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3 Supreme Court Cases That Will Matter This November

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on October 20, 2015 11:47 AM

October oral arguments are over. We've heard cases on the death penalty, class actions, conspiracy and even electricity reimbursements. Now the rest of October is turned over to the Justices, and their armies of clerk-scriveners, who can actually start deciding things. In the mean time, we look ahead.

Here are our top three cases to watch in November, hitting everything from privacy litigation to asset forfeiture to employment discrimination.

Spokeo v. Robins: Privacy and Standing (November 2nd)

This is the case to watch in November, one which could have a major impact on Internet privacy litigation. Spokeo is a so-called "people search" website that gathers and publishes public data about individuals -- everything from phone numbers to family members to the number of bathrooms in your home. Thomas Robins sued Spokeo, arguing that it published false information about him in violation of the privacy-focused Fair Credit Reporting Act.

At oral arguments, the Justices will hear arguments as to whether Robins has suffered any injury that would allow him to sue and whether Congress can create standing through acts like the FCRA. It's a relatively academic standing question which could have major implications on individuals' right to bring suit if their privacy is violated.

Luis v. United States: Frozen Assets and Criminal Defense Lawyers (November 10th)

Here's a question of particular importance for criminal defense attorneys: can the government prevent a defendant from using frozen, but untainted, assets to pay for her defense? Sila Luis was prevented from doing just that. The former president of a health care provider, she was indicted on charges that she obtained $45 million in illegal Medicare payments.

Federal officers froze Luis's assets, including those not connected to the charges, preventing her from using them for her legal defense. Luis argues that the government can't take her untainted assets without violating the Fifth and Sixth Amendments. The Department of Justice has argued that the issue isn't tainted assets, but forfeitable ones. The money Luis wants to spend would be forfeitable if she is convicted, so she shouldn't be allowed to spend it before her conviction. So far, the lower courts have agreed with the DOJ.

Green v. Brennan: Employment Discrimination Deadlines (November 30th)

When a federal employee has been forced out because of a hostile work environment, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act gives him 45 days to file a constructive discharge claim. (Non-federal workers have up to 300 days to contact the EEOC.) But when does the clock begin to run? When the discriminatory acts take place, or when the actual resignation happens?

It's a question that has divided the circuits and the Supreme Court will have a chance to settle it this November. Here, Marvin Green claimed he was constructively discharged from the Postal Service because of racial discrimination; he settled an EEOC complaint but didn't resign until a year later. The Tenth Circuit said that was fine -- he didn't wait too long to sue, since resignation is needed for a constructive discharge claim.

Of course, November is just getting us ready for the big cases. Particularly, the biggest case of the term: Fisher II, where the court will tackle, on December 9th, whether race-conscious university admissions are constitutional. Get ready!

October 21, 2015 Editor's Note: This post has been corrected to indicate that it is only federal employees who must file claims within 45 days.

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