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9 From the 9th: 4 More to SCOTUS, 1 That Won't Bore You to Tears

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By William Peacock, Esq. on October 15, 2014 12:04 PM

Medicaid enforcement. ERISA plans with fiduciary duties. And inflated natural gas prices. What do these three things have in common? None of them would pique the interest of the average American.

But immigration issues due to alleged ties to terrorism? Being locked out of a country where your U.S. citizen wife lives? That's compelling. That's something that will make the headlines when decided.

But first, let's look at the cases only the lawyers could love:

SCOTUS Week at FindLaw

Oneok Inc. v. Learjet, Inc. (Oral Argument: TBD)

Learjet buys natural gas on the retail market. Oneok allegedly artificially inflated natural gas prices on the wholesale market in violation of state antitrust laws. The Natural Gas Act regulates the latter market, but does it preempt state law claims resulting from the retail market?

Issue: Does the Natural Gas Act pre-empt state-law claims challenging industry practices that directly affect the wholesale natural gas market when those claims are asserted by litigants who purchased gas in retail transactions?

Armstrong v. Exceptional Child Center, Inc. (Oral Argument: TBD)

Healthcare costs have gone up. Reimbursement rates have not. Private healthcare providers want to sue the state, which refuses to up the rates, but the statute does not provide for a private right of action.

Issue: Whether the Supremacy Clause gives Medicaid providers a private right of action to enforce 42 U.S.C. § 1396a(a)(30)(A) against a state where Congress chose not to create enforceable rights under that statute.

Tibble v. Edison International (Oral Argument: TBD)

Plaintiffs have a 401(k). The plan administrators allegedly violated their fiduciary duty by choosing more expensive retail-class mutual funds when institutional-class funds were available. ERISA allows plaintiffs to sue, but they must do so within the statue of limitations. It's been more than six years (the limit) here, but there were opportunities to reconsider along the way.

Issue: Whether a claim that ERISA plan fiduciaries breached their duty of prudence by offering higher-cost retail-class mutual funds to plan participants, even though identical lower-cost institution-class mutual funds were available, is barred by 29 U.S.C. § 1113(1) when fiduciaries initially chose the higher-cost mutual funds as plan investments more than six years before the claim was filed.

Kerry v. Din (Oral Argument: TBD)

Fauzia Din is a naturalized American citizen from Afghanistan. Her husband, also from Afghanistan, was denied a visa in 2009 because he once worked as a payroll clerk for the Afghani government when the Taliban were in charge, reports Reuters.

Din wanted to challenge the denial, but the government is allowed discretion to deny visas to those linked with "terrorist activities." The district court bought it, but the Ninth Circuit didn't, and held that the government had not given a legitimate reason for denying the visa.

Issues: (1) Whether a consular officer's refusal of a visa to a U.S. citizen's alien spouse impinges upon a constitutionally protected interest of the citizen; and (2) whether respondent is entitled to challenge in court the refusal of a visa to her husband and to require the government, in order to sustain the refusal, to identify a specific statutory provision rendering him inadmissible and to allege what it believes he did that would render him ineligible for a visa.

H/T to SCOTUSblog for the questions presented, as the Court's website seemed to be having some issues yesterday.

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