Today, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in five cases of interest to the business community:
Administrative Enforcement Actions—Judicial Review of Subpoenas
McLane v. EEOC, No. 15-1248
When the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigates an employer, the Commission has the statutory authority to subpoena any evidence "relevant to the charge under investigation." A subpoenaed party that doubts the relevance of the evidence sought can ask a federal district court to quash the subpoena. The Court granted certiorari in McLane to resolve a division among the courts of appeals as to whether district court decisions on motions to quash EEOC subpoenas should be reviewed de novo or for abuse of discretion.
Lanham Act—Disparaging Trademarks
Lee v. Tam, No. 15-1293
The Lanham Act provides that no trademark shall be refused registration on account of its nature unless, as relevant here, it "[c]onsists of ... matter which may disparage ... persons, living or dead, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols, or bring them into contempt, or disrepute." The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit invalidated the statute as facially unconstitutional, but the Supreme Court has accepted the federal government's request to review that judgment.
First Amendment—Commercial Speech
Expressions Hair Design v. Schneiderman, No. 15-1391
When merchants accept payments by credit card, they incur processing fees that they would not incur in a cash transaction. As a result, some merchants opt to charge different prices for customers paying cash and for those paying with credit cards. In ten states, including New York, such merchants are permitted to discriminate by method of payment only if they characterize the disparity as a discount for cash purchasers, rather than as a surcharge for credit card users. The lower courts have divided as to whether such restrictions impermissibly restrict speech conveying price information. The Court will review the constitutionality of New York's law.
Due Process—Civil Sanctions
Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. v. Haeger, No. 15-1406
Federal courts possess the inherent authority to sanction parties for misconduct. Such sanctions can be compensatory or punitive, but punitive sanctions can be entered only if the party facing sanctions is accorded the procedural due process rights ordinarily associated with criminal defendants. The Court has granted certiorari to address whether the amount of compensatory sanctions—i.e., those that do not accord the protections of criminal due process—must be tailored to the harm directly caused by the sanctionable misconduct.
Sovereign Immunity—Employees of an Indian Tribe
Lewis v. Clarke, No. 15-1500
Indian tribes possess some of the attributes of sovereignty, including sovereign immunity. In this case, an employee of an Indian tribe was sued in his individual capacity for negligently causing a car crash that took place off the reservation but within the scope of the employee's employment. The Court will address whether the action was properly dismissed as barred by sovereign immunity.
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