This morning the Supreme Court added two new cases, consolidated for one hour of oral argument, to its docket for next term. Today’s grants mean that the justices will once again grapple with the Armed Career Criminal Act, which requires longer sentences for repeat offenders who commit crimes with guns and have been convicted of either violent felonies or serious drug crimes. The statute defines a violent felony as a crime that is “burglary, arson, or extortion, involves use of explosives, or otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another.” The ACCA does not specifically define what constitutes a “burglary,” but nearly 30 years ago the Supreme Court defined the term to include crimes involving illegal or unauthorized entry into a “building or structure” with the intent to commit a crime. In United States v. Stitt and United States v. Sims, the justices will consider whether the burglary of a “nonpermanent or mobile structure” – such as a mobile home, trailer or tent – that is adapted for someone to stay in it overnight qualifies as a “burglary” for purposes of the ACCA. The cases will almost certainly be argued in the fall.
The justices also asked the U.S. solicitor general to weigh in on two questions presented in a patent case, EVE-USA v. Mentor Graphics Corporation. The first question goes to the scope of a patent-law doctrine known as “assignor estoppel,” which bars someone who assigns the rights to a patent from defending an infringement lawsuit on the ground that the patent is invalid. The second question involves how to apportion lost profits attributable to patent infringement. There is no deadline for the solicitor general to respond to the court’s invitation.
The justices once again did not rule on 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 federal government filed its petition in November; since then, the justices have considered the case at several conferences and received the lower-court records, but they have yet to act on the government’s petition.
The justices will meet again for their next private conference on Friday, April 27. We expect orders from that conference on Monday, April 30, at 9:30 a.m.
This post was also published on SCOTUSblog.