Supreme Court rules in identity theft, supplemental jurisdiction, arbitration cases

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] issued four opinions Monday. The Court ruled [opinion, PDF] unanimously in Flores-Figueroa v. United States [Cornell LII backgrounder; JURIST report] that a federal "aggravated identity theft" statute [18 USC § 1028A(a)(1)] applies only to individuals who knowingly use another person's identification documents. The US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit had upheld [opinion, PDF] Ignacio Flores-Figueroa's conviction for using counterfeit social security and resident alien cards. In reversing the lower court decision, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote:

Congress used the word "knowingly" followed by a list of offense elements. And we cannot find indications in statements of its purpose or in the practical problems of enforcement sufficient to overcome the ordinary meaning, in English or through ordinary interpretive practice, of the words that it wrote.

We conclude that § 1028A(a)(1) requires the Government to show that the defendant knew that the means of identification at issue belonged to another person.
Justice Samuel Alito filed a concurring opinion, and Justice Antonin Scalia filed a concurring opinion, joined by Justice Clarence Thomas.

The Court ruled [opinion, PDF] unanimously in Carlsbad Technology, Inc. v. HIF Bio, Inc. [Cornell LII backgrounder] that a district court's order remanding a case to state court following its discretionary decision not to exercise supplemental jurisdiction [text, 28 USC § 1367(c)] is subject to appellate review. The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled [opinion, PDF] that such an order is barred from review [28 USC 1447(d)] as a remand for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Reversing the opinion below, Thomas wrote, "[w]hen a district court remands claims to a state court after declining to exercise supplemental jurisdiction, the remand order is not based on a lack of subject-matter jurisdiction for purposes of §§1447(c) and (d)." Stevens and Scalia filed concurring opinions. Breyer filed a concurring opinion, in which Justice David Souter joined.

The Court ruled [opinion, PDF] 6-3 in Arthur Andersen LLP v. Carlisle [Cornell LII backgrounder; JURIST report] that the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) [text] gives federal appeals courts jurisdiction to rule on the denial of compelled arbitration motions by non-parties to the agreement. The case stems from an effort by Arthur Andersen [corporate website] and other firms to limit the tax exposure of Carlisle and his business associates after the sale of their construction company. Carlisle had signed an arbitration agreement with Bricolage Capital LLC, one of the firms involved in the "leveraged option strategy" intended as a tax shelter. The IRS declared this strategy to be an abusive shelter, and assessed more than $25 million against Carlisle and his associates. Arthur Andersen sought to stay the proceedings of a suit brought by Carlisle alleging misconduct in a tax shelter scheme, on the grounds that another party to the suit had an arbitration agreement with the plaintiffs, and that equitable estoppel required that their claims also be arbitrated under that agreement. The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit disagreed [opinion, PDF]. In reversing the lower court ruling, Scalia wrote:
We hold that the Sixth Circuit had jurisdiction to review the denial of petitioners’ request for a § 3 stay and that a litigant who was not a party to the relevant arbitration agreement may invoke § 3 if the relevant state contract law allows him to enforce the agreement.
Souter filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Stevens and Chief Justice John Roberts.

The Court ruled [opinion, PDF] 8-1 in the consolidated cases of Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Company v. United States [Cornell LII backgrounder] and Shell Oil Co. v. United States involving government reimbursement under the Comprehensive, Environmental, Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) [text; EPA backgrounder] for remediation of hazardous waste sites. The companies were challenging decisions by the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit holding them jointly and severally liable for remediation. The Court reversed the decision below in an opinion by Stevens:
we conclude that the Court of Appeals erred by holding Shell liable as an arranger under CERCLA for the costs of remediating environmental contamination at the Arvin, California facility. Furthermore, we conclude that the District Court reasonably apportioned the Railroads’ share of the site remediation costs at 9%. The judgment is reversed...
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg filed a dissenting opinion.

 

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