Decisions from the Supreme Court

NICK EICHER, HOST: It’s Tuesday, the 25th of June, 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 four decisions yesterday.

First (Iancu v Brunetti), the death of another part of the federal law governing trademarks. 

Erik Brunetti named his clothing line a homonym for a vulgar word. And the United States Patent and Trademark Office refused to trademark it, on the grounds that the office considered the name immoral or scandalous. Brunetti sued, arguing that was unconstitutional infringement of free speech. 

Six justices agreed with him.

All nine justices two years ago struck down part of the same law that denied registrations to racially disparaging names.

EICHER: Next (Food Marketing Institute v Argus Leader Media), a first-amendment loss for a newspaper that wanted to investigate fraud in a government program. 

The South Dakota Argus Leader made a Freedom of Information Act request to the Department of Agriculture. It sought data about retailers who receive tax dollars for participating in the food-stamp program. The agency refused the information, pointing to an exception to disclosure. Six justices agreed with the agency, and remanded the case to lower court.

REICHARD: The third case (Dutra Group v Batterton) asked whether a sailor could get punitive damages for an injury received on a vessel that was not seaworthy. Another 6-3 ruling said no punitive damages are available here under maritime law.

EICHER: And finally (United States v Davis), the case of two robbers in Texas who challenged a law that added prison time for gun possession in certain circumstances. They argued the law in question defined “crime of violence” in a confusing way. Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote for the majority 5: “In our constitutional order a vague law is no law at all.” The four liberal-leaning justices joined Gorsuch to form the majority.

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) The Supreme Court is seen under stormy skies in Washington, Thursday, June 20, 2019. 

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