Supreme Court hears arguments on affirmative action, suing foreign corporations

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] heard oral arguments [day call, PDF] in three cases Tuesday, including an affirmative action case and a case on suing foreign corporations in US courts. In Daimler AG v. Bauman [transcript, PDF; JURIST report] the court heard arguments on "whether it violates due process for a court to exercise general personal jurisdiction over a foreign corporation based solely on the fact that an indirect corporate subsidiary performs services on behalf of the defendant in the forum state" under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) [text]. This question was explicitly left open in last term's decision in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum [JURIST report]. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled [JURIST report] for Barbara Bauman, who represented 21 Argentine residents, allowing them to bring suit for the actions of Mercedes-Benz Argentina [corporate website, in Spanish], a Daimler subsidiary, during the nation's 1976-1983 "Dirty War" [GlobalSecurity backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. Counsel for Daimler argued that the "Ninth Circuit's approach violates due process." Counsel for the US government argued on behalf of Daimler. Counsel for the respondents argued that Daimler had forfeited many of its claims by not raising them previously, trying to convince the court to let the Ninth Circuit's ruling stand.

In Heimeshoff v. Hartford Life & Accident Insurance Co. [transcript, PDF; JURIST report] the court heard arguments on the deadline for filing a complaint to challenge a denial of disability under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) [official website; JURIST backgrounder]. The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld [opinion] a district court decision that dismissed Julie Heimeshoff's appeal of a denial of long term disability benefits. Counsel for Heimeshoff argued:

This case involves an accrual provision in an ERISA plan that starts the clock running on a Federal denial of benefits claim near the beginning of ERISA's mandatory internal claims process before the Federal claim ever exists or could be filed in court.This provision directly conflicts with ERISA's two-tiered remedial structure, which is designed to maximize the number of claims that are resolved internally without lawyers in courts.
Counsel for the US also argued on the petitioner's behalf.

Finally, in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action [transcript, PDF; JURIST report] the court considered whether a state violates the Equal Protection Clause [text] by amending its constitution to prohibit race- and sex-based discrimination or preferential treatment in public-university admissions decisions. The case concerns Proposal 2 [JURIST report], a 2006 Michigan state constitutional amendment that prohibits preferential treatment based on "race, gender, color, ethnicity or national origin" in public employment, public education and state contracting. The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled the ban unconstitutional [JURIST report] late last year. Counsel for the petitioner argued that the law does not violate Equal Protection because it "does not repeal an antidiscrimination law. Instead, it repeals preferences." Counsel for the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action asked the court "to uphold the Sixth Circuit decision to reaffirm the doctrine that's expressed in Hunter-Seattle, and to bring the 14th Amendment back to its original purpose and meaning, which is to protect minority rights against a white majority, which did not occur in this case."

 

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