Rulings from the Supreme Court

NICK EICHER, HOST: It’s Thursday, the 30th of May, 2019. Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. The Supreme Court handed down three rulings in argued cases this week.

First (Nieves v Bartlett), the justices handed a loss to the man who went to the Arctic Man winter sports festival in Alaska. Russell Bartlett alleged police arrested him in retaliation for refusing to speak with them and for intervening when they tried to question a minor. Bartlett argued that violated his First Amendment right to free speech. But eight justices found probable cause to arrest him aside from those facts, so no retaliatory arrest claim can survive.

EICHER: A second ruling (Home Depot USA, Inc v Jackson) is a victory for consumers in a class action lawsuit. Here, the question was whether federal law allows what is called a “third party counterclaim defendant” to move a case to federal court from state court. The facts are a complicated mess. During argument, even Justice Stephen Breyer got confused about who did what. But an interesting 5-4 ruling had conservative Justice Clarence Thomas leading the liberals to his way of thinking: to interpret a statute in a way that makes it more likely consumers can keep their lawsuits in state courts that are more friendly to their cases than are federal courts.

REICHARD: And the last ruling (Smith v Berryhill) this week deals with how Social Security benefits are handled upon denial. The Supreme Court was unanimous in ruling that when the agency’s Appeals Council makes a decision to deny benefits, that is a “final decision” so that a court may review it. Ricky Lee Smith had applied for disability benefits but lost in lower court on the timeliness issue. Smith has not yet won his benefits, but he now has the chance to argue for them in federal court.

(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) The U.S. Supreme Court building at dusk, Thursday, May 23, 2019, on Capitol Hill in Washington. 

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