m a Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) nerd. I’m not going to cite myself as any sort of expert. I’m like a ham radio aficionado who likes SETI. I get the theory of what it’s supposed to be about, but I do not have the depth to really grasp everything. With that disclaimer, there are a few cases that the Supreme Court heard last fall (Oct) and I look forward to seeing their decisions on:

Barton v. Barr

This is an interesting bit of immigration law. If a permanent resident gets called before immigration court for possible deportation, there is an option for them to put in for “cancellation of removal.” The person has to have lived in the US continuously for seven years (and a few other provisions). This is an interesting bit because it is addressing deportation vs. exclusion for admission. In Barton’s case, the wording being addressed deals with: 

“a lawfully admitted permanent resident’s period of continuous presence ends when he receives a notice to appear or commits one of the offenses described, whichever comes first.” pg. 8

This is called the “stop-time rule.”

Barton arrived in the US on a visitor visa May 27, 1989 and became a lawful permanent resident in June 1992.  In January of 1996 (he would become “7 continuous years residency” in May!) he was arrested (at 18 years old) for aggravated assault, criminal damage to property, and first-degree possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. At least some of these would have made him fit into the exclusion category.  In 2007 and again in 2008 he was arrested for drug possession and in 2008 was served with a “notice to appear” (potential deportation proceedings). The government is arguing that the “stop-time rule” applies from the 1996 charges when Barton was 18. Barton is arguing it applies to the 2007 charges.  BECAUSE – the 1996 charges would NOT have been eligible for deportation and since he was already a legal permanent resident he wasn’t seeking entry – so they can’t apply the exclusion (you can’t come in!) rules on the stop-time rule in his case. I don’t know, but from reading the brief there seems to be an assumption that deportation is a higher bar for the government than exclusion (they can exclude people on flimsier reasons than they can kick them out).

The lower courts have been split on this in several cases. Some of the lower courts have sided with the immigrant/petitioner, some have sided with the government saying that the “stop-time” applies on exclusionary grounds.

Allen v. Cooper

This case sums it up beautifully in it’s writ of certiorari “Absent this Court’s review, hard, careful work by the Legislature will be thwarted and creators of original expression will be left without remedy when States trample their federal copyrights.”

In 1996, frederick Allen and his company Nautilus Productions, LLC were hired by a private research company to document the salvage of the ship Queen Anne’s Revenge, the flagship of the dread pirate Blackbeard. Allen registered all the video and photography with the US Copyright office. In October 2013, the State of North Carolina copied and publicly displayed (posted them online) Allen’s works without permission. Allen sued and got paid $15,000 and the state agreed not to “infringe” on the works again. The state lied. Not only did they throw that shit back up online and in print, they passed a law “Blackbeard’s Law” converting the works into “public record” to be freely used by the state. Allen sued again.

North Carolina is claiming “sovereign immunity” to say Allen can’t sue them for this. Now, there is a federal copyright law Allen is claiming the state has to follow which specifically addresses the Eleventh Amendment (states’ sovereign immunity) and federal copyright law.  The writ links directly to the Copyright Liability of States and the Eleventh Amendment. A Report of the Register of Copyrights. 

This is a State’s Rights case. It’s also a copyright case. Both I find fascinating

County of Maui, Hawaii v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund

The question in this case is whether a permit is required for pollutants that originate from a point source but travel through groundwater before reaching a navigable water. The textual crux of the case is the word “from”: Does “from” mean that a pollutant must be directly delivered to a navigable water by a point source or that a pollutant must merely originate at a point source?

This is about social responsibility of corporations (in my opinion). If a company is dumping into a river, clearly they are responsible for the pollution they are adding to the environment. But what about a company putting pollutants into wells which then leak into the ground water? Is that covered by the Clean Water Act (requiring a permit from CWA) or EPA or just local governments?

I’m not as excited about this one, but I am curious how the justices vote on it. It’s a take on which local, state, or federal group has jurisdiction and how it should be applied.