« Wowzers — “Marriage” Now Considered Hate Speech? | Main | Al Pacino and Yoko Ono, sitting in a tree…. »

Supreme Court Decision Update - Five Supreme Court Cases

supreme3.jpgThis week’s Supreme Court updates are going to be extra quick-and-dirty, because we just don’t have the time (or inclination, really) to scour through five mundane unanimous opinions to give you the details. None of the five are particularly noteworthy, and none will likely affect your life in any meaningful way unless you are a home healthcare worker, are worried about Superfund laws, or are suing the tobacco companies for the way they market light cigarettes.

The first case, Watson v. Philip Morris (PDF of the Opinion) might have been interesting had the Court ruled on the merits – the case itself involved whether marketing cigarettes as “Lights” constituted deceptive marketing practices. However, the Supremes, in an opinion drafted by Justice Breyer, merely ruled on a jurisdictional question, concluding that the federal courts did not have exclusive jurisdiction over the matter. So, against Phillip Morris’ wishes, the case can also be heard in state court.

In the second case, Long Island Care at Home vs. Coke (PDF of the Opinion), Justice Breyer (again) writing for the Court ruled that federal minimum wage laws do not apply to home health care workers that are employed by companies and other organizations – these 660,000 people are exempted from the 1974 Fair Labor Standards Act.

In the third case, United States v. Atlantic Research Group (PDF of the Opinion), the Court, in an opinion issued by Justice Thomas, ruled against the Bush Administration’s wishes, holding that companies contracted out by the government can sue the federal government to recoup pollution clean-up costs under the Superfund law, even if they voluntarily clean up hazardous materials (as opposed to being compelled to do so by CERCLA [Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act] enforcement actions).

In case number four, Fry v. Pliler (PDF of the Opinion), there were some dissents, but on the main issue, the Court unanimously ruled, in an opinion by Justice Scalia, that the Brecht “substantial and injurious effect” standard applies on habeas regardless of whether the state court did a harmless error analysis. Exciting, I know.

Finally, in Beck v. Pace International Union (PDF of the Opinion), Justice Scalia’s unanimous opinion held that a company that sponsors its own pension plan does not have a duty to merge it with another as an alternative to terminating it