The Supreme Court on Monday added three new merits cases to its docket for the 2022-23 term. On a list of ordersfrom the justices’ private conference last week, the justices also called for the views of the U.S. solicitor general in two cases, and they declined to take up a pair of cases involving the differential tax treatment of billboards that advertise services that do not have a connection to the site where they are located.
The justices will likely hear oral argument in the fall in the three merits cases that they granted today:
- Health and Hospital Corp. of Marion County v. Talevski, involving whether federal laws enacted under Congress’ spending clause power allow a plaintiff to file a federal civil rights claim for their violation. The question comes to the court in a case brought by the spouse of a state-run nursing home for violations of the Federal Nursing Home Reform Act.
- Bartenwerfer v. Buckley, involving whether a bankruptcy debtor can be held liable for another person’s fraud, which cannot be discharged in bankruptcy, even when she was not aware of the fraud. The question comes to the court in the case of a San Francisco woman who sold the house that she owned with her husband, who managed the renovation of the property. After the couple sold the house, the buyer successfully sued them for failing to disclose a variety of problems, including water leaks and a missing fire escape. The issue is whether the wife can discharge the judgment against her in bankruptcy if she did not know about the fraud.
- Helix Energy Solutions Group v. Hewitt, involving whether a supervisor who makes over $200,000 per year is entitled to retroactive overtime pay, despite a regulation that carves out an exemption for highly paid executives, because he was paid on a daily basis. The employee in the case worked on monthly “hitches” on offshore oil rigs.
Last month, the Supreme Court ruled in City of Austin v. Reagan National Advertising that a city ordinance that treats signs differently depending on whether they have a connection to the site where they are located does not regulate speech based on content. Therefore, the justices concluded, courts do not need to use the most stringent constitutional test, known as strict scrutiny, to determine whether the ordinance is constitutional. On Monday, the justices declined to take up a related question, regarding the standard of review for a tax that targets “off-premises” billboards – that is, billboards advertising services that do not have a connection to the site where they are located. The petitioners in both City of Cincinnati v. Lamar Advantage and Clear Channel Outdoor v. Raymond had urged the justices to take up their cases despite the court’s decision in City of Austin, but the justices – perhaps wanting the issue to percolate more in the lower courts in the wake of last month’s decision – declined on Monday to do so.
The justices called for the views of the U.S. solicitor general in Midwest Air Traffic Control v. Badilla, which arises from the 2010 crash of a civilian cargo plane near the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. The question on which the federal government will weigh in is whether the victims’ families can sue the federal contractors who were operating the airport’s air traffic control at the time of the crash, or whether their claims are instead trumped by an exception in the Federal Tort Claims Act, which generally allows private individuals to sue the federal government in federal court for wrongdoing by individuals acting on behalf of the United States, for combatant activities.
And in Abitron Austria GMBH v. Hetronic International, the solicitor general will weigh in on the application of the Lanham Act, which provides civil remedies for the infringement of U.S. trademarks, to foreign sales, including sales that never reached the United States or confused consumers. In this case, Abitron is challenging a $90 million jury award against it for violating Hetronic’s U.S. trademarks – an amount that is based on Abitron’s total worldwide sales, 97% of which were outside the United States.
There is no deadline for the solicitor general to file her brief. The justices’ next private conference is scheduled for Thursday, May 12, with orders from that conference expected to follow on Monday, May 16, at 9:30 a.m.
This post is also published on SCOTUSblog.