A Look Ahead at the Week at the Supreme Court

Monday marks the start of a new term at the Supreme Court. By all accounts, this looks to be a major term for the justices, stocked full of high-profile cases; Justice Ginsburg has already declared it to be “momentous.”  

The term kicks off Monday morning with arguments in three consolidated cases: Epic Systems Corporation v. Lewis, Ernst & Young v. Morris, and National Labor Relations Board v. Murphy Oil USA. These cases present the question of whether an agreement that requires an employer-employee disputes be resolved through individual—not class or collective—arbitration is enforceable. The National Labor Relations Act guarantees employees the right to engage in “concerted activities” in pursuit of their “mutual aid or protection.” But the Federal Arbitration Act states that arbitration provisions “must be enforced.” The Court has ruled that this provision “will yield only when it has been overridden by a contrary congressional command in another federal statute.” The employers in these cases argue that the NLRA has no such command because it does not refer to class proceedings and its history provides no evidence that Congress intended  the NLRA to override arbitration agreements. The employees counter that the NLRA renders the arbitration agreements illegal and therefore unenforceable.

Later on Monday, the Court will hear re-arguments in Sessions v. Dimaya. Sessions presents the issue of whether the definition of “aggravated felonies” under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) is unconstitutionally vague.  Under the INA, a non-citizen who is found guilty of an aggravated felony is subject to deportation. The Immigration and Nationality Act defines “aggravated felonies” broadly, including a “crime of violence.” James Dimaya was convicted of residential burglary, which a judge determined was a “crime of violence” and thus an “aggravated felony” under the INA.

Sessions  is one of two immigration cases that the Court scheduled for reargument this week. National Law Journal discusses the possible motives the Court had for scheduling reargument in this case and in Jennings v. Rodriguez (discussed below), and the particular challenges re-arguments pose for lawyers.

On Tuesday morning, the Court hears one of the most highly anticipated cases of the term, Gill v. Whitford, a redistricting case. For a detailed discussion of Gill, look at the ISCOTUS oral argument preview.  Also worth visiting is FiveThirtyEight’s recent podcast on the case.

Also scheduled for Tuesday is re-argument in Jennings v. Rodriguez. The case presents the issue of whether a noncitizen in custody must receive a bond hearings and possible release if custody lasts six months. The case is likely to impact the effectiveness of an executive order that President Trump issued in January that called for ending the “catch and release” of immigrants facing deportation. The Court is likely to discuss two previous cases that possibly contradict each other: Zadvydas v. Davis from 2001, and Demore v. Kim from 2003.  In Zadvydas, the Court held that judicial review of detention decisions is necessary. In Demore, the Court invoked plenary power and held that there must not be judicial review of a provision of the immigration statute that requires detention of immigrants who are awaiting deportation because of a crime. This case also presents the question of whether courts must afford immigrants bond hearings every six months, automatically. SCOTUSblog has an excellent summary of the issues in Jennings.

On Wednesday the Court hears District of Columbia v. Wesby, a case stemming from the 2008 trespassing arrest of a group of people who were having a party in an unoccupied house. Police officers went to the house after neighbors reported the raucous partying and “illegal activities” and arrested twenty-one people on trespass charges. After making the arrests, police talked to the homeowner, who said he had not given anyone permission to enter the house. The case considers whether the officers had probable cause to make the arrests. The defendants argue that the officers did not because they had no evidence that the partiers knew or should have known they were trespassing. The Court will also decide whether the officers were entitled to qualified immunity. The Washington Post delves into the goings on that wild night and the procedural history of the case, which includes a divided appellate court that upheld a judgment requiring the officers to pay almost $1 million.

The Court concludes the week’s oral arguments with Class v. United States. This case presents the issue of whether a guilty plea results in the waiver of a defendant’s right to challenge the constitutionality of the statute under which he was convicted. Capitol police arrested Rodney Class in 2013 on charges of violating a federal law that prohibits possession of readily accessible firearms on Capitol grounds. Class, who represented himself in court, filed motions challenging the statute as violating the Second Amendment but then agreed to plead guilty. He argues that he did not expressly waive his constitutional claims when he made his guilty plea, and that the Court should implement a default rule that such issues are available on appeal in the absence of an express waiver. SCOTUSblog has a detailed argument preview.


This post was drafted by ISCOTUS Fellow Bridget Flynn, Chicago-Kent Class of 2019, edited by ISCOTUS Editorial Coordinator Anna Jirschele, Chicago-Kent Class of 2018, and overseen by ISCOTUS co-director Christopher Schmidt.

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