Wellness International Network, Ltd. V Sharif

Wellness field an adversarial proceeding in bankruptcy court against Sharif. The bankruptcy court entered final judgment on one claim. The 7th Circuit ultimately reversed holding the bankruptcy court lacked constitutional authority to hear the claim. The Court, 6-3, reversed. The majority held that Court precedent stands for the principle that there right to have an Article III judge hear a case is subject to waiver with the consent of all parties provided there is supervision of the decisionmaker by an Article III judge and allowing the adjudication here fits within that case law and therefore does violate separation of powers principles. It also held that consent may be manifest by conduct instead of a written consent, but, the consent must be voluntary and knowing. Thus, the case was remanded for the factbound analysis of the consent issue. Justice Alito concurred in part and in judgment noting the majority followed the existing precedent and no party asked for it to be overturned. He argued that the issue of whether consent can be implied should not be resolved as Sharif failed to preserve the issue. Chief justice Roberts joined by Scalia and Thomas in part dissented arguing the claim here is a core bankruptcy claim that certain property belongs to the estate and as such is within the power of the bankruptcy court to decide. (Thomas joined this part of the opinion) He further argued that the structural protections of Article III cannot be waived and the majority’s failure to do so will invite Congress to slowly eviscerate those protections by assigning more of the Article III power to decisionmakers they can control through decreasing salary and other means. Justice Thomas dissented arguing that under a correct view of Article III power, disputes about private rights not arising form the bankruptcy proceeding, such as property ownership, are vested in the Article III courts and, absent a historical practice of allowing these kinds of claims to be adjudicated in bankruptcy courts, it is arguable that these claims cannot be adjudicated in bankruptcy courts.

Kellogg, Brown and Root Services, Inc. v United states ex rel. Carter

Carter brought a qui tam suit against Services. The district court dismissed on statute of limitations and first filed suit bar grounds. The 4th Circuit reversed on both issues. The Court affirmed in part, reversed in part and remanded. It held that the statute of limitations was not extended by a wartime limitations extension law as that law only applies to offenses which are crimes not civil claims. The Court looked to the laws language, structure and purpose to so conclude. It held that eth first field suit case bar did not apply as there were no cases “pending” when the 4th Circuit appeal was heard as all cases filed before Carter’s case had been dismissed and were thus not pending as ordinarily understood. The Court rejected Service’s contention that “pending” meant “first field case” as that is not the plain meaning of the law nor is there any basis in the law to conclude Congress meant for pending to mean first field suit.

Commil USA, LLC v Cisco Systems, Inc.

Commil Sued Cisco alleging induced infringement of its patents and obtained a jury verdict against Cisco. The Federal Circuit reversed the verdict in part because it held good faith belief in a patent’s invalidity is a defense to induced infringement claims. The Court, 6-2 with Breyer recused, reversed. Five Justices held that knowledge of the infringing actions was an element of the infringement claim and thus rejected Commil’s argument that knowledge of the patent is all that needs to be proven. Six justices held that good faith belief in invalidity is not defense to an infringement claim as validity and infringement are separate issues in patent law and the alleged infringer had administrative and judicial means to challenge the validity including as a defense in an infringement case. The six justices noted the possibility of abusive litigation by patent holders, but, held the tools available to district courts, such as Rule 11 sanctions and attorney fees awards, can serve to minimize these kinds of suits. Justice Scalia, joined by Roberts, dissented arguing that good faith belief that a patent is invalid necessarily defeats the knowing element in an infringement claims.