The Supreme Court on Monday morning issued orders from the justices’ private conference last week. The justices added two new cases, consolidated for one hour of oral argument, to their merits docket for the term. Monday’s list was also the first set of regularly scheduled orders in which the court’s newest justice, Amy Coney Barrett, participated.
The justices agreed in Carr v. Saul and Davis v. Saul to weigh in on when someone seeking Social Security benefits can challenge the validity of the judge who conducts the administrative hearing. When Willie Carr and John Davis applied for disability benefits, an administrative law judge rejected each of their requests after a hearing. After their administrative appeals were also unsuccessful, the men (as well as others in a similar position) went to federal court, where they argued for the first time that the appointment of the administrative law judges who conducted their hearings did not comply with the Constitution’s appointments clause, which imposes requirements for the appointment of government officials. The federal courts of appeals rejected that argument, holding that because the men had not challenged the legitimacy of the administrative law judges’ appointments at the Social Security Administration, they could not raise it for the first time in federal court.
The justices took one case already slated for argument off their merits docket. However, because the case was consolidated with a second case, the removal will not affect the overall number of hours of argument time for the term. The justices granted review in July in AMG Capital Management v. Federal Trade Commission and Federal Trade Commission v. Credit Bureau Center to consider whether a provision of the Federal Trade Commission Act gives the FTC the power to require defendants to return money that they obtained as a result of their illegal activities. The cases were set for one hour of oral argument in total – in all likelihood, in January 2021. But presumably because Barrett voted on Credit Bureau Center when it was circulated to the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in 2019, the justices on Monday issued an order indicating that the two cases were no longer consolidated, and they rescinded the grant of review in the 7th Circuit case, which likely will now wait until the court issues its decision in AMG Capital Management.
The justices declined a request by two members of Congress, Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), to overturn SpeechNow.org v. Federal Election Commission, a 2010 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that paved the way for “super PACs” – groups that can accept unlimited donations as long as they do not coordinate with political candidates or their parties. A “friend of the court” brief from a group of senators had urged the justices to weigh in, telling them that allowing unlimited contributions permits “corruption to flourish, demoralizing voters and concentrating power in the hands of a startlingly tiny number of very wealthy individuals.”
The justices’ next conference is scheduled for Friday, Nov. 13.
This post is also published on SCOTUSblog.