The Supreme Court, selecting the first round of new cases to be heard in the Term opening formally next Monday, agreed on Thursday to rule on the constitutionality of a federal law that bars trademarks that would send an offensive message about someone. A federal appeals court struck down the law, finding it violated the First Amendment’s protection of free speech. The issue also has arisen about the Washington football team’s trademark name, the Redskins, but the Justices took no action on that case.
The trademark dispute involves a rock music band that was denied a trademark for its name, the SLANTS. The case is Lee v. Tan. That was one of eight cases the Court accepted for review after returning from its summer recess. Another round of orders will be issued on Monday, but most of those are expected to be denials of review. The Court took no action Thursday on the Obama administration’s request to rehear its defense of the President’s far-reaching plan to delay deportation of upwards of four million undocumented immigrants.
Among the other new cases is a test of what legal rights a disabled child has under a federal law that seeks to assure a “free and appropriate public education” for students with handicaps. The federal government had joined in urging review of that issue. (Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District)
For the nation’s shoppers, the Court took on a case testing the constitutionality of state laws, in force in ten states, that allow merchants to charge higher prices when a consumer uses a credit card, but forbids them to say that the added amount is a surcharge. The Court chose a case out of New York for that review, raising a First Amendment question. (Expressions Hair Design v. Schneiderman.)
In an unusual case from Colorado, the Court will be ruling on the constitutionality of a state law that makes it harder for an individual to get a refund of a fine that was imposed for a criminal conviction, after the conviction had been overturned. Colorado will only allow a refund if the individual can make a strong showing that that person was actually innocent. (Shannon v. Colorado)
in a case of interest to workers, but with a special facet of interest to women workers, the Court took on a case that will clarify the power of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to demand information from companies during investigations of workplace discrimination. The case involves an Arizona woman who complained that she was required to pass a physical strength test after returning from a leave for pregnancy. (McLane Co. v. EEOC)
Here, in summary, are the issues in the other three newly granted cases:
- The constitutionality of a federal law that makes a conviction for a crime of violence the basis for deporting a foreign-born individual who has been living legally in the U.S. (Lynch, Attorney General, v. Dimaya)
- The power of federal courts to impose large money penalties on attorneys for professional misconduct. The issue is how a federal court is to determine how serious the professional error was before setting the penalty amount. The Court granted two cases on the issue but will hear them together. (Goodyear Tire v. Haeger and Musnuff v. Haeger)
- The degree of legal immunity for an Indian tribe when it has been sued for damages for an action taken by one of its employees. (Lewis v. Clarke)