This morning the Supreme Court issued orders from last week’s private conference. The justices did not add any new cases to their merits docket for their next term, which begins in October, but they did ask the U.S. solicitor general to weigh in on four cases.
Two of the cases in which the U.S. solicitor general has been asked to file briefs expressing the views of the United States are original actions – that is, lawsuits filed first in the Supreme Court – challenging state laws that seek to regulate the treatment of farm animals. The first case, Missouri v. California, asks the justices to invalidate a California law that requires farms raising egg-laying hens to ensure that the hens can move around freely. Telling the court that California’s regulation of eggs has “inflated egg prices for every egg consumer in the Nation,” 13 states argue that the law is trumped by federal laws and violates the Constitution’s commerce clause, which prohibits states from enacting laws that are intended to discriminate against citizens of other states or that place an unnecessary burden on interstate commerce. In the second case, Indiana v. Massachusetts, another group of 13 states (which closely resembles, but is not identical to, the group of state plaintiffs in the Missouri case) challenges efforts by Massachusetts to impose similar restrictions by barring sales in Massachusetts of eggs, pork and veal from animals that were “confined in a cruel manner.”
The justices also asked the federal government to file briefs in two other cases. In Kansas v. Garcia, the state has asked the Supreme Court to review a ruling by the Kansas Supreme Court that reversed Ramiro Garcia’s conviction for identity theft for using someone else’s Social Security number, on the ground that the state prosecution was pre-empted by the federal Immigration Reform and Control Act. And in Gilead Sciences v. United States ex rel. Campie, the company – which markets HIV treatments – asked the justices to review a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. The case involves a claim that Gilead Sciences falsely represented that the products it sold to the government complied with Food and Drug Administration regulations; Gilead Sciences contends that the court of appeals should not have allowed the case to go forward when the government paid for the products even though it knew that some of the FDA’s requirements were violated. That payment, Gilead Sciences argues, created a presumption that the requirements were not material, and the plaintiffs did not include any allegations to overcome that presumption. There is no deadline for the government to file its briefs in these four cases.
The justices rejected a request by former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, who is serving a 14-year sentence for his conviction on corruption charges, to review his case. Blagojevich had asked the court to clarify whether, in corruption cases, the government must prove that the defendant made an explicit promise in exchange for a campaign contribution, or whether it must instead prove only that the defendant knew that the payment was made in exchange for his acts.
The justices once again did not act in Azar v. Garza, in which the federal government has asked them to nullify a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit that cleared the way for a pregnant teenager to obtain an abortion. The justices will meet again on April 20 for their next conference, with orders from that conference expected on Monday, April 23.
This post was also published on SCOTUSblog.