On April 23, the Court heard oral arguments in Lucia v. Securities and Exchange Commission, a case about whether Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) administrative law judges (“ALJs”) are “Officers of the United States” within the meaning of the Appointments Clause of the Constitution or merely employees of the SEC. Alison Frankel of Reuters explains that in its Supreme Court brief, the Justice Department acknowledged that SEC ALJs are subject to the Appointments Clause. As Greg Stohr of Bloomberg explains, if the court agrees, there is a possibility that ALJs in a variety of agencies “could be fired for issuing rulings that clash with administration priorities.”
At argument, the justices did not appear to agree as to whether that would be a positive or negative development. During the argument Chief Justice John Roberts stated this case could bring “political accountability” to federal judges, and in contrast Justice Stephen Breyer said the case could mean “goodbye to the independence” of ALJs. Robert Barnes of The Washington Post noted that Justice Elena Kagan likewise appeared worried about political pressure on ALJs, something they are shielded from as the law stands currently.
David G. Savage of The LA Times reports that some legal experts contend that a decision in favor of Lucia could also open the door for the President to be able to remove other executive officers, such as special counsel Robert Mueller. However, the tenor of the argument did not suggest that the justices have an interest in ruling that broadly. Check out The Wall Street Journal and U.S. News for more commentary on the arguments in this case.
On April 24, the Court heard arguments in Animal Science Products, Inc. v. Hebei Welcome Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. The issue in this case is whether U.S. courts should defer to foreign government’s interpretation of their own law, or if U.S. courts can exercise their own interpretation of the foreign law. Greg Stohr of Bloomberg reports that the Trump administration is partially backing Animal Science Products, who sued Hebei alleging they violated U.S. antitrust law by price fixing Vitamin C imports. China’s Ministry of Commerce had their day in the courtroom as they were granted argument time “unprecedently” by the Court. China’s lawyer, Carter Phillips argued that Hebei was just following Chinese law that required them to fix prices. Regarding the argument that U.S. courts should defer to foreign government’s interpretation of their law, Justice Elena Kagan asked, “How can you say that the only thing that shows respect to foreign governments is to do something that we don’t know that any other foreign nation does?” that Justice Neil Gorsuch appeared to take an opposing stance and questioned why we should not defer to an administrative agency of a foreign sovereign, such as how “Chevron deference” allows courts to defer to interpretations of U.S. administrative agencies. Check out Reuters and Wall Street Journal for more information on the arguments.
On April 23, the Court also heard oral arguments in Pereira v. Sessions. This is a statutory interpretation case about cancellation of removal (deportation) under 8 U.S.C. §1229b. At issue is whether a “notice to appear” issued by the government must meet certain criteria, as laid out in §1229(a), such as a court date and time. The oral argument transcript can be found here, and the recording can be found at Oyez. And in another case that week, Chavez-Meza v. United States, involving a sentencing issue, “[e]mbattled Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein“, argued on behalf of the government, as he participated in the tradition of a high-ranking Department of Justice Official arguing a case in front of the Court.
ISCOTUS Fellows Matthew Webber, Chicago-Kent Class of 2019, and Eva Dickey and Michael Halpin, both Class of 2020, contributed to this post, which was edited by ISCOTUS Editorial Coordinator Anna Jirschele, Chicago-Kent Class of 2018, and overseen by ISCOTUS Co-Director and Chicago-Kent faculty member Carolyn Shapiro.