Immigration, Cell Phones & Uncomfortable Moments: This Week’s SCOTUS Oral Arguments

U.S. Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court kicked off its final oral argument sitting of the term with a doozy: United States v. Texas, No. 15-674.

While hundreds of people protested outside, inside the justices considered whether President Obama has the authority to adopt a deferred action immigration plan that could provide temporary work authorization for more than 4 million immigrants that entered the country illegally.

Twenty-six states, led by Texas, said the President doesn’t have that authority. But it isn’t clear those states have standing to sue. Read my take on the argument here.

Prior to oral arguments the next day, there was a shocking sight in the hallowed Supreme Court chamber: cell phones (gasp)!

A group of hearing-impaired attorneys used the devices while being admitted to the Supreme Court bar. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. even learned a bit of Sign language for the occasion.

That group was also treated to oral argument over whether tribal court convictions can be used for federal sentencing enhancements in United States v. Bryant, No. 15-420.

This non-relisted case is one of several cases this term that implicate tribal sovereignty, Bloomberg BNA’s criminal law reporter Jessie DaSilva said. Read about the oral argument here.

That same day the justices considered a case that could broaden the scope of the False Claims Act, Universal Health Services v. United States ex rel. Escobar, No. 15-7.

At issue is whether the so-called implied certification theory—allowing liability for regulatory noncompliance—is valid under the FCA. Read Bloomberg BNA’s False Claims Act reporter (we cover EVERYTHING legal) Eric Toper’s take here (subscription required).

The next day, the justices considered Birchfield v. North Dakota, No. 14-1468,which was a painful experience to watch. The case asks if states can impose criminal penalties over drivers’ refusal to take blood or breathalyzer tests.

But Jessie said the hot bench didn’t seem satisfied with most of the attorneys’ arguments or the fact that some couldn’t answer basic factual questions. Read her rundown (pun intended) here.

Finally, things calmed down for Encino Motorcars v. Navarro, No. 15-415, asking if certain car dealership employees are exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act’s overtime requirements (I don’t know how the justices were able to contain themselves on this one).

Bloomberg BNA’s labor reporter Kevin McGowan said the decision could “affect the overtime pay status of some 45,000 service advisers nationwide.” Read Kevin’s take here (subscription required).

That’s all for oral argument this week. Check back next week for the term’s last week of oral arguments, where the U.S. Solicitor General’s office will once again participate in every argument.

As always, you can stay on top of all the latest Supreme Court news with a free trial to United States Law Week.