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January 2013 Archives

Planting the Seed for Patent Exhaustion: Will Monsanto Win Again?

There's a David and Goliath battle heading to the Supreme Court. One that pits a lil' ol' farmer against a megaseed manufacturer. On Tuesday, February 19, the Court will consider whether patent exhaustion applies to self-replicating technologies, like seeds.

Admittedly, we know nothing about farming, but the IP-infringement judgment at stake in this case suggests that the Supreme Court's decision could add up to millions for Monsanto.

3 Reasons SCOTUS Can't Rule on DOMA

Article III is famously short, but it really packs a punch. A punch that could knock the Defense of Marriage Act challenge right out of court.

The Constitution limits judicial review to cases and controversies. According to an amicus brief submitted by Harvard Law Professor Vicki Jackson, the DOMA appeal — U.S. v. Windsor — no longer qualifies for the controversy distinction because the Obama administration and the lower courts agree that DOMA is unconstitutional.

In December, the Court tasked Jackson with arguing that it did not have standing to hear Windsor, The Harvard Crimson reports. Last week, Jackson filed her brief. The short version? Everyone loses.

Shiver Me Timbers: SCOTUS Rejects Piracy Appeals

The United States piracy statute is pretty poetic. And ambiguous.

Whoever, on the high seas, commits the crime of piracy as defined by the law of nations, and is afterwards brought into or found in the United States, shall be imprisoned for life.

On April 1, 2010, the USS Nicholas was on a counter-piracy mission in the Indian Ocean when, lit to disguise itself as a merchant vessel, it encountered Somali "pirates" shortly after midnight. The pirates approached the ship on attack skiff. From their posts on the Nicholas, crew members could see by way of night-vision devices that one of the defendants was armed with a loaded rocket-propelled grenade launcher, while two others carried AK-47 assault rifles. The ship and the skiff briefly exchanged fire before the pirates retreated.

So was it piracy?

Defending DOMA: A Peek at BLAG's Briefs

The Supreme Court corollary to “pics or it didn’t happen” should be “briefs or it isn’t real.” Just in case you were pinching yourself — doubting that the Court might actually decide on same-sex marriage — we finally have briefs.

Tuesday, the House of Representatives Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) submitted a brief defending the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). And, it’s kind of a doozy.

Hospitals Must Catch CMS Errors Within 3 Years

The Supreme Court saved the U.S. government a lot of money this week. A lot. We're talking billions here. (Maybe the politicians didn't have to abandon the debt ceiling after all?)

Tuesday morning, the Court announced that hospitals can't rely on equitable tolling to extend the time limit for appealing Medicare reimbursements.

What Does Sotomayor's 'Beloved World' Mean for Affirmative Action?

Justice Sonia Sotomayor's new book, "My Beloved World," is a hit.

Reviewers have embraced her "refreshing conversational style" and "fascinating life story." NPR's Nina Totenberg predicts that her "beautifully written and novelistic" "page-turner" will become a best-seller.

It May Float, But it's Not a Boat

The Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that practical possibilities trump their theoretical counterparts.

In a 7-2 decision, the Court found that a floating home didn't qualify as a "vessel" because "a reasonable observer ... would not consider it to be designed to any practical degree for carrying people or things on water."

(Sidebar: We basically reached the same result when we previewed this case in September.)

Justice Thomas Finally Speaks in Sixth Amendment Case

The Supreme Court hosted a Sixth Amendment extravaganza Monday. The day started with Alleyne v. U.S., reconsidering the Court's 2002 Harris v. U.S. ruling that the Constitution does not require facts which increase a mandatory minimum sentence to be determined by a jury, and ended with a speedy trial debate in Boyer v. Louisiana.

Oh yeah. And Justice Clarence Thomas finally spoke. No big deal.

Let's discuss the long-term constitutional implications before we get to the four words that shook the world.

Decisions, Decisions: 4 Unanimous SCOTUS Rulings

The Supreme Court celebrated its first week back to business in the new year with four -- count 'em, four! -- unanimous decisions.

On Tuesday, the Court released decisions for Ryan v. Gonzales and Tibbals v. Carter (consolidated appeals) and LA County Flood Control District v. Natural Resources Defense Council. On Wednesday, the Court issued opinions in Already LLC v. Nike Inc. and Smith v. U.S.

Let's turn to the holdings!

Catching Up with SCOTUS

Much like the Supreme Court, we took a recess for the last two weeks.

Now that we're back, let's get caught up with the latest and greatest from our favorite court.