Supreme Court rules on sovereign immunity law, grants stay of execution

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] on Tuesday released its first opinion of the term, ruling unanimously in US v. Bormes [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] that the federal government does not automatically waive sovereign immunity through the Little Tucker Act [Cornell LII backgrounder] in the present case. The court held that the Tucker Act and the Little Tucker Act's waiver of immunity is set aside when a law that imposes monetary damages has its "own judicial remedies." The court determined this included the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) [PDF], the law at issue here:

Plaintiffs cannot, therefore, mix and match FCRA's provisions with the Little Tucker Act's immunity waiver to create an action against the United States. Since FCRA is a detailed remedial scheme, only its own text can determine whether the damages liability Congress crafted extends to the Federal Government. To hold otherwise—to permit plaintiffs to remedy the absence of a waiver of sovereign immunity in specific, detailed statutes by pleading general Tucker Act jurisdiction—would transform the sovereign-immunity landscape.
The court did not determine if FCRA waived sovereign immunity and remanded the case to the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit to determine that issue. Attorney James Bormes paid a client's filing fee through Pay.gov [official website] and after completing the transaction, found the receipt exposed the last four digits of his credit card number, and the card's expiration, in violation of the FCRA.

The court also issued several orders [order list, PDF] on Tuesday. The court denied certiorari in Nix v. Holder [JURIST report], a voting rights [JURIST backgrounder] case, after granting certorari last week in Shelby County v. Holder [JURIST report]. The court also stayed the execution of Texas inmate Anthony Haynes to determine if his appeal will be affected by the recent certiorari grant for Trevino v. Thaler [JURIST report]. The stay provoked an unusual demonstration as Justice Sonia Sotomayor released a brief opinion on the stay and Justice Antonin Scalia dissented from the stay. Scalia argued that even if Trevino could ultimately apply Martinez v. Ryan [JURIST report] to Texas the issue in question has already been adjudicated for Haynes: "Even if the Fifth Circuit is incorrect and Martinez does implicate Texas's system of post conviction review, a stay is unwarranted here because Haynes presents no plausible claim for relief. His complaint is that his trial counsel was ineffective at sentencing. The absolute most to which he would be entitled under Martinez is excuse of his procedural default of this claim, enabling a federal district court to adjudicate the claim on the merits. But that is precisely what the District Court already did on federal habeas review." Haynes was convicted of the murder of an off-duty police officer and has been on death row since 1999.

 

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