Relist Watch – SCOTUSblog

John Elwood reviews Monday’s relists

2020 is finally over so everything will go smoothly from here on.

With a brand new year we have a whole series of new relists. There are two new ones. The first to appear as a likely grant is United States v Vaello-Madero, 20-303. In 1972, Congress created the Supplemental Security Income Program, administered by the Social Security Administration, which provides monthly cash payments to the elderly, blind, and disabled people who lack the financial means to support themselves. Congress limited the program to the 50 states and the District of Columbia, not Puerto Rico and the other US territories. (Congress made similar but lower payments available to residents of Puerto Rico under another federal program.) Congress later expanded the SSI to include the Northern Mariana Islands under a pact of 1976 to include the Northern Mariana Islands as a Commonwealth in the political union the US to establish United States.

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Congress’s decision not to extend SSI to Puerto Rico violated the due process component of the fifth amendment clause. The Supreme Court unceremoniously opposed a similar challenge to the exclusion of Puerto Rico from the SSI on the basis of the right to travel, and the court also denied a challenge to equal protections for the differential treatment of Puerto Rico under the Aid for Families With Dependent Children program from. The federal government is trying to reconsider the decision of the 1st circuit.

Vaello-Madero is the rare case in which an amicus letter at the Cert stage supports the respondent. Such briefs are rarely filed as they are statistically correlated with grants and therefore can be counterproductive. However, this is unusual – it was brought in by an attorney on a follow-up trial still pending in the appeals court and told the Supreme Court to end up hearing their case, not the government’s. We’ll soon have a better idea if the court will agree.

Next up is Birt against USA, 20-291. Jamell Birt pleaded guilty in 2001 to possessing crack cocaine in order to distribute it. At the time, USC Section 841 (b) (1) 21 contained three levels of penalties for crack cocaine offenses. In sub-paragraph (A) penalties for 50 or more grams of cracked cocaine, in sub-paragraph (B) penalties for 5 or more grams of cracked cocaine and in sub-paragraph (C) penalties for offenses not covered by subsections (A) and (B) fall. . Birt was carrying 185.6 grams of cracked cocaine when arrested, but pleaded guilty on a consent form of possession of an unspecified amount and was sentenced under sub-paragraph (C).

In the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, Congress changed the penalties for certain crack cocaine offenses that have historically been punished much more severely than powder cocaine offenses. To reduce the inequality in treatment between the two, the Fair Sentencing Act increased the amount of crack cocaine required to trigger increased penalties. It changed § 841 (b) (1) (A) to change 50 grams to 280 grams, and it changed subparagraph (B) to change 5 grams to 28 grams. However, subparagraph (C) has not been changed.

The changes only affected crimes for which the defendant was convicted after the 2010 Act came into force. In 2018, however, Congress passed the First Step Act, which made the amendments retrospective by allowing re-convictions of defendants convicted of “covered crime”[s]”- defined as offenses with penalties changed by the Fair Sentencing Act. Birt moved for a reduction in his sentence, which the District Court denied on the grounds that Birt “was not entitled to relief” because “a conviction for violating 21 USC § 841 (b) (1) (C) is not an anonymous offense of the First Step Act. “The US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld this. Birt challenges this decision.

We’ll be back with more next week. Until next time, stay safe!

New relists

Birt v United States, 20-291
Problem: Whether the term “covered offense” in the First Step Act of 2018 includes violations of 21 USC Section 841 (a) involving crack cocaine for which the penalties in subparagraph (b) (1) (C) apply (as U.S. appeals courts) for the 1st, 4th, and 7th circuits) or not (as the U.S. appeals courts ruled for the 3rd, 6th, 10th, and 11th circuits).
(resumed after the conference on December 11th)

USA versus Vaello-Madero, 20-303
Problem: Whether Congress in the 50 states and the District of Columbia and the United States violated the due process component of the Fifth Amendment’s due process clause by introducing an Additional Security Income – a program that benefits the needy, blind, and disabled provides Northern Mariana Islands under a negotiated contract that is not extended to Puerto Rico.
(resumed after the conference on December 11th)

Return relists

Silver versus USA, 20-60
Problems: Whether a civil servant can be convicted of bribery if there is no evidence of an agreed exchange with the alleged bribe payer based solely on his unspoken, unilateral attitude upon receipt of a benefit; (2) whether an extortion conviction under the Hobbs Act can be based on a theory of simple bribery; and (3) whether, if the government decides not to argue a harmless mistake, an appeals court can so spontaneously raise a harmless mistake without giving the accused an opportunity to be heard on the matter.
(resumed after the conferences on December 4th and 11th)

Kane County, Utah v United States, 20-82
Problems: (1) Whether Rule 24 (a) (2) of the Federal Code of Civil Procedure allows legal intervention if the applicant has no significant, identifiable interest in the lawsuit; and (2) whether the United States is adequately defending its title, which is the only disputed interest in an undisclosed title suit.
(resumed after the conferences on December 4th and 11th)

United States v. Kane County, Utah, 20-96
Problem: Whether the environmental concerns of an advocacy group are deemed to be an “interest”, which is required under Rule 24 (a) (2) of the Federal Code of Civil Procedure so that the organization can legally intervene as a defendant of a party in a pending civil action if there is no legal action against that organization could be granted relief in the lawsuit and its environmental concerns are unrelated to any claims or defenses that the organization itself might bring in the lawsuit.
(resumed after the conferences on December 4th and 11th)

Trump v Knight First Amendment Institute, 20-197
Problem: Whether the first change will deprive a government official of their right to control their personal Twitter account by banning third party accounts when they partially use that personal account to announce official promotions and policies.
(resumed after the conferences on December 4th and 11th)

Chipotle Mexican Grill v Scott, 20-257
Problem: Whether a district court can consider factors other than the existence of a single material legal issue or issue common to a group of workers when assessing whether the workers are “similar” for the purposes of the collective bargaining provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
(resumed after the conferences on December 4th and 11th) [NB: the parties have reached an agreement in principle to settle]

Posted in Kane County, Utah vs USA, USA vs Kane County, Utah, Silver vs USA, Trump vs Knight First Amendment Institute, Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. vs Scott, USA vs Vaello-Madero, Birt vs USA. US, Featured, cases in the pipeline

Recommended citation:
John Elwood, Relist Watch,
SCOTUSblog (January 7, 2021, 6:05 p.m.), https://www.scotusblog.com/2021/01/relist-watch-164/

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