Hensen v Santander Consumer USA Inc.

Hensen sought review of the 4th Circuit decision holding companies that purchase debt and then seek to collect it, like Santander, are not subject to the Fair Debt Collection Act. The Court, resolving a circuit split, affirmed. It held that the plain language of the Act limits its application to people and entities which regularly collect debts of another and Santander buys the debts it collects before starting collections and thus seeks to collect its own debt and is outside the reach of the statute. The Court rejected Hensen’s arguments holding past participles like “owed’ can apply to the current state of the thing described; Congress used “owed or due” in the statute and it is unreasonable to believe it meant for owed to be past and due to be current; Congress separately identified debt originators and later purchases in other parts of the Act which is evidence the act treats all owners of debt the same for purposes of applicability, and if Congress really never thought about the issue presented here, it is speculation it would have meant for entities like Santander to be covered.

Virginia v LeBlanc

Virginia sought review of the 4th Circuit decision holding its geriatric release program for juvenile offenders serving life sentences was unconstitutional. The Court, with one justice adding a concurrence, summarily reversed holding the 4th Circuit failed to give deference to the Virginia state court decision upholding the resale program and noting that because there is no precedent rejecting the Virginia approach and there are arguments on both side of the issue, the Virginia state court decision cannot be objectively unreasonable. Ginsburg added a concurrence arguing the Virginia state courts decision requires normal parole considerations and thus provides the required meaningful opportunity for release.

Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela v Helmerich & Payne International Drilling Co.

Venezuela sought review of the DC Circuit decision allowing Helmrich’s claims of expropriation to proceed based on making a nonfrivolous argument. The Court, with Gorsuch not participating, reversed and remanded. It held that the best reading of the expropriation exception in the Foreign Sovereign immunities Act is to require a showing of jurisdiction by actually proving that the taking of property violates international law as this reading is consistent with the text, precedent about other parts of the Act, serves the Act’s basic objective of preserving immunity to suit by deciding issues of jurisdiction as soon as possible and is consistent with executive branch views on the issue. It rejected Helmrich’s arguments holding that frivolousness standard for 28 USC 1331 is irrelevant here as it only determines if state or federal court hears a case and in other stings, like diversity jurisdiction, proof of jurisdiction is required and further held the frivolousness standard would work harm as it would increase the time a foreign sovereign is involved in litigation. The case was remanded for analysis under the correct standard.