Gobeille v Liberty Mutual Insurance Company

Liberty sued Gobeille in his official capacity seeking a judgment that Vermont’s requirement that Liberty submit its paid claims data to an all payer medical database was preempted by ERISA. The district court denied relief, but, the 2nd Circuit reversed. The Court, 6-2 with two added concurrences, affirmed. The majority held that reporting, disclosure and recordkeeping are central concerns of ERISA, uniformity in this area was intended by Congress and thus the different requirements of Vermont concerned an ERISA plan and were preempted. Thomas added a concurrence arguing that court precedent in the ERISA context deviates from other preemption analysis and raised concerns about whether Congress has actual authority to preempt all state civil law. Justice Breyer added a concurrence noting allowing states to add their own reporting requirements would be burdensome and thus ERISA preempts here and that the federal government could pride the data Vermont wants. Ginsberg, joined by Sotomayor dissented arguing Vermont’s reporting system differed in purpose form ERISA and thus did not concern ERISA plans and there was no evidence of actual burden here.

Lockhart v United States

Lockhart appealed his child pornography enhanced sentence arguing that 18 USC 2252(b)(2) only applies if the state crime victim is a minor. The 2nd Circuit rejected his argument. Resolving a circuit split, the Court, 6-2, affirmed. The majority held that under the cannon of the last antecedent, the phrase “involving a minor or ward” only modifies the last term in the series “aggravated sexual abuse, sexual abuse or abusive sexual conduct involving a minor or ward” and this conclusion is reinforced by the similar terms used in titles of the federal sex crimes chapter 109A and the legislative history is at best incomplete. Kagan, joined by Ginsberg, argued that common patterns of speech demonstrates that the last phrase modifies all three terms and the legislative history confirms that Congress was concerned about child sex abuse not sex crimes involving adults like Lockhart’s victim here.