US Supreme Court Hears Arguments in Six Cases This Week

The US Supreme Court heard arguments this week in its second session of the 2018–2019 term. The cases argued span a wide range of topics, including arbitration, criminal procedure, federal Indian law, sovereign immunity, and class action settlements.

In this case from the Fifth Circuit, the Court will decide whether the Federal Arbitration Act permits a court to decline to enforce an agreement delegating questions of arbitrability to an arbitrator if the court concludes the claim of arbitrability is “wholly groundless.”

In this case, the Court will consider whether the Federal Arbitration Agreement forecloses a state-law interpretation of an arbitration agreement that would authorize class arbitration based solely on general language commonly used in arbitration agreements. The opinion below comes from the Ninth Circuit.

This case involves the question whether the Yakama Treaty of 1855 creates a right for tribal members to avoid state taxes on off-reservation commercial activities that make use of public highways. The Washington Supreme Court issued the decision below.

In this case from the Idaho Supreme Court, the Court will consider whether the decision of a criminal defendant’s trial lawyer not to appeal a conviction because the defendant’s plea agreement included an appeal waiver triggers a “presumption of prejudice” indicating ineffective assistance of counsel under the Sixth Amendment of the US Constitution. The trial court, intermediate appellate court, and Idaho Supreme Court all concluded that it was not ineffective assistance of counsel.

In this case, the Court will decide the level of immunity enjoyed by international organizations under the International Organizations Immunities Act (IOIA). At issue specifically is whether the IOIA gives them the immunity that foreign governments enjoyed at the time the law was passed, or the immunity that foreign governments have at present, as described in the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976.

This case arises from class action claims that Google violated users’ privacy by disclosing their Internet search terms to owners of third-party websites. The Court is asked to decide whether, or in what circumstances, a cy pres award of class action proceeds that provides no direct relief to class members supports class certification and comports with the requirement that a settlement binding class members must be “fair, reasonable, and adequate.” The Ninth Circuit issued the decision below.