Petitions of the Week: 4 petitions that take a look at the boundaries of lawsuits towards the federal government
Posted Fri, Jan 8th 2021 3:04 pm by Andrew Hamm
This week, we’re highlighting certification filings that ask the Supreme Court to review cases and laws to bring charges against various government agencies, from two counties to a governor to the United States. Three of the petitions concern women seeking redress from the counties and the military for their role in creating the conditions in which they could be sexually and physically assaulted.
By and large, sovereign immunity protects states from lawsuits. However, in Ex parte Young of 1908, the Supreme Court allowed lawsuits against state officials instead of states themselves for violations of federal law. New Jersey and the New York Waterfront Commission Compact are involved in the New York Harbor Waterfront Commission against Murphy. This Interstate Compact, approved by Congress, set up a commission with licensing, regulatory and other powers to fight corruption and extortion in the port of New York – New Jersey. After New Jersey passed laws to withdraw from the pact in 2018, the Waterfront Commission sued the New Jersey governor to prevent him from enforcing the law. The governor argued that sovereign immunity precluded the lawsuit. The district court ruled that Ex parte Young filed a motion because congressional approval of the pact made federal law binding. The U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed and suspended the lawsuit as the contract looked more like an agreement New Jersey could – and did – waive. The commission calls on the judges to review the decision, which has implications for the ex parte Young doctrine and the intergovernmental treaties in general.
42 USC § 1983 allows individuals, state officials, and local bodies and actors to sue for violations of constitutional rights. In Polk County, Wisconsin v JKJ, a correctional officer repeatedly sexually assaulted two female inmates in Polk County Jail (for which the officer is now in jail for 30 years). The inmates sued the county on the grounds that it violated the ban on the Eighth Amendment for Cruel and Unusual Punishment. In the 1978 Monell v. Department of Social Services case, the Supreme Court ruled that Section 1983 held municipalities liable only for their own illegal acts, including actions taken under a municipality’s official policy. Polk County prohibits all sexual contact between officers and inmates. However, the US 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the county could be held liable for its failure to better monitor the prison because it was “as obvious as it is obvious” that “male guards would sexually assault female inmates.” even if instructed not to. The county is asking the judges to review and reverse this decision.
In another 1983 Section, Robinson v Webster County, Mississippi case, Felicia Robinson tries to hold a county responsible for harm to a private actor. On an unsupervised weekend break from prison, Robinson’s husband beat and burned her by pouring a sulfuric acid-based drain cleaner on her body. Robinson had previously reported to the sheriff that the husband had used violence against her on such vacations. The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals does not allow Section 1983 actions if the government agent did not cause the damage but only created the danger of violence by others. Robinson argues that the appellate courts are split over this federally created hazard doctrine and asks the judges to reverse circuit 5 and continue their case.
After all, Doe v. The United States is about soldiers’ lawsuits against the military. In the 1950s, Feres ruled against the United States that federal tort law, in which Congress lifted the federal government’s sovereign immunity from tort liability, still did not allow service members to bring claims for damages. Jane Doe, a West Point cadet, was sexually molested ubiquitous on campus and raped by another cadet. After retiring from the academy, she filed a lawsuit, but her claims were dismissed under Feres. In her petition, Doe calls on the judges to override Feres as inconsistent with the text of the FTCA or, alternatively, to limit Feres to not excluding claims like theirs.
These and other petitions of the week are listed below:
Polk County, Wisconsin versus JKJ
problem: Whether Monell’s “single incident” liability theory against Department of Social Services can be used to hold a community liable under 42 USC § 1983 for the theory that it does not do more to prevent an employee from leaving He had been trained to commit crimes he had committed and knew that local politics (and the law) specifically forbade it. This was tantamount to a policy of condoning violations of the constitution.
Doe v. United States
Problems: (1) It was wrongly decided whether to override Feres against the United States, which believed that the Federal Tort Claims Act largely precludes claims for injury related to the Service; and (2) alternatively, whether Feres should be restricted so as not to rule out illicit acts by soldiers injured by violating military regulations, during recreational activities, or while attending a service academy.
Robinson v Webster County, Mississippi
problem: Whether a person injured by a private actor can make a claim under 42 USC § 1983 against a state or local actor who created the threat of that infringement.
Han versus United States
problem: Whether a court can consider factors other than the intentions of the parties to determine whether a money transfer is a non-taxable loan for the purposes of the Internal Revenue Code.
Piersing v Domino’s Pizza Franchising LLC
problem: Whether in the context of a formal employment contract the provision that a certain set of rules governs the arbitration is without further “clear and unambiguous evidence” of the intention of the parties to let the arbitrator decide on questions of arbitration.
Calvert versus Texas
Problems: (1) Whether the Constitution prevents a state from allowing a defendant to represent himself in a capital case if the defendant is mentally empowered to forego legal counsel but is not mentally empowered to bring legal action in his capital case; (2) Whether the eighth amendment prohibits the state of Texas from sentencing the petitioner James Calvert to death because the determination of the future danger is based in large part on graphic testimony and evidence of an attack on a prison officer carried out by another inmate in another prison committed in another time unrelated to Calvert; and (3) whether the constitutional violation resulting from the court’s instruction to electrocute Calvert at 50,000 volts during his trial to “enforce decency” because Calvert failed to stand up to answering a court question , represents a structural error.
Reyes-Romero versus United States
problem: Whether if a district court is considering assigning attorney fees and costs to a predominant criminal defendant, the Hyde Amendment Inquiry into “Whether the United States’ position was angry, reckless, or malicious” includes acts by non-prosecutors criminal case.
Rickmon versus United States
problem: Whether the sound of gunfire triggers an emergency so that Terry v. Ohio demanded “individualized suspicions” for anyone near the gunshots.
PHI Air Medical, LLC v. Texas Mutual Insurance Co.
Problems: (1) Whether the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 provides a government employee compensation scheme that limits the prices an air ambulance company can charge and collect for its air transportation services; and (2) whether the McCarran-Ferguson Act exempts such a system from ADA exemption.
New York Harbor Waterfront Commission v Murphy
problem: Whether a compact intergovernmental agency can use Ex parte Young doctrine to sue a state official to prevent that official from implementing state law that would be excluded under a congressional intergovernmental pact.
Andrew Hamm, Petitions of the Week: Four Petitions that Test the Limits of Lawsuits Against the Government,
SCOTUSblog (January 8, 2021, 3:04 p.m.), https://www.scotusblog.com/2021/01/petitions-of-the-week-four-petitions-that-test-the-limits-on-lawsuits – against the government /