National Labor Relations Board v SW General, Inc.

Board appealed the DC Circuit ruling that its general counsel was illegally serving as acting counsel while nominated for the position permanently. The Court, 6-2 with one justice adding a concurrence, affirmed. The majority held that under Section 3345 of the Federal Vacancies reform Act, the prohibition on a person serving as an acting officeholder once the person is nominated for confirmation in 3345(b)(1) applies to all three categories of first assistants, other officeholders who have already been confirmed and senor employees because it applies to all “persons” who become acting officers “under this section” and applying the prohibition in this manner is consistent with how those terms are used in other subsections of 3345. It held that the notwithstanding clause in 3345(b)(1) demonstrates that all three categorizes are covered by (a)(1) and (b)(1) on covers first assistants as these are automatically made acting officers under the statute and 3345(c)(1) is specific to a scenario where a person is nominated for an additional term and does not speak to appointments generally. It held the legislative history did not change anything as the drafting evidence shows all three categories are covered and the conflicting statements by members on the floor demonstrates no intent to only cover first assistants. It finally held that the appointment history was insufficient to prove acquiescence by the Senate as ignorance of violations or desire to confirm a qualified nominee can explain it. Justice Thomas added a concurrence arguing the appointment here also violated the Appointments Clause, as the general counsel appears to be directly below the president and thus must be filled through the confirmation process. Justice Sotomayor, joined by Ginsberg, dissented arguing that (b)(1) only applies to first assistants as that is the only category of persons mentioned and the potential conflicts between subsections (a), (b) and (c) can be avoided by limiting the prohibition to first assistants. She also argued that the events leading to the enactment of the Act, acting appointment of someone rejected for confirmation, demonstrates that the prohibition is limited to first assistants instead of all three categories as this is most consistent with existing practice at the time.

SCA Hygiene Products Aktiebolag v First Quality Baby Products, LLC

SCA sought review of the Federal Circuit en banc holding that laches can defeat a patent infringement claim brought within the limitations period. The Court, 7-1, reversed. Applying the reasoning of a recent case rejecting laches defenses in timely filed copyright cases, the majority held that separation of powers is saved by allowing timely field suits to proceed and that laches was unavailable as a defense in law based suits for damages before 1938 and this counselled against allowing it to be argued in patent damages suits. It held that 35 USC 286 is a limitations statute, its wording does not distinguish it from the copyright statute held not subject to laches, that 35 USC 282 does not allow laches to be raised as a defense as Congress could not have intended to both allow and disallow it, that eh case law relied upon by First Quality either did not deal with money damages claims or was split on eh issue of laches and the general rule has always been laches cannot be a defense to a timely field claim for damages. The majority noted that equitable estoppel may apply here and remanded for consideration of that issue. Justice Breyer dissented arguing that laches was uniformly allowed as a defense to damages claims prior to the 1952 patent act, that 286 only caps damages and does not bar a claim for damages and laches fills the gap created by the interplay of 286 and 282’s ban on damages when a claim is unenforceable which was historically understood to include unreasonable delay in filing suit. He also argued the copyright case was wrongly decided and further that it is distinguishable as there is no provision to mitigate damages when a patent holder waits to file suit, delay will only harm infringers and delay locks an infringer into using the patented item as costs to change will be great.

Manuel v City of Joliet, Illinois

Manuel sought review of the dismissal of has 4th Amendment claim for pretrial detention based on false evidence. The Court, resolving a 10-1 circuit split on the issue, reversed 6-2. The majority held that pretrial detention unsupported by probable cause violates the 4th Amendment, not the due process clause as the 7th Circuit here held, and thus Manuel stated a claim when he alleged that he was detained for over a month after several tests proved he did not possess controlled substances contrary to the false information supplied by police and technicians at his probable cause hearing. The case was remanded to consider the timeliness of Manuel’s claim and whether City waived its timeliness defense. Justice Thomas field a dissent noting that it made no difference whether arrest or the probable cause hearing triggered the limitations period as both occurred more than two years before suit and thus the suit was untimely. Justice Alito, joined by Thomas, dissented arguing that the court agreed to decide if malicious prosecution can be based on the 4th Amendment, such claims cannot be based on the 4th Amendment and even if unlawful detention claims accrue when the initial appearance or its state equivalent happens instead of form the time of arrest, Manuel brought suit after the two year limitations period ran.