The Supreme Court on Monday issued orders from the justices’ private conference last week, adding three new cases to next term’s docket. The new cases involve a challenge to an animal-welfare law in California, a death-penalty issue in Arizona, and a copyright dispute over an Andy Warhol work. The justices also turned down a request from Texas to weigh in on the private nondelegation doctrine, a principle that bars Congress from delegating its legislative powers to other entities – but with three justices indicating that they would like to address the issue in a future case.
The justices granted review in National Pork Producers Council v. Ross, a case arising from a challenge to a California law that makes the sale of pork in California contingent on compliance with conditions that virtually no existing commercial farms meet – specifically, that the pig from which the pork derives was born to a sow who was housed in a 24-square-foot space and could turn around freely without touching any barriers. Trade associations representing the pork industry and farmers went to court, alleging that the law violates the “dormant” commerce component of the Constitution’s commerce clause by (among other things) regulating commerce that is almost entirely outside of California, which imports over 99% of its pork. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit agreed with the challengers that the law would “require pervasive changes to the pork production industry nationwide,” but it ruled that the challengers had failed to make out a claim for a violation of the commerce clause. The justices will review that decision.
In Cruz v. Arizona, the justices agreed to take up the case of a death-row inmate in Arizona who had asked the justices to weigh in on a dispute over whether Lynch v. Arizona, the Supreme Court’s 2016 decision holding that the court’s 1994 ruling in Simmons v. South Carolina applies to Arizona, also applies to cases that are pending on collateral review. In Simmons, the court held that when the future dangerousness of a defendant in a capital case is at issue, the defendant has a right to tell the jury that he will not be eligible for parole if it does not sentence him to death. However, the justices agreed to address a narrower issue: whether the Arizona Supreme Court’s ruling that a state rule of criminal procedure barred the inmate, John Cruz, from obtaining relief is an adequate and independent state-law ground for the judgment against him.
And in Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts v. Goldsmith, the justices will weigh in on an important question of copyright law: what it means for a work of art to be “transformative” for purposes of fair use under the Copyright Act. The case involves a series of images that Warhol created from Lynn Goldsmith’s photo of Prince. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit ruled that Warhol’s images were not transformative, prompting the foundation to come to the Supreme Court in December. The justices on Monday agreed to decide whether a work is transformative if it conveys a different meaning or message from its source material, or instead whether courts cannot consider the meaning if it “recognizably deriv[es] from” its source material.
The justices denied review in Texas v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, a challenge to a rule issued by the Department of Health and Human Services to reimburse states for Medicaid costs incurred under a managed-care model. States challenging the rule, led by Texas, contend that the rule violates the nondelegation doctrine. Specifically, the states say, the rule outsourced decisions about what it means for reimbursement rates to be “actuarially sound,” as federal law requires, to a private group of actuaries. The states asked the justices to weigh in on that question, as well as when the statute of limitations in their challenge begins to run. After considering the case at seven consecutive conferences, the justices rejected their request.
Justice Samuel Alito wrote a statement regarding the court’s decision not to take up the case, which was joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch. In Alito’s view, the case presented “a fundamental question about the limits on the Federal Government’s authority to delegate its powers to private actors” that has “cost the States hundreds of millions of dollars.” But because of thorny procedural issues – the tax at the center of the case has been repealed, so that the states will not be harmed in the future, and it is too late to bring a direct challenge to the 2002 regulation giving the actuaries their power – Alito agreed with the decision not to grant review now. But he left open the possibility that, if the actuaries’ decisions “have any future effect, review should be granted in an appropriate case.”
The justices will meet again for another private conference on Friday, April 1. Orders from that conference are likely on Monday, April 4, at 9:30 a.m. EDT.
This post is also published on SCOTUSblog.