The week ahead for the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court will hear five arguments in its term’s second week, starting on Tuesday. Another case about affirmative action will get the most attention.

20050422114651!US_Supreme_Court_BuildingThe Court already ruled this June on an affirmative action case, Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin.  The Court in a 7-1 ruled decision to send an affirmative action decision back to a lower court for reconsideration.

But there are four other cases in front of the Court this week. Here is a brief preview and explanation of each case.

Tuesday, October 15

Heimeshoff v. Hartford Life & Accident Insurance Co. and Wal-Mart Stores

The Justices will consider when should the statute of limitations for judicial review of an Employee Retirement Income Security Act (or ERISA) disability benefit decision begins.

Julie Heimeshoff sued in district court, alleging that Hartford Life violated ERISA in denying her disability claim. The district court dismissed the suit because the plan barred legal action more than three years after proof of loss was required. Heimeshoff’s counsel argued that the three-year statute of limitations should run from the date when Hartford denied her claim for the final time.

Links: SCOTUSblog | Oyez

DaimlerChrysler AG v. Bauman

Last April, the Court decided Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, a case about the Alien Torts Act, and they’ll be revisiting issues about the act with this term’s DaimlerChrysler case. The issue in front of the Supreme Court is if a U.S.-based court has jurisdiction over a foreign company, based on the fact that company’s subsidiary acts on its behalf in a U.S. state.

In one sense, the case of DaimlerChrysler v. Bauman is a sequel to the Court’s decision last Term, limiting the overseas reach of the old tort law.  In fact, this new case was held on the Court’s docket until the ruling in merged last April, at which point the Court granted review. Kiobel declared that the ATS does not reach misconduct that had no connection to the U.S.

Workers and relatives of workers in Argentina for a wholly owned subsidiary of German-based DaimlerChrysler AG sued for violations of the Torture Victims Protection Act of 1991. They sued DaimlerChrysler in district court in California, where some of the company’s subsidiaries are located, under provisions of the Alien Torts Act.

Constitution Daily contributor Lyle Denniston has an extensive preview of the case on SCOTUSblog.

Links: SCOTUSblog | Oyez

Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action

The case of Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action is one of the high-profile cases in the Supreme Court’s current term.

It is about a challenge to Proposal 2, an amendment to the Michigan Constitution that voters approved in 2006 banning affirmative action in the state. A coalition of groups and individuals that favors affirmative action in Michigan challenged the ban, and a federal district court largely upheld it.

The issue before the Justices is if an amendment to a state’s constitution to prohibit affirmative action in a public university admissions process violates the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.

Links: SCOTUSblog | Oyez

Wednesday, October 16

Kansas v. Cheever

The Justices will decide if a state violates a defendant’s Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination by introducing evidence, from a court-ordered mental evaluation, to rebut a defendant’s mental incapacity claim.

Scott D. Cheever shot and killed a Greenwood County sheriff who had gone to a residence based on a tip to for outstanding warrants. The sheriff found Cheever and three others cooking and using methamphetamines. Cheever said in court that methamphetamine use made him mentally incapable of premeditated murder. The prosecution called a psychiatrist who had interviewed Cheever to the stand as a rebuttal witness. The Kansas Supreme Court said admission of the government psychiatrist’s testimony into evidence violated Cheever’s Fifth Amendment rights.

Links: SCOTUSblog | Oyez

Kaley v. United States

The Court will consider if the Fifth and Sixth Amendments compel a district court to allow a defendant to challenge the evidence behind charges in a pretrial hearing, when a protective order freezes the assets needed for the defendant to hire an attorney.

Kerri Kaley and her husband Brian Kaley were under investigation by a grand jury for stealing prescription medical devices from hospitals. The grand jury indicted the Kaleys on seven criminal counts. One count was a criminal forfeiture count, which required them to forfeit $500,000 they planned to use to pay their defense attorneys.

The Kaleys asked to vacate the order because it prevented them from hiring attorneys, in violation of the Sixth Amendment. A district court denied their motion without granting a pretrial evidentiary hearing. The Kaleys appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, which reversed and remanded.

The district court then granted a pretrial hearing, but limited it to the question of if the property in the forfeiture was traceable to the Kaleys’ offenses. The Kaleys didn’t present evidence about traceability, and the district court didn’t vacate the protective order. The Kaleys appealed again, saying that they should have been allowed to challenge the validity of the indictment at the pretrial hearing.

Links: SCOTUSblog | Oyez

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