The Week Ahead – January 16, 2017

The Court has another busy week ahead. Over the course of Tuesday and Wednesday, the Court will hear arguments in four cases, issue orders from its January 17 conference, and possibly hand down opinions. Come Thursday, the Court will meet for conference. The Court did not sit on Monday, January 16, the federal holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

On Tuesday, the Court will hear arguments in Lynch v. Dimaya and Midland Funding, LLC v. Johnson. Lynch addresses the Immigration and Nationality Act and its power to govern removal of illegal aliens. The Court must analyze whether 18 U.S.C. 16(b) of the Act is unconstitutionally vague. In his SCOTUSblog argument preview, Kevin Johnson explains that the case raises a due process vagueness challenge to a civil immigration statute. The federal government argues that such a challenge is not cognizable but that, in any event, the statute is not vague. Because of the possibility of expanding the void-for-vagueness doctrine into the immigration context, Johnson argues that this case could have “potentially far-reaching constitutional implications.” In the second case of the day, Midland Funding, the Court must decide whether it is a violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act to file a proof of claim on a time-barred debt in a bankruptcy proceeding. In other words, as Diane Davis of Bloomberg BNA explains, the case will address “just how much the debt buying and collection industry can leverage the bankruptcy system to collect on debts they otherwise couldn’t pursue.”

On Wednesday, the Court will hear arguments in Lee v. Tam and Ziglar v. Abbasi.  Lee presents a potential challenge to the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment. The case involves an Asian-American band called “The Slants” who sought to trademark their band’s name. However, the United States Patent and Trademark Office denied the trademark registration request under the “disparagement” provision of the Lanham Act. The provision provides that no trademark shall be refused unless “it [c]onsists of…matter which disparage…persons, living or dead, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols, or bring them into contempt or disrepute.” The Court will consider address whether this provision violates the First Amendment. NPR discussed this case in its weekly “Words You’ll Hear” segment. Finally on Wednesday, the Court will hear a case that relates to the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. A group of Muslim men were detained by the United States after the attacks, and they subsequently sued for violation of their constitutional rights. The question in front of the Court is about the men’s right to sue federal officials. SCOTUSblog explains the arguments the Court is likely to hear on Wednesday. The three basic questions in the case are whether the judge-made cause of action under which the men are suing, known as a Bivens action, reaches the allegations of the case, whether the defendants are immune, and whether the plaintiffs adequately stated a claim in their complaint. The Guardian addresses the implications of this case under the Trump Administration and more generally discusses civil rights organizations’ expectations for the next four years.

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