Supreme Court Institute Hosts Mid-Term Preview

January 31, 2014 — As SCOTUSblog editor Amy Howe (G’94, L’98) told the story, most lawyers arguing their first case before the Supreme Court start with something fairly low-key.

 But in October, Erin Murphy (L’04) argued McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, looking at the constitutionality of federal aggregate limits on campaign contributions. It was, as Howe put it, “one of the biggest cases of the term.”

On January 29, Murphy, a partner at Bancroft, joined three other standouts of the Supreme Court bar — Jones Day’s Michael Carvin, Goldstein & Russell’s Thomas C. Goldstein and Akin Gump’s Pratik A. Shah — at the Supreme Court Institute’s Mid-Term Preview for a look ahead. 

In recent years, late March has been a historic time, as the Court heard oral arguments relating to the Affordable Care Act (in 2012) and same-sex marriage (in 2013). This year will be no exception. On March 25, the Court will weigh the religion-based objections of for-profit corporations to the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that employee health benefits cover contraceptives, in the Conestoga and Hobby Lobby cases.

The Court will also address the EPA's regulation of greenhouse gases (Utility Air Regulatory Group); private class actions claiming securities fraud (Halliburton); retransmitting broadcast TV programs over the Internet (Aereo) and police searches of cell phones (Riley and Wurie).

The stakes are high in Halliburton, which will consider whether to overturn or modify a 25-year-old securities decision, Basic v. Levinson. “They may not say outright that they are going to overrule Basic … but I think they are going to take at least a significant chunk out of it,” Shah said. “I doubt that [the Court] has granted cert in this case just to say the world is great and we want to continue.”

Aereo, meanwhile, is of great significance to broadcasters like ABC, since the case will determine whether, under the Copyright Act, third parties can sell their content over the Internet at a profit. “The particular question of how exactly you go about interpreting the ‘transmit clause’ is relatively a run-of-the-mill statutory interpretation question,” Murphy said. “But the ramifications of how the Court resolves that question are enormously important.”

The event was co-sponsored by Georgetown Law chapters of the Federalist Society and the American Civil Liberties Union.

A webcast may be viewed here.

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