October ushers in the beautiful fall season, change of foliage, Oktoberfest, and, of course, the new Supreme Court Term. Oral Arguments in the new term officially start this week, and there is a lineup of some very influential and exciting cases coming up. I have selected a few cases that are coming up which are relevant to the firm’s practice groups.
Constitutional Law Cases
Intellectual Property and Copyright Law: October 5: Golan v. Holder: (Copyright Law): The issue here is whether Congress can seize intellectual property from the public domain and give it to its foreign owners. The collision here is between the Copyright Clause of the Constitution and the First Amendment. Copyright laws in the United States are less restrictive than those in many countries overseas—it used to be 56 years, now 70, after death before works entered the public domain. In 1994, Congress passed legislation that restored copyright protection to foreign owners of copyrighted material, which restored copyright protection to many works of these foreign authors after it entered the public domain. The plaintiffs created derivative works based on these foreign materials, and now must pay royalties. They claim this violates the First Amendment and exceeds the Copyright Power granted to Congress.
Fourth Amendment Search and Seizure: October 11: Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders: (Search and Seizure of Inmates): The issue here is whether jails can require any person to undergo a strip search upon entry, even if they lack a particular reason to suspect the smuggling of contraband, and even if it was a minor offense—here, not wearing a seatbelt. It should be not4ed that the Court had previously ruled that any offense, even one that carries no jail time, can be used to arrest and detain an individual, so the extension of automatic searches to any person that enters a jail would create a broad exception.
Fourth Amendment Search and Seizure: November 8: United States v. Jones: Whether the attachment of a GPS tracking device to a defendant’s vehicle constitutes a search or seizure under the 4th Amendment. The facts are as follows: District of Columbia police targeted a reputed cocaine dealer. They followed him and tapped his phone (legally). They also received a warrant to attach a GPS transmitter to his vehicle, but the warrant was valid for ten days, and they put on the 11th day. The GPS was attached for 4 weeks, and the data was critical in convicting the defendant. The Appeals Court reversed, and held that the warrantless use of a GPS for an extended period was an unreasonable search. The government argued that the GPS tracker was not a search at all. The Judge strongly disagreed: “A reasonable person does not expect anyone to monitor and retain a record of every time he drives his car . . . rather he expects each of those movements to remain disconnected and anonymous.”
Ineffective Assistance of Counsel Claim: October 4: Maples v. Thomas: The issue here is whether a convict who claims his trial lawyers were ineffective is barred from challenging his case because he missed a deadline—without any fault of his own. Particularly, a murder convict was not aware of the deadline because when a court sent the relevant papers to the lawyers who handled his appeal, the firm’s mailroom returned it unopened because the lawyers have left the firm (the firm was Sullivan and Cromwell, the convict is now represented by Gregory Garre, who is the global head of Latham & Watkins’ appellate practice and a former US Solicitor General).
Wassem M. Amin