Packingham v North Carolina

Packingham sought review of the North Carolina Supreme Court decision affirming his conviction for accessing social media after being convicted of a sex crime. The Court, with three justices concurring in judgment and Gorsuch not participating, reversed. The majority held that Internet and social media are the most important “places” where free speech another First Amendment rights are exercised, the North Carolina law broadly bans certain sex offenders form social media and many other sites and is thus overbroad and unconstitutional. Alito, joined by Roberts and Thomas, concurred in judgment arguing the North Carline statute serves the compelling interest of protecting children from sexual abuse, but covers site such as amazon.com, the Washington Post and WebMD which do not present realistic opportunities for sex offenders to find and abuse children and thus it is overbroad and unconstitutional. He argued the majority went too far in equating the internet with streets and parks, as there are differences between physical space and cyberspace which warrants caution in applying first Amendment precedent to online activity.

Midland Funding, LLC v Johnson

Midland sought review of the 11th Circuit decision that filing a proof of claim in bankruptcy for a consumer loan that is time barred violates the Fair Debt Collection Act. The Court, resolving a circuit split, reversed 5-3 with Gorsuch not participating. The majority held that right t repayment is a claim for bankruptcy purposes and the running of the limitations period is an affirmative defense and there is no requirement a bankruptcy claim be enforceable, that while circuit courts precedent exists that holds asserting a time barred claim in civil court is unfair, bankruptcy is different because the proof is directed at bankruptcy trustees who are sophisticated experts in bankruptcy law and those seeking bankruptcy protection are more likely to catch stale claims and bankruptcy proceedings a whole lessen the likelihood a stale claim will be approved and it can benefit debtors to have the stale claim filed so it can be discharged. The majority also expressed concern that ruling the other way would create post discharge litigation to flesh out the exception to the affirmative defense rule. Sotomayor, joined by Ginsberg and Kagan, dissented arguing that just as it unfair to allow stale claims to be field in civil court in hopes the debtor will default or fail to raise the limitations defense it is unfair to allow companies to but up stale debts and file claims in bankruptcy as trustees are overwhelmed, debtors by filing have demonstrated a lack of ability to control their finances and the alleged benefits to allowing filing the claims are overwhelmed in practice as may claims go unnoticed and undischarged.

Maslenjak v United States

Maslenjak sought review of the 6th Circuit decision that allows conviction for unlawful procurement of naturalization without a showing of material false statements. The Court, resolving a circuit split and with two justices concurring in part and in judgment and one in judgment only, reversed. The majority held that 18 USC 1425(a) is best read to require a means end connection between the allegedly illegal act and the procurement of naturalization and the alternative reading offered by the government that any violation of law during the course of naturalization does not require causality and thus fails as a matter of statutory interpretation and would allow denaturalization on grounds which would not have resulted in denial of naturalization and the majority concluded Congress did not intend that outcome. The majority held that juries must find that false statements sufficiently altered the naturalization process that they influenced the grant of citizenship and evidence that a disqualifying facts were misrepresented would obviously violate 1425(a) as would false statements which keep the government form discovering other disqualifying facts and proof that inquiry would have predictably discovered the disqualifying facts sufficient to convicted but proof that a defendant would have qualified for citizenship regardless will be a complete defense. The case was remanded for analysis of the facts under the standard announced in the opinion. Gorsuch, joined by Thomas, concurred in the causality portion of the majority opinion, but argued the burden of proof discussion was unnecessary as it was not briefed and the Court would benefit form lower courts exploring the issue first. Alito concurred in judgment arguing that 1425(a) only requires the false statement have a natural tendency to affect eh naturalization outcome not that it did in fact have an effect.

Turner et al. v United States

Turner and six other defendants sought review of the DC Circuit decision rejecting their Brady claim in their post-conviction relief proceedings. The Court, 6-2 with Gorsuch not participating, affirmed. The majority held that in light of evidence at the trial, the withheld evidence did undermine confidence in the outcome as the jury would have to disbelieve four witness and reject the large group attack theory and all the impeachment evidence as to trial witnesses was cumulative as drug use and inconsistent stamens were before the jury, one statement related to a witness that was not called and another potential witness was permissibly deemed not credible based on past false accusations. Kagan, joined by Ginsberg, dissented arguing that the withheld evidence would have provide Turner and the other defendants with an alternate theory of the case which would have allowed the defendants to present a united front which could have persuaded a juror to vote not guilty and the government case was not as strong as the majority assets given the lack of physical evidence tying the defendants to the scene, credibility issues for the government witnesses.