SCOTUS Kicks Off Term with Oral Arguments in Six Cases
The U.S. Supreme Court returned to the bench this week, with oral arguments in six cases. The issues before the justices ranged from federal takings claims to endangered animals. Below is a brief summary of the cases:
Weyerhaeuser Company v. United States Fish and Wildlife Service: The case centers on a tiny frog that has been declared endangered under the Endangered Species Act. The statute requires the Secretary of the Interior to “designate any habitat of such species which is then considered to be critical habitat.” “Critical habitat” may include areas “occupied by the species,” as well as “areas outside the geographical area occupied by the species” that are determined to be “essential for the conservation of the species.” The Fish and Wildlife Service designated as critical habitat of the endangered dusky gopher frog a 1500- acre tract of private land that concededly contains no dusky gopher frogs and cannot provide habitat for them absent a radical change in land use because it lacks features necessary for their survival. A divided Fifth Circuit panel upheld the designation. The Supreme Court will decide the following questions: (1) Whether the Endangered Species Act prohibits designation of private land as unoccupied critical habitat that is neither habitat nor essential to species conservation; and (2) whether an agency decision not to exclude an area from critical habitat because of the economic impact of designation is subject to judicial review.
Mount Lemmon Fire District v. Guido: The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) defines certain private and public entities as “employers” and prohibits them from discriminating against employees because of their age. The Act applies to private entities only if they had “twenty or more employees for each working day in each of twenty or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year.”The justices must resolve a circuit split regarding whether the same 20-employee minimum that applies to private employers also applies to political subdivisions of a state, as the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the 6th, 7th, 8th and 10th Circuits have held, or whether the ADEA applies instead to all state political subdivisions of any size, as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit held in this case.
Madison v. Alabama: The Supreme Court’s first death penalty case centers on the execution of a prisoner of questionable competency. The justices have agreed to answer the following questions: (1) Whether, consistent with the Eighth Amendment, and the Supreme Court’s decisions in Ford v. Wainwright and Panetti v. Quarterman, a state may execute a prisoner whose mental disability leaves him with no memory of his commission of the capital offense; and (2) whether evolving standards of decency and the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment bar the execution of a prisoner whose competency has been compromised by vascular dementia and multiple strokes causing severe cognitive dysfunction and a degenerative medical condition that prevents him from remembering the crime for which he was convicted or understanding the circumstances of his scheduled execution
Knick v. Township of Scott, Pennsylvania: The case will determine where a plaintiff may file a takings claim alleging
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Congress of the United States begun and held at the City of New-York, on Wednesday the fourth of March, one thousand seven hundred and eighty nine.
THE Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best ensure the beneficent ends of its institution.