Category Archives: SCOTUS For The Average Joe

Average JOE SCOTUS: San Antonio v. Hotels.com, L.P.

So the history of this case, is that San Antonio loves their taxes. Online travel companies (OTCs) will help you book a hotel room, then charge you a small fee for arranging everything. San Antonio has a tax on occupancy fees, which basically means, that you have to pay a tax on the hotel’s fee if you stay in a hotel room.

However, San Antonio was also applying that tax to the OTCs fees. So the OTCs were like, “WTF, San Antonio?” Aren’t you part of Texas, the land of the free and lower taxes? Why you fucking us up the ass like this? Our fees are brokerage fees, not fees for them occupying a hotel room.”

So the OTCs sued, and won, and San Antonio was no longer taxing their fees.

In America, if you go to court, it’s generally assumed that you pay for your attorney, and I’ll pay for mine. Well, the OTCs were like, “We’re glad you sided in our favor and all, but we racked up millions of dollars in legal expenses fighting this shit, and we think you should have to pay that too.”

Within this framework is Federal Rule 39. As laid out by SCOTUSBLOG, it says:

Subsection (a) describes who should pay the costs, explaining in relevant part that “unless the law provides or the court orders otherwise … if a judgment is reversed, costs are taxed against the [losing party].” Subsection (e), in turn, provides that “[t]he following costs on appeal are taxable in the district court for the benefit of the party entitled to costs under this rule,” and then lists four types of costs that are available: costs of preparing the record, costs of preparing the transcript, the fee for filing the notice of appeal, and premiums associated with any bond pending appeal. Posting an appeal bond allows a defendant who loses in the district court to prevent the plaintiff from executing on the judgment while the appeal is pending.

The original costs and filing fees were $350k, and San Antonio agreed to pay that. But then, the OTCs dropped $2M in premiums on the appeals, and San Antonio was like, “Wait a fucking minute, we ain’t paying that.” Based on the rule above, even though the district court kinda saw San Antonio’s points as valid, as to why they shouldn’t be on the hook for that two million, they felt the rule dictated they had to award the OTCs. It does say “taxed against the losing party” after all.

These arguments are petty and procedural at best. San Antonio is arguing that “Hey, long ago, rule 39 had mandatory wording that said, “Shall be taxed” but now the wording is “taxable” which seems to indicate they meant to leave it up to the court’s discretion.

But the OTCs argue that this language merely means that the district court is where the tax should be applied.

In a unanimous decision, SCOTUS ruled in favor of Hotels.com. Let freedom fucking ring. Texas is on the hook for all these fees. Rule 39 allows appellate courts to determine the costs for appeals, and so they did. Which means that they were within their power to make Texas pay for the costs they determined were reasonable for Hotels.com to claim.

Hear oral arguments or read about the case here.

https://www.oyez.org/cases/2020/20-334

Average JOE SCOTUS: Greer v. United States

This case is enjoined to United States v. Gary, although being argued separately, regarding whether someone can be convicted of felony possession if they didn’t know they had been convicted of a felony, and whether they have a right to be retried if they plead, but didn’t know they were pleading guilty to a felony.

Gregory Greer was feeling especially horny one night, and so he went looking for a woman he could hire to be his girlfriend for a period of time. Greer, not being the sharpest knife in the drawer, walked right up to cops running a prostitution sting, and it took him a second to realize these were not the droids he was looking for.

Once he figured out that these were the fuzz, and not girlfriends for hire, he bolted down the stairs, hoping he could outrun them and get away. It gets worse for Greer though, he had a stolen Colt .45 on his dumb ass (not the shitty ass beer, but a gun). It either fell, or he threw it as he was running the stairs. Cops saw it, and of course caught Greer, so they charged his dumb ass with felony possession, since he had like 73 million counts of burglary on his record.

Greer was convicted by a jury, but that jury was not asked to determine whether Greer would have known if he was a felon, and thus violating felony possession laws at the time. So even though it’s plainly obvious Greer knew he was a fucking felon, the jury wasn’t aware he had to know, and thus wouldn’t have taken it into account when convicting him.

So Greer’s counsel is colorfully trying to invalidate his verdict by arguing had the jury known they needed to prove he knew, they might not have convicted, and we’ll never know because they weren’t told. So the only remedy is a retrial. Fucking creative, I’ll give them that.

In a unanimous decision, SCOTUS told Greer, while his argument was creative, it was ultimately shit. They ruled that an appellate court reviewing a claim of “plain error” by a lower court, can consider any factors available to them, and not just the trial record in question. As such, they determined that while a plain error may have been made, the error didn’t alter his outcome, if you look at his case on the whole. Ultimately, it was on his dumb ass during the original trial, to present evidence then that he didn’t know he was a felon. Since he didn’t, he’s the one who fucked up here.

Hear oral arguments or read about the case here.

https://www.oyez.org/cases/2020/19-8709

Average JOE SCoTUS: United States v. Gary

I’ve often argued that in the United States, we have so many bullshit laws, we’re probably all criminals and don’t even know it. Well, that’s kinda at the heart of this case.

In 2019, the Supreme Court  in Rehaif v. United States, decided that in order to be convicted of the felony of possessing a firearm while already being a felon, it requires that that person both know they had the gun, and that they were a felon.

Michael Andrew Gary, really loves guns. So much so, they he went out and got himself some stolen guns, and was driving around town with them without a care in the world. That is until, officers pulled his dumb ass over for running a red light. Oh, did I mention his dumb ass didn’t have a driver’s license, either?

Don’t do drugs kids! And for fuck’s sake, if you don’t have a driver’s license, don’t run a fucking red light when you have a stolen gun in your car.

Anyway, this fucking idiot was busted years earlier for a 2nd degree burglary, and plead to it, like he plead to having a stolen gun, running a red light, and having no license. Basically, he just really doesn’t want to fight with the law, and admits to pretty much anything he’s charged with. Until now.

The problem at the heart of this case, was that back in 2014, when he plead, he was apparently not made aware that the conviction would be a felony.

Once SCOTUS decided Rehaif above, the 4th Circuit decided Gary was entitled to a new hearing, so his dumb ass could decide whether he wanted to plea or not, now knowing it would make him a felon.

Why does this matter? Well, if he didn’t know he was a felon, then the newer charge of felony possession of a gun can’t be attached to him, because as was stated above, he has to know he is a felon, to be guilty of felony possession. Apparently, contrary to the statement by that prick cop who gave me a ticket years ago when I didn’t know the speed limit was only 45 mph, ignorance is an excuse.

So now the question to the Supreme Court is whether Gary is entitled to a new trial solely because his dumb ass didn’t know about the whole “being a felon now” thing? And, does it have to be shown he’d have plead differently had he known, or such knowledge would have otherwise affected the outcome?

My own question is, if he didn’t know he was a fucking felon, why did he have a stolen fucking gun? Why didn’t he buy one legally. This dumb motherfucker knew he wouldn’t pass a background check, so he apparently knew he was a fucking felon.

Justice Sotomayor seemed to pick up on what I was cooking. In her questions for Counsel Fisher (for Gary):

Sonia Sotomayor

Here is a man who was convicted seven times, multiple separate jail terms, vastly exceeding one year, and I think he had been let out of his last conviction months before he was arrested on this charge. So what would have made it — what factual defenses to knowledge would he have plausibly had?

Jeffrey L. Fisher

So I’m going to answer your question, Justice Sotomayor, but if you forgive me one — one quick thing I want to make sure I reserve, which is we do not think this issue is in front of the Court.

Our argument is that he automatically satisfies prong 4 because of the nature of the error and the futility. But what our argument would be on the facts on remand is that even though he has seven convictions, none of them were convictions where he served more than one year of imprisonment following that conviction. And so the only conviction the government really put in front of the Fourth Circuit is a 2014 burglary conviction.

There, he served more than a year of pretrial detention, but he was let out on a suspended sentence after the guilty plea. And so he reasonably might have thought that pretrial detention has no relationship, as the Court knows, to what the ultimate sentence could be —

Sonia Sotomayor

How about his admission that he knew he was a felon and that’s why he was hiding?

Jeffrey L. Fisher

So that was not his admission, Justice Sotomayor.

What his admission was, and I’m going to quote here, was that he was aware he was not supposed to have a weapon.

He did not say anything about his felon status. And remember, at the outset of this case, he was charged under a state law that prohibited carrying guns without certain, you know, job titles, like a policeman or a fire fighter or the like, or a fisherman, and so that alone would have told him he couldn’t carry a gun for reasons having nothing to do with any felon status.

However, I think the conservative justices largely had their minds made up. At one point, all three Trump appointees Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, then Barrett all couldn’t even be bothered to ask any questions, as if they had somewhere else they wanted to be.

This case was enjoined with Greer v. United States, and SCOTUS ultimately sided with the government. The government can review the case in it’s entirety when considering an error having been made, they do not have to focus only on the court records of the particular case in question.

As such, Gary is fucked.

Hear oral arguments or read about the case here.

https://www.oyez.org/cases/2020/20-444

Average Joe SCOTUS: Sanchez v. Mayorkas

We all know the United States is seen as a great place to relocate to, if your country is all kinda of fucked up, right?

Well, El Savadorian couple Jose Sanchez and Sonia Gonzalez thought that, and in 1997 and then again in 1998, they came to the United States looking for a better life. Then, in 2001, El Salvador suffered a big fucking earthquake.

That matters, because in the US we have The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) law, which allows for a Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for people who can prove their country is so fucked up, they’re likely to die because of bullets flying everywhere, or some natural disaster. So despite the fact they were already here, and completely unaffected by the earthquakes, they were given that TPS status, so they didn’t have to leave and go back to that whole fucked up situation.

In 2014, after having been here for a couple decades, they were like, “You know what, we’d like to make this our home.” So they applied for permanent residence, and their employer, thinking Sanchez was a pretty awesome fucking worker, helped file a worker immigration visa petition.

But then the government was like, “You’ve been here long enough on a temporary status, go the fuck home. If you want to come back, file your goddamn paperwork from abroad, and get in line like everyone else.”

The rule goes something like this. In order to get permanent residence status, you have to have been admitted to the United States legally. That never happened. They snuck in, then got a temporary protected status so they wouldn’t be deported, but at no point did the United States say, “Come on in, bro.”

The T in TPS is for temporary after all, so it’s not meant as a pathway for permanent residence. Once shit calms down, those folks are supposed to go home. Which if I’m honest, seems kinda fucked up. I mean, they were here for a pretty long time, and established a life here after we said, “OK, you can stay for now.” If they want to stay, and they’re productive motherfuckers, why make them go home first? It’ll mean they’ll lost their job, their home, and all the other shit they worked to achieve.

But, all that being said, there are laws that bar people who came here illegally, from staying here. If they were here illegally for a year or more, they can be barred for attempting to return legally for ten years. So if they go home, now, it’ll be a decade before they could even apply to return.

In a unanimous decision, SCOTUS sided for Mayorkas (Homeland Security). While surely sympathetic, the law is pretty simple. In order to gain permanent residence, you have to have been admitted into the US, which they were not. Sorry, Charlie.

Hear oral arguments or read about the case here.

https://www.oyez.org/cases/2020/20-315

Average Joe SCOTUS: Yellen v. Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation

You like drama? Well, here’s some drama. Back in 1971, trying to do something to be nice to native Americans, Congress enacted the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA). This law created Alaska Native Corporations (ANCs). The ANCs are for-profit companies, within the native American community, that exist to help native Americans. But, they are not a tribe with a recognized government.

In 1975, congress created the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (ISDA). The purpose of this, was to give power back to the Native American’s to manage their own fucking affairs, instead of Uncle Sam doing it for them. Since Native Americans and Uncle Sam have a troubled history, seems like a nice thing to do.

Within the ISDA, it defines an “Indian tribe” as “any Indian tribe, band, nation, or other organized group or community, including any Alaska Native village or regional or village corporation as defined in or established pursuant to the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (85 Stat. 688), which is recognized as eligible for the special programs and services provided by the United States to Indians because of their status as Indians.”

So then along comes COVID, and it’s myriad of government actions to help people out, including native Americans. Within that law, they set aside money to help any Native Americans as defined in the ISDA.

In 1994, congress passed a List Act, forcing the Bureau of Indian Affairs to publish an annual list of tribes eligible for special benefits set aside for native Americans.

Here’s the drama part. ANCs aren’t in that definition above. You could creatively argue they are, but the text doesn’t really say they are.

So, since it’s a limited resource, all the other native tribes are like, “Hey motherfucker, the ANCs are not fucking tribes, and therefore they shouldn’t get a slice of our pie. They’re for-profit companies who are already making bank. They don’t need this money, but we do!” Basically, they’ve got beef with ANCs because they’re corporations to help the native American tribes, not the tribes themselves.

But the ANCs are like, “Dude, seriously? This is relief meant for native Americans, we’re native Americans, and the text is pretty easy to argue it includes us, even if we’re not specifically named. So go fuck yourself.”

A district court sided with the ANCs, despite them traditionally not being considered a tribe, since the text seems to pretty clearly include them, even if not explicitly listed. But then the DC Court of Appeals was like, “the text is the text motherfuckers. If congress had wanted to help the ANCs in the Cares act, they should have fucking mentioned them specifically.

Counsel for the government, who wants to help the ANCs, was like, “In that definition above, they say ” including any Alaska Native village or regional or village corporation,” and then go on to say, ” recognized as eligible for the special programs.” We agree that the ANCs aren’t typically recognized as tribes. But if we’re to believe these dumb cunts across the aisle, they’re saying congress included us in the first part of that definition, only to exclude us in the last part of it? Give me a fucking break! How fucking dumb to you have to be to come to that conclusion?”

During Breyer’s questions, he struggled to understand how ANCs were included, since they typically are not considered tribes. But counsel Guarnieri pointed out that in other laws, when congress has mentioned the ISDA definition, it has went on to exclude the the ANCs, which only makes sense if they believe the definition included them by itself. Otherwise, why exclude them if they’re not included in the first place? Justice Breyer was like, “thanks bro, makes total sense now.”

Justice Sotomayor decided to have a completely separate issue. Apparently worried about rocking the boat, she asked:

How do we rule in a narrow way that affects only the CARES Act and not the many other acts that are involved where ISDA mentioned the Johnson-O’Malley Act, the Snyder Act, which I think is now the Indian Health Improvement Act, and the Transfer Act?

Basically she was like, “If we side with you, this will affect like a million other laws and shit, because we’ll be redefining what the fuck qualifies as an Indian tribe for the purposes of all federal legislation.

In a non-partisan 6:3 decision, SCOTUS ruled in favor of Yellen (Secretary of the Treasury). As such, the ANCs are Indian Tribes under ISDA, and entitled to those benefits.

Hear oral arguments or read about the case here.

https://www.oyez.org/cases/2020/20-543

Average Joe SCOTUS: National Collegiate Athletic Association v. Alston

OK, folks. This is the one everyone is talking about. Back in 1984, the Supreme Court in NVAA v. Regents of the University of Oklahoma struck down a TV deal the NCAA had, arguing it was a monopoly. Within that ruling, according to SCOTUSBlog, they stated that “NCAA rules that are reasonably related to preserving amateurism in college sports” promote competition and should be “upheld against antitrust challenge”

So the NCAA allows students to be paid via scholorships, and other modest rewards, but they may not get an actual paycheck, cash, expensive gifts, etc.

However, the players, who are often offered money, and by rule aren’t allowed to take it, filed suit, in which they said, “Fuck that!” Specifically, they argued they’re being denied fair-market compensation, which is, in their view, also an antitrust situation.

The NCAA of course, argues this will destroy competition, as the richer schools will end up destroying the lesser schools by offering the best athletes more money to come to their school. Without a salary cap and a draft such as what exists in the NFL, it’s probably a fair point.

The NCAA also colorfully argues that the NCAA (are you sitting down) isn’t a commercial venture at all, but instead, merely an association designed to promote sports as a means of bettering education for many who may not otherwise get the chance to go to college. I’m curious how they can say this with a straight face, since they generate a billion in revenue.

They support this by saying, “Look at the way we require schools to have specific sports, many of them they don’t even fucking want, and cost them way more money than they generate in revenue.” We here at Logical Libertarian give them the creative writing award for this.

The athletes of course, write a billion dollars on a piece of paper and were like, “Not a commercial venture, huh? That’s what they make. You know anyone who makes a billion dollars that isn’t a commercial venture?” *mic drop*

In arguments for the NCAA counsel Waxman was asked by Justice Thomas whether there was a limit to coaches income, since they’re also technically in “amateur” sports. But Counsel Waxman advised that there had been a separate 10th circuit case, Law v. NCAA, which ruled that coaches are professionals, like professors and shit, and not amateur student athletes, and therefore, their salaries may not be limited without having anti-trust issues.

In a brief moment of levity, when counsel Waxman responded to Justice Thomas, he said, “Well, Mr. Chief Justice…” to which Clarence Thomas replied, “Thank you for the promotion, by the way.” As they were laughing about the mistake, counsel Waxman decided to brown nose a bit, and state he was sure Justice Thomas would be quite good at that. But not to be excluded from the party, the actual Chief Justice John Roberts chimed in, “There’s no opening, Mr. Waxman.”

In the decision heard ’round the country, SCOTUS unanimously sided with Alston (the student athletes). These restrictions do violate anti-trust laws, and therefore must be struck down. So these students are about to get paid, and I suppose time will tell if it ruins colleges, collegiate sports, and all the other grand claims made by the opposition. Grab a beer and enjoy the show.

Hear oral arguments or read about the case here.

https://www.oyez.org/cases/2020/20-512

Average Joe SCOTUS: TransUnion LLC v. Ramirez

Sergio Ramirez and his wife went to buy a car. And by buy, I mean, finance one. In order to get a loan, they of course, had to fill out a credit report. Problem for Sergio, was that his name was on a terrorist list from the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). Let me be clear, Sergio himself was innocent AF, but his NAME was on a list. Presumably, some other douchebag Sergio Ramirez was the problem, not this Sergio.

As such, the banks can’t loan him shit as a matter of law. So they ended up buying the car in the wife’s name, and going on about their lives.

A day later though, Sergio was like, “WTF, man? I need to look into this.” So he obtained a copy of the report from TransUnion. Ramirez being worried this might fuck some shit up, canceled a trip he had planned to Mexico, fearing he might not be able to return.

Eventually, he got Trans Union to fix the issue, so his name was no longer flagged. But he was still pretty pissed off about the whole thing, and decided to sue in federal court, and started a class action (where a bunch of people sue as a group), as he felt this whole thing was a violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

Here’s the thing. In a previous case,  Spokeo v. Robins, SCOTUS ruled that in order to sue, you have to show damages. You can’t just sue because you’re pissed off your rights were violated. You have to show that the violation harmed you in some way. So that’s sort of what’s at issue here. Maybe Sergio can show he was harmed because he couldn’t buy a car. But all the people in the class action may have had no harm at all. They were just wrongly on a list, and once removed off that list, would be perfectly fine.

So TransUnion is saying, “Hey look at Spokeo. A lot of these assholes didn’t have anything bad happen to them. It was just an honest mistake. We don’t owe them shit, and they shouldn’t even be able to sue us.” In TransUnion’s argument, they basically said a majority of these assholes were merely sent a letter telling them of their placement on the list, which gives them an opportunity to correct it, if it’s wrong. That’s not harm being done to them, and therefore they shouldn’t be able to sue.

Ramirez colorfully argues, “We all suffered the same injury. You motherfuckers called us terrorists, when we’re not.” He’s going for a defamation argument, basically.

The US government also argued in this case, from a somewhat middle ground. They agree Ramirez and company were ass-raped. But they think the lower courts failed to consider properly how Ramirez claimed his “injuries” were typical, and thus shouldn’t be part of a larger class action. They should sue individually, based on their individual damages, and if they weren’t harmed, then they should politely go fuck themselves.

In a narrow 5:4 ruling where Thomas, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan dissented, SCOTUS ruled in favor of TransUnion. Only someone who can show real fucking damages, not some petty shit like their feelings were hurt, can sue for damages. Specifically, they have to show they suffered real harm, that the injury was traceable to WTF the plaintiff did, and that an award of damages can make fairly reward them.

Of the 8185 people in the class action, only 1853 were affected by it, and have standing to sue. The other people are in a “No harm no foul” situation, and go fly a kite.

Hear oral arguments or read about the case here

https://www.oyez.org/cases/2020/20-297