The Supreme Court

The Supreme Court of the United States announced decisions in four cases today:

Kimble v. Marvel Entertainment, LLC, No. 13-720: Respondent Marvel Entertainment’s (“Marvel”) purchase of petitioner Stephen Kimble’s patent for a Spider-Man toy included a 3% royalty on future sales without any end date. Marvel filed an action seeking a declaratory judgment that it could stop paying royalties to Kimble when the patent’s 20-year term expired. The District Court granted Marvel its relief, and the Ninth Circuit affirmed. Today, the Court likewise affirmed, holding that under the principle of stare decisis, the Court was adhering to its prior decision in Brulotte v. Thys Co., 379 U.S. 29 (1964), and its holding that a patent holder cannot charge royalties for the use of his invention after its patent term has expired.

The Court's decision is available here.

Horne v. Department of Agriculture, No. 14-275: The United States Department of Agriculture has issued a California Raisin Marketing Order, which requires growers to set aside a portion of their raisin crop—a “reserve requirement” —so that the Government can either sell, allocate, or otherwise dispose of the raisins in order to maintain an orderly market. Growers were required to set aside this reserve requirement without compensation, although the net proceeds from any profits from the program are distributed back to the growers. Petitioners Marvin Horne, Laura Horne, and their family, refused to set aside their reserve requirement, and the Government levied a fine. The Hornes then filed suit, arguing that the reserve requirement violated the Fifth Amendment as an unconstitutional taking without just compensation. After a long procedural history, the Ninth Circuit held that the reserve requirement was not a taking. The Court today reversed, holding that: (1) the government’s categorical duty under the Fifth Amendment to pay just compensation when it physically takes possession of an interest in property extends to personal property; (2) the government may not avoid the categorical duty to pay just compensation for a physical taking of property by reserving to the property owner a contingent interest in a portion of the value of the property, set at the government’s discretion; and (3) here, the governmental mandate to relinquish specific, identifiable property as a condition on permission to engage in commerce effects a per se taking.

The Court's decision is available here.

City of Los Angeles v. Patel, No. 13-1175: Respondents are motel operators and a lodging association that brought a facial challenge under the Fourth Amendment to Los Angeles Municipal Code §41.49, which requires “[e]very operator of a hotel to keep a record” of specified guest information that must be made “available to any officer of the Los Angeles Police Department for inspection” on demand. The District Court found for the City of Los Angeles, but the Ninth Circuit reversed, holding that the inspections violated the Fourth Amendment. Today, the Court affirmed, holding that facial challenges can be brought under the Fourth Amendment, and that the provision of the Code that requires hotel operators to make their registries available to the police on demand is facially unconstitutional because it penalizes them for declining to turn over their records without affording them any opportunity for pre-compliance review.

The Court's decision is available here.

Kingsley v. Hendrickson, No. 14-6368: Petitioner Michael Kingsley brought an excessive force claim under 42 U.S.C. §1983 against jail officers who used force against him while he was detained in jail prior to trial. The jury instructions on the §1983 claim imposed a subjective standard, requiring that the jury find that the officers “recklessly disregarded [Kingsley’s] safety” and “acted with reckless disregard of [his] rights.” The District Court and Seventh Circuit rejected Kingsley’s argument that the instructions should have been limited to whether the officers’ force was objectively unreasonable. The Court today vacated and remanded, holding that to prove an excessive force claim, a pretrial detainee must show only that the officers’ use of that force was objectively unreasonable.

The Court's decision is available here.

The Court granted review in one case today:

Kingdomware Technologies, Inc. v. United States, No. 14-916: Whether the Federal Circuit erred in construing 38 U.S.C. §8127(d)’s mandatory set-aside restricting competition for Department of Veteran Affairs’ contracts to veteran-owned small businesses as discretionary.