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February 2015 Archives

In Teeth-Whitening Case, SCOTUS Extends Antitrust Immunity Exception

Teeth whitening may not be "the practice of dentistry." Who knew? On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court declared, 6-3, that the determinations of a state regulatory board can be actionable as antitrust if the board is composed of market participants who are using the power of the state to shut out competition.

The Court's opinion extended the doctrine of state-action antitrust immunity to include state regulatory agencies composed of private market participants. Before this case, it applied only to private bodies granted state regulatory authority, or other private entities effectively engaging in state action.

SCOTUS: A Fish Is Not a 'Tangible Object' for Sarbanes Purposes

Destroying a fish isn't a federal crime, the Supreme Court ruled today, in another victory for sanity when it comes to prosecutorial over-charging.

By a surprising 5-4 split, the Court said that the provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act that prohibit destroying a "tangible object" refer to tangible objects used to record information, not any tangible object at all.

SCOTUS Exercises Equitable Power in Kansas Water Rights Dispute

In a fractured opinion authored by Justice Elena Kagan, the Supreme Court sided with Kansas in a battle over water rights in the Republican River Basin.

Kagan, along with the Court's four liberals, signed on to the whole opinion. Chief Justice Roberts agreed, but only to parts I and III. Justice Scalia concurred and dissented separately, and Justice Thomas concurred and dissented in part, joined by Justice Alito, Roberts, and Scalia.

Got all that?

Details on SCOTUS' Sanction of Patent Attorney Howard Shipley

What does it take to get disciplined by the Supreme Court Bar? How about letting your client write the briefs? Back in December, the Court issued an order to attorney Howard Shipley to show cause why he shouldn't be sanctioned for his conduct in connection with a cert. petition in the case Sigram Schindler Beteiligungsgesellschaft MBH v. Lee.

That was a patent case dealing with claim construction, but patent watchers like the website Patently-O thought the petition looked a little weird. In fact, look at the petition for yourself: It's extremely weird and uses a tremendous amount of highly technical language and equations.

SCOTUS Oral Argument Preview: Week of February 23, 2015

The Supreme Court is ready to begin its February oral arguments -- well, in what's left of February, anyway. After two weeks of arguments in January dealing with religious speech, housing discrimination, and whistleblowers, the Court took some time off (while one justice took a nap at an inopportune time).

Now that Justice Ginsburg has had her beauty rest, let's see what's in store for next week.

SCOTUS on Ala. Gay Marriage: A Signal of What's to Come?

Same-sex nuptials have taken place in parts of Alabama, after the U.S. Supreme Court voted 7-2 not to stay enforcement of a federal judge's order that the state's gay marriage ban was unconstitutional. The High Court's decision paved the way for same-sex marriages to begin immediately (though some county courts still declined to issue marriage licenses, AL.com reports).

Wait -- I did say "7-2," didn't I? Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justice Antonin Scalia, wrote a three-page dissent that Court watchers are saying tips the Court's hand vis-a-vis same sex marriage.

La. Prisoner Released, Dismissing Juvenile Life-Without-Parole Case

The U.S. Supreme Court will have one fewer case to argue this term, following the release of a Louisiana inmate who's been in prison for almost 30 years.

In 1985, George Toca was convicted of the murder of his best friend during an armed robbery gone wrong. At the time of the murder, which occurred a year earlier, Toca was 17. He was sentenced to life without parole.

Toca's question was whether Miller v. Alabama applied retroactively.