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More SCOTUS Sketches From Last Week

I’m a little late getting these posted. The last week of arguments for the term was dominated by Wednesday’s Trump v. Hawaii, which I’ve already posted, but the justices also heard cases on Texas gerrymandering, Abbott v. Perez, and on the appointment of administrative law judges, Lucia v. SEC, as well as three others one of which saw Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein at the lectern.

The Court also announced opinions in three cases on Tuesday. In a departure from usual practice of having the more junior justice announce the first opinion, Justice Thomas announced ¬†Oil States Energy Services followed by Justice Gorsuch with the opinion in SAS Institute. It turns out that Gorsuch’s opinion referred to Thomas’ thus the need to go out of order; both are patent cases. And finally on Tuesday, Justice Kennedy delivered his first opinion of the term in an Alien Torts Act case, Jesner v. Arab Bank.

Mueller Team’s Big Guns

At a Thursday hearing on Paul Manafort’s motion to dismiss criminal charges for acts committed prior to 2014 as beyond the scope of the Mueller’s investigation the Special Counsel’s Office brought out the heavy hitters including Deputy Solicitor General Michael Dreeben.

Tax Week At SCOTUS

In case you needed a reminder that this Tuesday was the tax filing deadline, which as it turned out was extended 24 hours because of an IRS computer glitch, the Supreme Court heard arguments in two tax related cases this week.

South Dakota v. Wayfair, argued on Tuesday, could impact anyone who buys or sells goods shipped to another state. Currently out-of-state retailers are not required to collect sales tax unless they have a physical presence in the buyer’s state. But in the brave new world of e-commerce and virtual stores a majority of justices may be prepared to reverse the Court’s earlier position.

The other tax case is more peripheral and limited to railroad pensions. Argued on Monday, Wisconsin Central Ltd. v. United States seemed to turn on the definition of “money.” Are railroads and their employees, who are covered under the Railroad Retirement Tax Act instead of Social Security, required to pay taxes on compensation received in the form of stock options? In other words, are stock options money? That led the justices to hypothesize about compensation in the form of bottles of wine, baseball tickets and bushels of wheat.