Speed-reading will be a valued skill for Supreme Court-watchers today. The justices, racing toward the finish line of the current term, handed down seven separate decisions this morning spanning 286 pages of written text, by our count. The main upside of this avalanche of paper is that the Court confirmed that it will finish its work for the term next Monday, with four cases left to decide. Unless the Court throws up its hands and orders a re-argument next term, that means the long-awaited Bilski v. Kappos patent ruling will be issued Monday.
Tops among the seven announced today are the three "honest services" fraud cases -- Skilling v. United States, Black v. United States, and Weyhrauch v. United States -- that resulted in a significant narrowing of the law to reach only bribery and kickback schemes. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote all three, with Skilling as the lead decision. In that case, the Court also rejected former Enron executive Jeffrey Skilling's claim that a presumption of juror prejudice should have disqualified Houston, where many victims of the Enron collapse live, as a location for the trial.
In another major white-collar ruling, Morrison v. National Australia Bank, the Court limited the extraterritorial scope of the securities fraud statute. Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the unanimous Court, said the law only applies to cases in which the purchase and sales of securities occurred in the United States. Plaintiffs and the United States urged the Court to take a broader view, allowing securities class actions by foreign investors against foreign companies to be filed in U.S. courts in some circumstances.
The three other rulings are: Doe v. Reed, an important First Amendment case in which the Court said names of petition signers in ballot initiatives cannot generally be withheld from public scrutiny, though it left the door open to specific challenges; Magwood v. Patterson, a rare victory for defendant in a habeas case; and Granite Rock v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters, involving arbitration in labor disputes. Links to all the rulings can be found here.
Check back here and at nlj.com later for more on today's Court action.