Supreme Court agrees to hear new cases on union rights, Section 230, immigration, and Puerto Rico
New Supreme Court cases
On its opening day of the 2022-2023 term, the Supreme Court released a list of cases it has decided to add to its oral arguments schedule.
Glacier Northwest v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters: When unionized drivers at a concrete company in Washington state went on strike, some of the concrete hardened in the trucks, rendering it unusable. The company, Glacier Northwest, disciplined the striking workers and brought a tort claim in state court for the alleged “intentional” destruction of property caused by the union calling a strike in the middle of a work day. The Washington Supreme Court ruled that the strike was protected by a federal law called the National Labor Relations Act, so only the National Labor Relations Board could decide whether the union engaged in unlawful conduct. Glacier Northwest is asking the Supreme Court to overturn the state supreme court’s ruling.
Benjamin Dictor, a union-side labor attorney, said a broad ruling against the union could not only undermine the strike as a weapon but also disrupt the balance of power between labor and management as they bargain in good faith.
“A ruling that effectively disarms one party of their economic leverage while leaving the other’s intact would necessarily destroy the relative balance of power that the [law] was intended to maintain,” Dictor told HuffPost.
Ohio Adjutant General’s Department v. Federal Labor Relations Authority: Whether the Federal Labor Relations Authority can regulate the labor practices of the state National Guards. The conflict arises from the fact that National Guards are both state and federal entities.
Gonzalez v. Google LLC: Whether Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act grants immunity for recommendations made by algorithms pushing certain content for users. The case was brought by the family of Nohemi Gonzalez, a 23-year-old U.S. citizen studying in Paris, France, who was killed by ISIS terrorists in 2015. The Gonzalez family sued Google, owner of YouTube, for creating an algorithm that recommended ISIS videos to users, thereby allegedly aiding and abetting the terrorist group.
Petition for writ of certiorari: The complaint alleged that the services that Google provided to ISIS, including these recommendations, were critical to the growth and activity of ISIS. “[B]y recommend[ing] ISIS videos to users, Google assists ISIS in spreading its message and thus provides material support to ISIS … ”
Twitter, Inc. v. Taamneh: Another Section 230 case that involves social media companies’ liability for hosting terrorist content. The justices will determine whether hosting pro-ISIS content constitutes “knowing” and “substantial assistance” to the group in violation of the US Anti-Terrorism Act.
Santos-Zacaria v. Garland: Leon Santos-Zacaria, a transgender woman from Guatemala, was ordered deported from the United States back to her home country where she claims she will face persecution due to her sexual and gender orientation. As evidence, Santos-Zacaria testified that she was sexually assaulted when she was 12 years old for being gay. The immigration judge denied Santos-Zacaria’s petitions and the Bureau of Immigration likewise denied her appeal.
Perez v. Sturgis Public Schools: A case involving a Michigan school district that failed to provide a deaf student with a sign language interpreter and other appropriate accommodations for the entirety of his middle and high school career. The student’s parents sued for alleged violations of state and federal disability laws. Due to procedural issues, the courts ruled that the student was not eligible to pursue claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act after accepting a settlement under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The family and the Department of Education are asking the Supreme Court to clarify the legal situation.
Halkbank v. United States: Whether the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act protects Turkish state-owned bank Halkbank from criminal charges of money laundering, bank fraud, and conspiracy. The lender was convicted by a district and appellate court of participating in a scheme to launder about $20 billion of Iranian oil and natural gas proceeds in violation of U.S. sanctions against Iran.
Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico v. Centro de Periodismo Investigativo: Whether the Financial Oversight Board of Puerto Rico, created by Congress in 2016, can claim sovereign immunity to avoid turning over documents to a Puerto Rican nonprofit investigative journalism organization (CPI).
- Related: “Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez Call For Reversal Of Puerto Rico Austerity Measures,” The Intercept. “An Unfulfilled Promise: Colonialism, Austerity, and the Puerto Rican Debt Crisis,” Harvard Political Review.
The Supreme Court also declined to hear a long list of cases. We’ll look at one in particular that deserves to be reviewed: Powell v. Snook is a case involving a Georgia police officer who shot and killed an innocent man without first identifying himself as law enforcement.
On June 7, 2016, Henry County (southeast of Atlanta) officers were dispatched to an approximate location where gunshots and a woman screaming were reportedly heard. An exact address could not be determined; the caller informed the 911 operator that the gunshots could have originated “a few houses down.”
The caller gave her address as 736 Swan Lake Road and said the noises were coming from “a few houses down.” She also said that she had called 911 on an earlier occasion “because they were fighting so bad.” The operator searched the 911 call history for 736 Swan Lake but did not find a record of that earlier call… Based on the operator’s report, a 911 dispatcher sent police officers to 736 Swan Lake, explaining that if they were “looking at this location, it’s two houses down on the right, maybe three houses.”
The officers arrived at the home of Sharon and David Powell, who were in bed asleep. The officers crept towards the dark house, shining their flashlights into windows. Susan awakened her husband, believing prowlers were outside. David grabbed a handgun, went to an attached garage and opened the garage door, causing the light to come on. David spotted Officer Snook in front of their house, “positioned in the dark,” armed with a long rifle. He began to raise his pistol arm, at which point Officer Snook shot David numerous times.
When David Powell stopped walking, he was standing straight up and his arms were pointed straight down with the pistol in his right hand.
Sharon Powell had followed David onto the driveway and stood four or five feet behind him. She was facing his right side, focused on him, watching him. She heard no noise or voice, either while the garage door was opening or after she and her husband went outside. She specifically did not hear anyone identify themselves as police officers. It was perfectly quiet.
Sharon Powell had a sense that David was looking at someone. He started to raise his right arm — the one holding the pistol — and got the pistol hip-high. While David was doing that, Snook went down to one knee to make himself a smaller target and rapidly fired three shots with his rifle. Sharon testified that only a “very short time” –– “[l]ike one second it felt like” –– passed between when David started to raise his gun and when Snook began firing.
David later died at the hospital.
Sharon Powell filed a civil rights lawsuit against Officer Snook claiming that he used unconstitutional excessive force in shooting David. Snook claimed qualified immunity.
[Powell contended] that Snook was not entitled to qualified immunity because precedent, specifically Tennessee v. Garner, 471 U.S. 1 (1985), and our case law applying it, clearly established that he could not constitutionally use deadly force against David Powell without first identifying himself as a police officer and issuing a warning. Powell argued Snook could have “easily” given that warning because David was not an immediate threat, refusing any officer’s command, or attempting to escape. She asserted that our case law recognized that the “mere presence” of a firearm isn’t enough to warrant the use of deadly force and that the reasonableness of any force depends on whether a suspect poses a threat of serious physical harm, with an emphasis on the level and immediacy of the threat.
Both the district court and the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals (a three-judge panel made up of a G.H.W. Bush appointee, a Clinton appointee, and a Trump appointee) granted Snook qualified immunity, finding that “there was no relevant decisional law clearly establishing that Snook violated David Powell’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from excessive force.” In other words: the precise sort of misconduct had not occurred in past cases, so Snook could not know that his actions were unconstitutional.
Because Sharon Powell has not identified case law with materially similar facts or with a broad statement of principle giving Snook fair notice that he had to warn David Powell at the earliest possible moment and before using deadly force, she has not met her burden of showing qualified immunity is not appropriate.
The Supreme Court declined to review the 11th Circuit’s ruling.