Elonis v united States

Elonis was convicted of several counts of transmitting threats in violation of 18 USC 875(c). He appealed arguing the government was required to prove intent to threaten. The 3rd Circuit affirmed his convictions. The Court 7-2, reversed and remanded. The majority held that criminal statutes require some level of criminal mens rea to distinguish between criminal and innocent conduct, that the jury instructions here employing a reasonable person standard adopted a mere negligence standard which is not a mens rea standard, and remanded to determine if recklessness is s sufficient or if an intent standard is correct. Justice Alito concurred in part and dissented in part arguing that recklessness is the highest mens rea that can be applied here without amending the statute, the Court should adopt this standard to avoid confusion in the lower courts and argued that the First Amendment is not violated by a recklessness standard as true threats are not protected speech. He also argued that Elonis may be barred from befitting from a recklessness standard as the expressly disclaimed reliance on that standard on appeal. Thomas dissented arguing that 875(c) is a general intent crime and thus proof that Elonis knew he made the communication is sufficient even if he did not know that a jury would conclude they are true threats. He argued this does not violate the First Amendment as true threats are not protected and general intent criminal bans existed in English law at the time of the founding and in early state practice.

Mellouli v Lynch

Mellouli pled guilty to concealing controlled substances in a sock. The government petitioned to deport him which was granted. The 8th Circuit affirmed. The Court, 7-2 reversed. The majority held that the immigration appeals board disparate treatment between possession and trafficking convictions which require proof of a federally prohibited substance and paraphernalia crimes, like the one here, which do not is contrary to the language of the statute and is not a reasonable reading as concealing the substance here subjected Mellouli to deportation while possessing it would not. Thomas, joined by Alito, dissented arguing that the statute authorizes deportation when a state conviction “relates to” federal drug law and given the 97% overlap in prohibited substances the state statute here clearly relates to federal drug law. The dissent also accused the majority of allowing its feeling Mellouli should not be departed or disapproving of state’s proscribing more conduct than the federal government to reach their conclusion rather than following the text of the statute.

Bank of America N.A. v Culkett

Caulkett field for chapter 7 bankruptcy and moved to void Bank’s junior mortgage on his house. The bankruptcy court granted the motion and the 11th Circuit affirmed. The Court reversed holding that precedent holding that partially unsecured debt cannot be voided controls here and thus even wholly underwater mortgages cannot be voided.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc.

Commission sued Stores on behalf of a practicing Muslim applicant who wore a headscarf and was not hired as a result. The 10th Circuit ultimately granted Stores summary judgment on the ground that the applicant did not ask for an accommodation and thus stores did not know about the need to accommodate. The Court, 8 (7 justice majority plus one concurring in judgment)-1, reversed. The majority held that the applicable statute 42 USC 2000e-2(a) does not have a knowledge requirement and thus in a disparate treatment claim all a claimant must prove is their religious practice motivated the hiring decision in part. As that occurred here, summary judgment was inappropriate. Justice Alito concurred arguing that claimants are required to prove religious practice motivated the hiring decision, that the record contained enough evidence to defeat summary judgment and defendants bear the burden of proving the accommodation defense not claimants. Justice Thomas concurred in part and dissented in part arguing that application of neutral policies like a ban on head covers is not discrimination based on religion.

Taylor v Barnes

Barnes sued Taylor under 42 USC 1983 alleging inadequate supervision of health workers resulting in her husband committing suicide. Taylor moved for judgment based on qualified immunity which the district court and 3rd Circuit denied. The court summarily reversed holding that at the time of the incident, no Supreme Court case established a right to suicide screening, the weight of circuit authority at the time was against recognizing such a right and the 3rd Circuit cases relied upon did not establish the right recognized here.