New Supreme Court decisions


MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Tuesday, the 21st of May, 2019. Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. And welcome back, Mary! We missed you. 

REICHARD: Aww, thanks! I had a great time in Ireland with my two children who are grown up now, but I’m glad to be back.

And now ready to get to work.

EICHER: That’s the mark of a great vacation. You’re ready to get back at it.

So let’s do that, and you’re back in time for Supreme Court rulings. The high court handed down three of them yesterday.

First (Herrera v Wyoming), a win for a member of the Crow tribe of Native Americans.

The state of Wyoming cited tribal member Clayvin Herrera for poaching elk in the Bighorn National Forest.

But Herrera pointed to an 1868 treaty between his tribe and the federal government. In it, the tribe ceded most of its lands in exchange for hunting rights. Wyoming argued the treaty essentially expired when it became a state in 1890.

But five justices disagreed. Tribal hunting rights survive statehood.

The case returns to lower court to resolve matters of how conservation regulations apply.

REICHARD: I’ll add a tidbit that’s not surprising, but it is interesting: conservative justice Neil Gorsuch joined with the liberal-leaning justices to form the majority in favor of Native American rights.

Now, this next ruling (Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp v Albrecht) is a win for drugmaker Merck, Sharp, and Dohme.

Hundreds of women sued the company alleging its drug for osteoporosis caused debilitating breaks in the thigh bone. The drug is called Fosomax. They say the company didn’t adequately warn them in labeling. Merck did put in a warning in 2010, but this suit involves product labeling before that year.

The drugmaker argues the Food and Drug Administration rejected its suggested warning. So, it can’t be sued.

A unanimous court did remand this case to lower court and that will allow Merck to advance its argument that other pending lawsuits are preempted by this case.

EICHER: The third ruling (Mission Product Holdings v Tempnology) deals with an obscure bankruptcy matter.

A company called Tempnology filed for bankruptcy so it could reorganize and stay alive. That’s a Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and the law allows such companies to reject certain contracts they’ve entered into.

But the question here was whether it can reject a trademark licensing agreement contained within one of those contracts, without rejecting the whole thing.

Eight justices said no, Tempnology doesn’t get to edit this contract to make it more favorable.


(AP Photo/Susan Walsh) A view of the Supreme Court in Washington, Friday, May 17, 2019. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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