SCOTUS: Unanimous

So there have been 5 cases to have opinions put out in June 2021 with 9-0 (unanimous) decisions. Considering how much the media expects the court to be always and forever divided by political leaning/affiliations/appointment – what are the issues which the court stands all together on? I find these to be both relieving and enlightening. As of today (I think) these are the unanimous decisions. Some of them are “well, that seems obvious” for the decision.

UNITED STATES v. COOLEY

Issues: A tribal police officer has authority to detain temporarily and to search non-Indian persons traveling on public rights-of-way running through a reservation for potential violations of state or federal law.

Background: Joshua James Cooley was pulled over and the tribal officer (James Saylor) who saw guns and a glass pipe and methamphetamines (all in plain view). Now, Saylor was not a federal or state officer and there was a question if he could stop and hold non-Indian people.

Quotes: “Prior cases denying tribal jurisdiction over the activities of non-Indians on a reservation have rested in part upon the fact that full tribal jurisdiction would require the application of tribal laws to non-Indians who do not belong to the tribe and consequently had no say in creating the laws that would be applied to them. […] Saylor’s search and detention, however, do not subsequently subject Cooley to tribal law, but rather only to state and federal laws that apply whether an individual is outside a reservation or on a state or federal highway within it.”

Thoughts: Makes sense to me. a Tribal officer still can hold someone until state/federal law steps in? Sure. Makes sense. Of course they were all on this one, right?

FULTON ET AL. v. CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA, ET AL.

Issues: The refusal of Philadelphia to contract with CSS for the provision of foster care services unless CSS agrees to certify same-sex couples as foster parents violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.

Background: The Catholic Social Services (CSS) has contracted with the City of Philly for 50+ years to help place kids with foster families. In 2018 a news story came out that CSS refuses to certified same-sex couples (or unmarried couples regardless of sexual orientation). The city attempted to end utilizing CSS. CSS sued that their free speech is impaired.

The big case referenced throughout is Smith, an important religious freedom case where the defendants were fired because they tested positive for drugs. They had used peyote in a Native American religious rite. However, possession of peyote was/is illegal in Oregon (the state). There, “The Court held that the First Amendment’s protection of the “free exercise” of religion does not allow a person to use a religious motivation as a reason not to obey such generally applicable laws.” – In other words, the law wasn’t written to target religious acts and isn’t necessarily a “compelling interest” (ie you can’t sacrifice kids ’cause that’s BAD for society) – so the guys got fired “for cause” despite the religious stuff and Oregon’s legislature can/should/could write a religious-use exception into their law.

There are 110 pages of opinions on this case. I swear every judge wanted to write their own opinion. Roberts wrote the official court opinion. Barrett wrote a separate opinion. Alito wrote a separate opinion. Gorsuch wrote a separate opinion. I only read the official court opinion.

Quotes: “No same-sex couple has ever sought certification from CSS. If one did, CSS would direct the couple to one of the more than 20 other agencies in the City, all of which currently certify same-sex couples. […] The contractual non-discrimination requirement imposes a burden on CSS’s religious exercise and does not qualify as generally applicable. […] Maximizing the number of foster families and minimizing liability are important goals, but the City fails to show that granting CSS an exception will put those goals at risk. If anything, including CSS in the program seems likely to increase, not reduce, the number of available foster parents.

Thoughts: I think the CSS rule is dumb. But, I am not Catholic. If I applied to be a foster parent with a Catholic organization, I kind of would expect to have to follow Catholic rules like being married (much less heterosexual). I don’t HAVE to apply to the Catholic group to be a foster parent – there are other options in the city. At least 20. As long as the foster parents in the CSS are still following the same general rules for foster parents/parenting as everyone else (they apparently are), CSS being able to deny based on their religious convictions? I know this may sound trite, but that sounds relatively reasonable to me and I get the unanimous decision.

NATIONAL COLLEGIATE ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION v. ALSTON ET AL.

Issues: NCAA is a fucking monopoly and screws college athletes.

Background: In the NCAA, student athletes are not allowed to get paid. In. Any. Way. Except their scholarship. And “scholarship” is very tightly defined. Students are not allowed compensation. There is some cause because when the NCAA founded they were combating a rash of paid-players thing and they wanted to be a body of true student athletes…. basically a pendulum swung.

Quotes: “Put simply, this suit involves admitted horizontal price fixing in a market where the defendants exercise monopoly control. […] The NCAA accepts that its members collectively enjoy monopsony power in the market for student-athlete services, such that its restraints can (and in fact do) harm competition. Unlike customers who would look elsewhere when a small van company raises its prices above market levels, the district court found (and the NCAA does not here contest) that student-athletes have nowhere else to sell their labor. […]

Thoughts: Ok, so this ruling was really “we agree with the lower court ruling” over and over. Without going and reading that opinion (ugh), all I can really say is “ok, the kids won. Good.” The NCAA is still allowed to impose some restrictions to make sure players aren’t getting salaries while in school. They are still allowed to set things like “no Lamborghini” rules (Gorsuch quoted something about that in here). Again, unanimous makes sense to me.

AMG CAPITAL MANAGEMENT, LLC, ET AL. v. FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION

Issues: Section 13(b) does not authorize the Commission to seek, or a court to award, equitable monetary relief such as restitution or disgorgement.

Background: I had to do some research here on what some of this meant. Section 13(b) is of the Federal Trade Commission Act (1914). Disgorgement means to take any/all profits from a person/company who violated the law in restitution. The repay the ill gotten gains to the victims. Section 5 allows the Commission to take companies to court AFTER an administrative process to seek penalties and injunctions. Section 13 allows for a “permanent injunction” (never do it again!). Section 19 (added later) allows courts to grant “such relief as the court finds necessary to redress injury to consumers.” Tucker (a payday lender) was taken to court under Section 5 and the Commission sought monetary awards under Section 13.

Quotes: ” The question presented is whether this statutory language authorizes the Commission to seek, and a court to award, equitable monetary relief such as restitution or disgorgement. We conclude that it does not. […] In asserting that Tucker’s practices were likely to mislead consumers, the Commission did not first use its own administrative proceedings. Rather, the Commission filed a complaint against Tucker directly in federal court. […] Taken as a whole, the provision focuses upon relief that is prospective, not retrospective. […] Nothing we say today, however, prohibits the Commission from using its authority under §5 and §19 to obtain restitution on behalf of consumers. […] We must conclude, however, that §13(b) as currently written does not grant the Commission authority to obtain equitable monetary relief.

Thoughts: This is really curbing the Commission skipping their own administrative processes to go straight to court. I know we don’t like the red tape and there is visceral satisfaction when a scumbag gets his comeuppance from a judge…. but the process matters. And Congress wrote out a process the Commission didn’t follow.

COLLINS ET AL. v. YELLEN, SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY, ET AL

Issues: (1) Can the government create the FHFA agency to oversee/conservatorship of Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac. (2) Can the president (of the US) remove the director of FHFA without cause.

Background: So in 2008 Congress enacted the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 which created the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) in order to regulate and put troubled companies into a “conservatorship” when needed. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were put in conservatorship because they were crumbling. The shareholders weren’t happy with the rules the Commission applied and sued.

The FHFA is led by a single Director who is appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate. The Director serves a 5-year term but may be removed by the President “for cause.” The shareholders claimed this is unconstitutional and the president should be able to remove a director without cause.

This is another “Everyone has an opinion” and I’m only reading the official court opinion. Alito wrote the official one. Thomas has his own opinion. Gorsuch has an opinion. Kagan has an opinion. Sotomayor has an opinion. And they all criss-cross who agrees with which. It’s like they are playing “opinion Twister” over there….

Quotes: “It is not necessary for us to decide—and we do not decide—whether the FHFA made the best, or even a particularly good, business decision when it adopted the third amendment. Instead, we conclude only that under the
terms of the Recovery Act, the FHFA did not exceed its authority as a conservator, and therefore the anti-injunction clause bars the shareholders’ statutory claim. […] the Constitution prohibits even “modest restrictions” on the President’s power to remove the head of an agency with a single top officer. […] The President must be able to remove not just officers who disobey his commands but also those he finds “negligent and inefficient,”

Thoughts: Ok, I am going to be clear here – this one gave me a headache. I don’t know if Alito was purposefully being difficult to read or if I was just tired when I read it. I have no freaking clue what this decision really means except that the FHFA stays. and the whole “affirmed in part, reversed in part, vacated in part, and remanded” is definitely above my amateur’s understanding.

Writer, nerd, and perpetual student. I am obsessed with books - both the reading and the making of them. If I won the lottery I would try to have the best private(ish) library in the world. It wouldn't be totally private because the whole purpose of having books is helping other people find a book they will love. I have 2 cats, Genkii (energy) and Kawaii (cutie). I will mention them regularly because they are a daily delight in my life. Granted, sometimes when I'm playing video games they are not so much "delight" as they are "distraction"... but I love them regardless.