On October 1, the justices will meet for the so-called “long conference” – their first conference since late June, at which they will vote on new cases for the upcoming term. There are, at least in theory, over a thousand petitions up for consideration at this conference, but most of those will be denied without the justices ever discussing them. Over the next several weeks, I will take a closer look at some of the petitions that have been distributed for the October 1 conference that seem to be good candidates to be granted.
In Integrity Staffing Solutions v. Busk, the justices have been asked to tackle a question arising from a frequent dispute – efforts by workers to be paid for all of the time that their employer requires them to spend as part of their job.
The federal Fair Labor Standards Act requires employees to be paid overtime when they “work” more than 40 hours per week, but the Portal-to-Portal Act, passed in 1947, made clear that employers do not have to pay employees for activities that take place before and after the job that they are hired to perform.
The case was filed by hourly workers at Amazon fulfillment centers. To reduce theft, the workers must go through security checks when they leave the warehouse for their lunch breaks and at the end of the day. In 2014, the Supreme Court ruled that the workers were not entitled to overtime under the FLSA for the time that they spent waiting in line for, and going through, the security checks – approximately 25 minutes – because the screenings were not an “integral” part of their job.
After the Supreme Court’s decision, the workers went back to court. This time, instead of asking for overtime under federal law, they were seeking it under state law. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit allowed the workers’ claims to go forward, agreeing that they could be compensated under Nevada law for the time spent in security screenings. Integrity Staffing Solutions – the actual employer of the workers – asked the Supreme Court to weigh in on two questions: Whether the Portal-to-Portal Act modified the FLSA’s definition of “work”; and whether “work” requires more than just going through a security check.
Six years ago, in Florida v. Jardines, the Supreme Court ruled that using a drug-sniffing dog on a home’s front porch is a search – for which a warrant is generally required – for purposes of the Fourth Amendment. In Illinois v. Bonilla, the justices have been asked to consider whether this rule applies equally to the area just outside the door of an apartment.
The case arose when police led a drug-sniffing dog through the unlocked outer doors of Derrick Bonilla’s apartment building and through the common areas to his door, where the dog alerted his handlers to the presence of drugs. Police used the alert from the dog to get a warrant to search Bonilla’s apartment; when they did, they found marijuana.
Bonilla was charged with possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute it. He argued that the evidence of drugs in his apartment could not be admitted, because the dog sniff at his apartment door violated the Fourth Amendment. The state courts agreed, concluding that the area outside Bonilla’s apartment door was similar to the front porch in Jardines. Illinois has asked the Supreme Court to review that decision.
When a search warrant does not draw a specific connection between someone’s alleged drug trafficking and that person’s home, is there probable cause to search the home? That is the question that Juan Zamudio has asked the justices to review.
Zamudio was charged in federal court with drug trafficking after the FBI found 11 kilograms of methamphetamines at his home. FBI agents had obtained a warrant to search the home, along with 34 other places, as part of an extensive investigation into a drug-trafficking operation run by Zamudio’s brother, Jose.
The affidavit supporting the application for a search warrant did not indicate that any drug trafficking had taken place at Zamudio’s home. Instead, it described three drug sales in which Zamudio had been involved. The affidavit also explained that, in the experience of the FBI agent submitting it, drug traffickers “generally” keep drugs, records from drug sales, and guns at their homes.
The trial court granted Zamudio’s motion to bar the government from using the methamphetamine found at his home against him. It reasoned that the affidavit did not show a link between Zamudio’s drug-dealing activities and his home, and it had not created probable cause to believe that drugs would be found at the home.
On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit reversed. It ruled that probable cause does not “require direct evidence linking a crime to a particular place.” Instead, it concluded, when issuing a search warrant, judges “may draw reasonable inferences about where evidence is likely to be found based on the nature of the evidence and the offense.”