Oral Arguments: Week of October 29, 2018

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in six cases during the week of October 29th:

Monday, October 29:

      Henry Schein Inc. v. Archer & White Sales Inc.: Archer & White Sales Inc. sued Henry Schein Inc. for antitrust violations. A magistrate judge interpreted the parties’ contract as requiring an arbitrator to decide questions of arbitrability, but the district court and court of appeals disagreed on the basis that the claim of arbitrability was “wholly groundless.” The Court will consider whether the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) allows courts to decline to enforce an agreement that delegates issues of arbitrability to an arbitrator under such circumstances.

      Lamps Plus Inc. v. Varela: Employees, led by Frank Varela, filed a class action lawsuit against Lamps Plus Inc., their employer, after a phishing scam caused the company to release personally identifying information of the employees. The employees had signed arbitration agreements, which the district court found to be ambiguous as to whether the agreement permitted class arbitration and so interpreted against the drafter, Lamps Plus, to allow class-wide arbitration. Here, the Court will decide whether the FAA prohibits a state-law interpretation of an arbitration agreement as authorizing class arbitration based on commonly used language.

Tuesday, October 30:

      Washington State Department Licensing v. Cougar Den Inc.: Cougar Den, a Native American-owned fuel distributor, received an assessment from the Washington State Licensing Department demanding $3.6 million in unpaid taxes and fees. Cougar Den believes it is exempt from payment because of the Yakama Nation Treaty of 1855. The Washington Supreme Court agreed with Cougar Den’s interpretation, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has previously rejected claims that the treaty exempts Yakama tribe members from taxation for activities outside of the Yakama reservation. The Court will determine whether the treaty applies to member activities that make use of public highways, off-reservation.

      Garza v. Idaho: Gilberto Garza Jr. made a plea deal for possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, in which he waived his right to appeal. After sentencing, Garza petitioned for post-conviction relief, alleging his attorney was ineffective for not filing a notice of appeal.  Garza’s attorney stated he did not file an appeal because Garza waived his right to do so. In contrast to the majority of federal circuit courts, the Idaho Supreme Court held the “presumption of prejudice” is not automatic when counsel declines to file an appeal in light of an appeal waiver. The Court will determine whether counsel is presumed ineffective when not filing an appeal at a defendant’s request due to a waiver of the right to appeal.

Wednesday, October 31:

      Frank v. Gaos: A class action lawsuit was filed against Google on behalf of internet users who claimed their privacy was violated under federal and state law by the company’s disclosure of their internet search terms to third party websites. Google settled with the plaintiffs for $8.3 million, of which $5.3 million was directed to six cy pres recipients, under the condition the recipients would direct the funds toward internet privacy groups. However, several class members, led by Thomas Frank, disagreed with the settlement distribution and filed suit. The district court approved of the settlement distribution and the Ninth Circuit affirmed. The Court will determine whether a cy pres award of a class action suit that provides no direct relief to class members can be “fair, reasonable, and adequate.” [Disclosure: Chicago-Kent College of Law’s Center for Information, Society and Policy is one of the designated cy pres recipients, as reported here.)

      Jam v. International Finance Corp.: A group of Indian fisherman and farmers, led by Budha Jam, are suing International Finance Corporation (IFC), an international organization based in Washington D.C. which provides loans to developing countries.  The IFC loaned an Indian company $450 million for a coal-powered plant with the stipulation that the company could not cause damage to surrounding communities. However, the plant’s construction and operation caused significant air and water pollution, which altered the ecosystem and destroyed the livelihood of many farmers and fishermen, and the IFC made no attempt to force compliance with the agreement. The fisherman and farmers brought a lawsuit in federal court in Washington, D.C. as third-party beneficiaries of the contract. The district court dismissed the plaintiffs’ claim, finding the IFC was immune from suit under the International Organizations Immunities Act (IOIA) and the Court of Appeals affirmed.  The Court will determine whether the IOIA gives international organizations the immunity that foreign governments had when the law passed or that they have at present, pursuant to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976.

Additionally, the Court will hold a conference on Friday to discuss petitions for additional cases to be added to the Term Calendar.  SCOTUSblog’s list of petitions to watch can be found here.

This post was written by ISCOTUS Fellow James O’Brien, Chicago-Kent Class of 2021, edited by Matthew Webber, ISCOTUS Editorial Coordinator, Chicago-Kent Class of 2019, and overseen by ISCOTUS Co-Director Carolyn Shapiro.

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