On the power of the district courts and wetlands regulation, the justices takes up cases

After a private meeting of the justices on Friday, Jan. 21, the Supreme Court issued a set of orders on Monday morning. The justices have added two new cases to their docket for the upcoming term, in addition to discussing the issue of race in college admissions (discussed here). These two cases both focus on the power and authority of federal district courts and put forth different questions about how far the Clean Water Act can be applied.

Axon Enterprise, a manufacturer of body cameras for law enforcement, had petitioned the Supreme Court, and the justices granted it. It all started with the company’s attempt to buy out a rival. Axon went to federal court when the FTC raised the possibility of administrative proceedings due to antitrust concerns, and they were successful. Because the agency serves as both the prosecutor, judge, and jury in administrative proceedings, it argued that it violated its right to due process. Administrative law judges assigned to FTC administrative proceedings can only be removed for cause by FTC commissioners, who in turn can only be removed from office by the president for cause, according to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

According to the district court, Axon must first raise its constitutional concerns in the administrative proceedings before bringing a lawsuit. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in the United States upheld this ruling. An Axon representative went to the Supreme Court in July, asking the justices to weigh in on two issues: whether district courts have the authority and authority to review constitutional challenges to FTC structure. The justices agreed to consider the district court’s authority in the first question, but not in the second.

Idaho couple Michael and Chantell Sackett will get a second chance to argue before the Supreme Court after the justices agreed to hear their case a second time. Construction on the Sacketts’ property near Priest Lake in Idaho violates the Clean Water Act because the land contains wetlands that qualify as “navigable waters” regulated by the act, the EPA has informed them. In 2012, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the Sacketts’ challenge to the EPA’s order could be brought immediately in federal court.

Since their 2006 decision in Rapanos v. United States (which held that the Clean Water Act does not regulate all wetlands but did not produce a majority for the governing standard), they have asked the justices to reconsider their 2006 decision. the four-justice majority in Rapanos, that would only allow for regulation of wetland areas when they have continuous surface water connections to regulated water sources, the Sacketts are now asking the court to adopt this test. If the 9th Circuit’s decision on whether wetlands are “waters of United States” for the Clean Water Act’s purposes was correct, the Supreme Court agreed to hear this case on Monday and determine whether the 9th Circuit used the proper test.

Justices also rejected a request from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to rule on the constitutionality of a House resolution that allows proxy voting due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in Monday’s orders. After the lower courts rejected McCarthy’s appeals last September, McCarthy decided to take his case to the Supreme Court. Three conferences of the justices were held to consider McCarthy’s petition before the justices denied review without comment.

They refused to rule on a website designer’s request to opt out of Colorado’s non-discrimination law and refuse to create custom websites for same-sex weddings once again. For the third time in a row, the Supreme Court has discussed 303 Creative v. Elenis but has not taken any action.

On Friday, February 18, the justices will convene for their next regularly scheduled conference.

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