Average Joe SCOTUS: Salinas v. United States Railroad Retirement Board

Here’s your basic snooze fest of a case. But since the government has a buttload of rules for the railroad industry, SCOTUS finds a lot of these on their docket.

Good ole Manfredo Salinas was a railroad worker, who eventually got injured on the job, fucked up his back big time, and argued he couldn’t work anymore after multiple surgeries.

As such, he applied for a disability annuity in 2006. But the board denied his application, because apparently a well-functioning back isn’t necessary to work on the railroad.

Then in 2013, Salinas filed again, and this time, was granted his benefits by the same board, arguing that in his advanced age with his injuries, he was basically fucked if he tried to find a job.

Salinas was like, “Thanks. Now let’s talk about that 2006 claim you assholes denied.”

So he sued in the 5th Circuit, but they were like, “A denial by the board is their decision to make, dipshit. We aren’t getting involved.” Their reason, is kinda contrived though. Because a decision to deny reopening an old decision isn’t a final decision that the court can review, although the decision to deny the claim is, but that decision had a time time bar, meaning if not decided within a certain time, it’s dead. Stupid, right?

So basically, SCOTUS is being asked to determine if the courts can in fact rule on a decision not to reopen.

In a 5:4 decision, not even remotely decided on party lines, SCOTUS ruled in favor of Salinas. They opined that a decision by the Railroad Board is in fact subject to judicial review, so they reviewed it. Alito, Gorsuch, Thomas, and Barrett sided against, basically saying that the language in the RRA limits judicial review to the board’s claims of rights or liabilities, and they considered this administrative action, and thus not subject for review.

Read about the case or hear oral arguments here at Oyez or read about it here at SCOTUS Blog



Average Joe SCOTUS: Federal Republic of Germany v. Philipp

For reasons I’ll never understand, SCOTUS has opted to listen to two separate cases about the same fucking thing.

In Republic of Hungary v. Simon, we heard about a case involving those evil bastards in the Nazi regime stealing Jewish-owned artwork, and the Hungarian government just letting it happen.

Well, this case asks the same question, but this time involves Germany “buying” artwork from some Jewish people in the Netherlands that they had purchased after the 1929 stock market crash. But when we say “buying” we mean demanding it be sold at well below market value.

So heirs of the dealers who were screwed by Germany back then are filing a claim in D.C. Germany, feeling they can handle it themselves, requested the case be dismissed so they can address it in Germany.

In a unanimous decision, SCOTUS decided that Germany can deal with their own shit, and it’s none of our fucking business. That this issue is not a matter of international law when Germany as a country takes shit from citizens of Germany. They also told Simon to get fucked, for similar reasons, in Republic of Hungary v. Simon.

Read about the case here at Oyez, or here at SCOTUS Blog

Average Joe SCOTUS: Brownback v. King

James King, some rando 26-year-old college student was walking about town when two FBI agents accosted him, thinking he was a home invasion suspect, because he matched a basic description. Before you assume wrongly, he wasn’t black.

Initially, he complied when he spotted their badges, but when one of them pulled his wallet out of his pocket, he thought he was being mugged, and ran. So they tackled him and beat the fuck out of him.

Once he was out of the hospital, he was arrested for resisting arrest, which is fucking crazy, since officers had no cause to arrest him. The court agreed, and he was dismissed without any charges.

One of the issues at play here, is the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). This law was passed in 1946 as a way of basically saying, if government agents wrong you, you can sue government, as opposed to the agents, for the bad things they did in the government’s name. However, there’s an older landmark case,  Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics from 1971 that allows people to sue federal officials for violating any constitutional rights. It also allows people to sue the federal government in federal court if they violated state laws.

Within the FTCA, is a “judgement bar” which basically says, if you sued once for this shit, and a judgement was issued, you can’t sue again elsewhere.

The federal officers are barred from being sued under the controversial principle of qualified immunity, unless certain qualifications are met.

A district court felt King didn’t meet those qualifiers for an FTCA claim, determining he wasn’t a victim under any Michigan law, and dismissed his case. They also dismissed his Bivens claim, citing qualified immunity for the officers.

King, realizing that his FTCA claim didn’t meet the burden he needed to make that claim, decided only to pursue the Bivens claim. But then the court said because his FTCA claim was dismissed, that the judgment bar applied, and therefore he couldn’t sue under the Bivens claim.

King was like, “Are you fucking serious right now?” So he took his case to the 6th circuit who sided with King, and allowed him to proceed suing these FBI dipshits.

So the FBI dipshits are suing in SCOTUS to try to say the judgement bar DOES apply since his FTCA claim was dismissed. King says the judgement bar only applies to actions and judgements, not dismissals on jurisdictional grounds.

In a unanimous decision, SCOTUS felt King was to be the loser, here. The stated that the bar does in fact get triggered by a dismissal.

You can read about the case in depth here at Oyez or here at SCOTUS Blog

Average Joe SCOTUS: Republic of Hungary v. Simon

Bringing up some old WW2 shit, Rosalie Simon and company are survivors of the holocaust from Hungary. They sued Hungary in the US for damages incurred during the holocaust. Weirdly, they opted to sue here in the US, and not in Hungary, claiming that the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) expropriation exception which reads:

A foreign state shall not be immune from the jurisdiction of courts of the United States or of the States in any case—in which rights in property taken in violation of international law are in issue and that property or any property exchanged for such property is present in the United States in connection with a commercial activity carried on in the United States by the foreign state; or that property or any property exchanged for such property is owned or operated by an agency or instrumentality of the foreign state and that agency or instrumentality is engaged in a commercial activity in the United States;
Basically saying that because these items were taken in violation of international law, they can be sued in our federal court. But the opposition argues that Hungarian courts should be given a crack at hearing this first, and they can’t just sue here in the US out of convenience.
The court enjoined this case with the Germany v. Philipp one, and kicked that shit back to Hungary, arguing this is basically none of our fucking business.
Read about the case here at Oyez

Average Joe SCOTUS: Florida v. Georgia

Firs things first, this looks like the title of a college football game. But it’s not. Instead, this is about good ole water.

The Chattahoochee river flows from Georgia, and eventually merges with the Flint River to form the Apalachicola river which meanders its way to Florida.

The Army Corps of Engineers manages some dams that control these waters, based on direction from a master manual which was drafted in 1958. Yeah, you read that right, that shit’s been in force and largely unchanged for over 60 years.

So Florida is like, “Hey, those assholes in Georgia are taking way too much of that water. Shit’s changed in 60 years, and we need more of it.”

So that’s really all that’s being argued here. Florida wants more fresh water, and Georgia wants them to go pound sand up their ass. Both states have increased water demands, but the rivers aren’t flowing any more water. So SCOTUS is basically being asked to decide on whether this manual should change, or they should just keep dividing it up based on guidance from about the same time Leave it to Beaver hit the airwaves.

Florida tried to argue that Georgia’s substantial consumption caused severe harm to their downstream mates in Florida, and that if they let more water flow, it wouldn’t harm Georgia in any way.

Justice Breyer pushed back on some of the harm claims, specifically about oyster bed collapse. He asked about overharvesting of oysters in Florida, which has nothing to do with water shortages.

But Florida’s counsel argued that the science doesn’t support that the harm to Florida’s oyster bed is from overharvesting, but instead, because of water shortages.

Florida wrapped by arguing that they’re not asking for a greater percentage from Georgia, but instead, they’re asking Georgia to just stop being such wasteful twatwaffles. His closing arguments were:

Gregory G. Garre

Thank you, Your Honor. I guess I would say in closing it’s hard to imagine New England without lobsters or, say, the Chesapeake without crabs, but, in effect, that’s a future that Apalachicola now faces when it comes to its oysters and other species.

And yet, just to be clear, no one is asking or saying to Georgia farmers, sorry, you can’t grow your crops anymore because there’s no water left for you.

Under the decree Florida is requesting, all farmers could continue to grow their crops.

A decree would simply require them to prevent outright waste and adopt more efficient measures to save water while still irrigating.

That’s hardly asking too much. As this Court stressed in its prior decision, Florida has an equal right to the reasonable use of the waters at issue.

Georgia has never disputed that Florida’s use of the water to replenish an irreplaceable ecological treasure is reasonable.

And yet, if the Court accepts the Special Master’s recommendation, that right will be extinguished, and the Apalachicola, not to mention the communities that have fished and depended on it for centuries, will be lost. Thank you.

Clarence Thomas hit right between the eyes with his opening question for Georgia, though. He asked:

Clarence Thomas

Mr. Primis, do you agree that there has been a reduction in the flow of water into the Apalachicola over the years?

Craig S. Primis

Comparing the pre-reservoir, pre-Army Corps operations, and post-Army Corps operations, the answer to that question is yes, Justice Thomas.

Clearly trying to ascertain if Georgia is just taking more for itself, and leaving less for Florida. Or if there’s another reason why Florida is having water issues that have nothing to do with Georgia activities.

Georgia argued back:

Craig S. Primis


The water is not disappearing.

The first point I would make is that Florida is making a completely inapt comparison by comparing the ACF basin prior to the building of the dams and reservoirs and the Army Corps operations post. The Army Corps has the overriding influence in the amount and timing of flow from Georgia into Florida, and the reason that there were more days closer to 5,000 is because the Army Corps is controlling those flows in a way that did not exist previously.

So it’s not disappearing.

The water — it would be in reservoirs. But it’s compounded by the fact that there have been three back-to-back droughts that did not exist in the historic record, and the rain — lack of rainfall accounts for the reduced flows as well as the change in seasonality.

So the water’s not disappearing. There’s just less of it.

And the Army Corps is intervening.

He went on to argue that areas which had been overharvested, were the only ones that were fucked up. The other areas were fine. So Florida’s argument it isn’t from overharvesting was bullshit.

In a unanimous decision for Georgia, they felt Florida had failed to make any demonstrable claim that Georgia was was taking more than their fair share. Florida, needs to figure out how to deal with it’s oyster problem some other way. They don’t get to force Georgia to do shit.

Read about the cases here at Oyez and/or SCOTUSBlog

Average Joe SCOTUS: Henry Schein Inc. v. Archer and White Sales

The Supreme Court, apparently loving hearing their greatest hits on repeat, is hearing Henry Schein v. Archer and White Sales Inc. again.

This is a boring ass case where both parties entered into a contract with an arbitration clause which is not in dispute. For some reason, Archer and White think that Henry Schein is engaging in anti-trust business practices, and decided that such an issue is not a contractual issue, but instead a legal one, which should not be left up to arbitration.

SCOTUS in 2019, told Archer and White to fuck off, and sent it back to the US Court of appeals, telling them to send it to arbitration. That if there’s such a clear arbitration clause, it goes to arbitration no matter what. That arbitrators decide if the issue is not one for arbitration to decide, and they didn’t do that.

The appellate court however was like, “Hey, this agreement has some exemptions to arbitration, and therefore there are clearly times when it shouldn’t go to arbitration. So we’re leaving it up to the courts to decide if this claim is arbitratable or not. So SCOTUS was like, “We told you what the fuck to do, and you dare question us assholes?” So they put the claim on hold, and agreed to hear it again.

SCOTUS decided, “You know what, we don’t even know why we agreed to hear this nonsense again, but we can’t even be bothered to give an opinion on it.” So they dismissed the case without an opinion. “Now, go to arbitration, or do whatever the fuck you want to do. We don’t care.”

Read about the case here at Oyez