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SCOTUS Hears Arguments: Can Gov't Freeze Money to Pay Lawyers?

Today the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments for the case of Luis v. United States, a case of first impression for SCOTUS that asks probing questions about the role of government forfeiture of personal assets.

The legal issue at the core of Luis is this: Can prosecutors freeze all of the defendant's assets even if they are unrelated to any criminal activity and even if freezing them would hinder the defendant's ability to hire counsel?

Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Spokeo v. Robins, a case which could have major implications for Internet privacy litigation. Spokeo, a "people search" website, aggregates public information on individuals, from their educational levels to the cost of their house. But, whoops! Sometimes that information isn't always accurate.

When Spokeo published inaccurate information about Thomas Robins, he pursued a class action against the site for violating the privacy-focused Fair Credit Reporting Act. But besides that statutory violation, Robins couldn't point to any injury. Sure his info was wrong, but was he fired over it? Did his wife leave him? No. So, the question before the court yesterday was, then, does Robins even have any right to sue?

Also Decided at SCOTUS: Bankruptcy and Whistleblowing

What else happened at the Supreme Court this week? As we reported yesterday, a case that's going to be of significance to patent trolls and the people who fight against them.

But there were two other opinions released yesterday, dealing with more the more prosaic topics of bankruptcy and whistleblowing. ("Patents aren't prosaic?" you're asking. The answer is "no." They're very exciting.)

So, let's see what else the Court did to put your tax dollars to work.

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 Maintains Veil of Secrecy Over Juror Deliberations

What happens in the juror room stays in the juror room (unless it's a mock trial and you get to watch hidden cameras and the foreperson who is a lawyer in real life declares himself as such and misstates the law, causing you to lose your graded mock trial final -- sorry, I'm still bitter).

Gregory Warger was riding his motorcycle when Randy Shauers clipped him. Fault was at issue, as was the proper measure of damages, but in the end, the jury sided with Shauers. Warger, after losing a leg in the accident, got nothing.

But then a spark of hope emerged: It turns out the foreperson had lied during voir dire when she was asked if there was any reason why she could not award damages. During deliberations, she told her fellow jurors that her daughter had been at fault in an accident and a lawsuit would have ruined her daughter's life. Someone leaked this to the lawyers and signed an affidavit. Warger wanted a new trial.

Too bad.

2 Burning Questions Answered Re: Inherited IRAs and Lanham Claims

Have you ever stayed up late at night, unable to sleep, wondering if maybe, just maybe, your inherited IRA assets might be exposed to creditors in bankruptcy? Don't worry, you are not alone.

Or perhaps, maybe, just maybe, you thought to yourself: Pomegranate juice? Coca Cola, dag nabbit, there ain't hardly any juice in this here drink at all! And instead of lying there, disillusioned over the lies of a corporate behemoth, you sought to strike back. Have you ever wondered if you could, perhaps using the Lanham Act?

Many Notable Denials on the Court's First Day Back

Habeas corpus is all but dead, gun rights mean nothing (especially for 18 to 21-year-olds), the Feds will break up your neighborhood poker game, and the Supreme Court's rulings in the Washing Machine Cases were ignored completely.

Yes, these are all exaggerations of the effects of the most notable of today's many denials, found amongst a 46-page orders list. But in fact, the Court did not grant any new cases. Here are the ones that we were keeping an eye on:

Snippets: Two Cases Granted, Aereo Doesn't Oppose Review

It's been an unusually busy day on First Street, with the court granting certiorari in two cases after yesterday's conference, and with a minor surprise in the ongoing nationwide litigation over Aereo, a service that streams local broadcast channels over the internet to subscribers.

The two new cases, Fifth Third Bancorp v. Dudenhoefer and Loughrin v. United States both involve banks, but that's where the similarities end. The former case asks whether a bank has a fiduciary duty to divest stock in itself from employees' stock plans when it knows or should know that it is engaging in risky (subprime lending) business practices. In the latter case, the Court will decide whether the government has to prove that a defendant who passed stolen checks at Target had the intent to defraud the bank or financial institution specifically.

Alito Questions Judge's Race and Gender Criteria for Class Counsel

Much like women who are online dating receive far more suitors than they can handle, the Supreme Court gets asked for a date far more often than it can (or will) accept. As a result, the grant rate for certiorari is a bit less than 1 percent.

With that in mind, the Monday orders list is usually a sad, yet uneventful waiting room full of spurned parties. Today? It was far from a riot, but there were a few notable cases, including the court's denial of a writ of mandamus in an NSA surveillance case and this, a half-hearted benchslap by Justice Alito.

Abortion Case Nixed, 9th Already Reversed, Cy Pres Procrastinated

Busy Monday.

This morning, the court released an orders list with quite a few surprises, including the Court's response to the Oklahoma Supreme Court's certified question answers in the medical abortion (RU-486 "off-label") dispute, a per curium reversal of a Ninth Circuit decision (the fun starts early, apparently), and finally, with a Schwarzenegger-esque, "we'll be back" sort-of-statement, Chief Justice Roberts announced the denial of certiorari in Mark v. Lane, a Facebook class-action settlement case.

Interested in the short version, rather than the court's 27-page orders list? Read on: