The final argument session of the Supreme Court’s 2022-23 term will include high-profile disputes over how employers must accommodate their employees’ religious practices and how courts should decide whether threatening statements are protected by the First Amendment. The two cases, Groff v. DeJoy and Counterman v. Colorado, will headline the April argument calendar, which was released – along with the March argument calendar – on Tuesday.
The justices agreed earlier this month to take up Groff and Counterman, as well as several other cases now slated for argument in April. Gerald Groff, an evangelical Christian and U.S. Postal Service employee, was disciplined after he refused to work on Sundays delivering Amazon packages. In the Supreme Court, he is asking the justices to overrule their 1977 decision in Trans World Airlines v. Hardison, holding that employers can show the kind of “undue hardship” needed to overcome the general ban on firing workers for practicing their religion whenever accommodating the religious practice would require more than a trivial or minimal cost.
In Billy Ray Counterman’s case, the justices agreed to decide a question that they left unresolved nine years ago in Elonis v. United States. Counterman was convicted and sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison after sending a local musician messages that left her “extremely scared.” The question before the court is whether courts should use an objective test (as they did in Counterman’s case) or instead a subjective one to determine whether his statements qualified as a “true threat,” which are not protected by the First Amendment.
Here’s the full list of cases scheduled for oral argument in the March 2023 argument session:
- Arizona v. Navajo Nation & Department of Interior v. Navajo Nation (consolidated for one hour of oral argument on March 20): Whether the federal government’s failure to assert water rights for the Navajo tribe from the Colorado River violates the federal government’s duty to the tribe.
- Abitron Austria GMBH v. Hetronic International (rescheduled from the February argument calendar for March 21): Whether the owner of a U.S.-registered trademark can bring a lawsuit for damages for infringement overseas.
- Coinbase v. Bielski (March 21): Whether a non-frivolous appeal of the denial of a motion to compel arbitration strips the district court of jurisdiction over a case, putting proceedings in the district court on hold.
- Jack Daniel’s Properties v. VIP Products (March 22): Whether and when trademark law prohibits a spoof of a company’s brand.
- Amgen v. Sanofi (March 27): When a patent applicant must provide a description of its invention that would enable a “skilled artisan” to make and use the invention, what must the applicant show to meet that requirement?
- United States v. Hansen (March 27): Whether a federal law that makes it a crime, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, to encourage or cause unauthorized immigrants to enter or reside in the United States violates the Constitution.
- Smith v. United States (March 28): What is the proper remedy – acquittal or a new trial – when an appeals court concludes that one of the counts on which a defendant was convicted was tried in the wrong place?
- Lora v. United States (March 28): Whether federal criminal sentencing laws require a New York man convicted for his role in a drug-trafficking murder to be sentenced to consecutive, rather than concurrent, sentences.
- Samia v. United States (March 29): Whether prosecutors violated a defendant’s right under the Sixth Amendment when they admitted a confession from one of his co-defendants, redacted so that it did not use the defendant’s name.
- Polselli v. Internal Revenue Service (March 29): When the IRS is generally required to notify the persons whose records are being sought from a third-party recordkeeper, but there is an exception when the summons is issued to help the IRS collect a debt, does the exception apply only when the taxpayer has a legal interest in the records being sought, or does it apply whenever the IRS believes that the records might help it to collect a debt?
Here’s the full list of cases scheduled for the April 2023 argument session:
- Pugin v. Garland & Garland v. Cordero-Garcia (consolidated for one hour of oral argument on April 17): Whether a criminal offense that does not interfere with an existing investigation or judicial proceeding qualifies as an “offense relating to obstruction of justice,” a serious crime that can result in deportation and additional criminal punishment for noncitizens.
- Slack Technologies v. Pirani (April 17): Whether, to bring a securities lawsuit alleging misstatements in a registration statement, a plaintiff must plead and show that he bought shares registered under the allegedly misleading statement.
- Groff v. DeJoy (April 18): Whether to overrule the Supreme Court’s 1977 decision in Trans World Airlines v. Hardison, on the accommodations that employers must provide for their employees’ religious practices.
- United States ex rel. Schutte v. SuperValu & United States ex rel. Proctor v. Safeway (consolidated for one hour of oral argument on April 18): Whether and when a defendant’s subjective knowledge about whether its conduct was legal is relevant to whether it “knowingly” submitted false claims for payment to the government or “knowingly” made false statements in support of such claims.
- Counterman v. Colorado (April 19): To determine whether statements are “true threats” that are not protected by the Constitution, should courts apply an objective test that considers whether a reasonable person would regard the statement as a threat of violence, or instead a subjective test that requires prosecutors to show that the speaker intended to make a threat?
- Dupree v. Younger (April 24): Whether, to preserve an issue for an appeal, a party must reassert a purely legal argument rejected at summary judgment in a post-trial motion.
- Lac du Flambeau Band v. Coughlin (April 24): Whether the Bankruptcy Code unequivocally expresses Congress’s intent to abrogate the sovereign immunity of Native American tribes.
- Yegiazaryan v. Smagin & CMB Monaco v. Smagin (consolidated for one hour of oral argument on April 25): In what circumstances has a foreign plaintiff whose only injury was to intangible property suffered the kind of “domestic” injury required to bring a claim under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act?
- Tyler v. Hennepin County (April 26): Whether the foreclosure on and sale of a home that was worth $25,000 more than the owner owed in taxes violated the Fifth Amendment’s takings clause, which bars the government from taking private property for public use without adequately compensating the property owners.
This post is also published on SCOTUSblog.