US Supreme Court Hears First Arguments of Term

Though much of the nation’s attention is focused on the US Senate’s confirmation vote tomorrow on nominee Brett Kavanaugh, the Supreme Court’s sitting eight justices heard the first oral arguments of the 2018–2019 term this week.

Oyez has posted the aligned audio and transcripts from this week’s oral arguments at the Supreme Court. You can browse summaries of the cases, read transcripts of the arguments, and listen to the audio of the argument on the Oyez website.

In Mount Lemmon Fire District v. Guido, the Court is asked to resolve a circuit split created by a divergent ruling by the Ninth Circuit regarding the following issue:

Under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), does the same twenty-employee minimum that applies to private employers also apply to political subdivisions of a state (as the Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, and Tenth Circuits have held) or does the ADEA apply instead to all state political subdivisions of any size (as the Ninth Circuit held)?

In Weyerhaeuser Company v. United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the Court will resolve a question of the scope of the Endangered Species Act. Specifically, the Court will resolve two questions:

  1. Does the Endangered Species Act prohibit designation of privately owned land as unoccupied critical habitat that is neither habitat nor essential to species conservation?
  2. Is an agency determination not to exclude an area from critical habitat due to the economic impact of designation subject to judicial review?

Madison v. Alabama raises questions about the scope of the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment:

  1. Does the Eighth Amendment and the Court’s jurisprudence prohibit a state from executing a prisoner whose mental disability leaves him with no memory of the commission of the capital offense?
  2. Does the Eighth Amendment prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment preclude a state from executing a prisoner who suffers from severe cognitive dysfunction such that he cannot remember the crime for which he was convicted or understand the circumstances of his scheduled execution?

In Gundy v. United States, the Court will resolve a question regarding the so-called non-delegation doctrine: Does the Sex Offender Notification and Registration Act’s delegation of authority to the U.S. Attorney General to issue regulations under 42 U.S.C. § 16913 violate the non-delegation doctrine?

The issues raised in Knick v. Township of Scott, Pennsylvania are technical and pertain to the Takings Clause of the Constitution:

  1. Should the Court affirm or abrogate its holding in Williamson County Regional Planning Commission v. Hamilton Bank, which requires property owners to exhaust state court remedies before bringing federal Takings Clause claims?
  2. Does the ripeness doctrine established in Williamson County apply to takings claims that assert that a law is unconstitutional on its face?

Finally, in New Prime Inc. v. Oliveira, the Court is asked to resolve two questions regarding interpretation of the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA):

  1. In a dispute over the whether a contract falls within the exemptions in Section 1 of the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), must a court determine whether the FAA applies, or is that for the arbitrator to decide?
  2. Does the Section 1 of the FAA, which exempts “contracts of employment” in certain industries, apply to agreements that purport to establish an independent-contractor relationship?