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The Supreme Court's Busy Day: Chrysler Fiat Sale, Don't Ask Don't Tell Policy, And More

By Javier Lavagnino, Esq. on June 08, 2009 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The Supreme Court had a busy day today, one which was reportedly punctuated with an exclamation point. At least, that is, as far as Chrysler and various pension funds were concerned. Late today, the Supreme Court issued an order putting a screeching halt to the sale of Chrysler to Italian car maker Fiat. No reason was reportedly given for the order, and it is unclear when the Court will resolve the issue. CNN Money noted that executives for the struggling carmaker had argued (apparently futilely) against any delay, suggesting that the company's continued viability and existence was at risk.

If that was the punctuation to the day, the court still had plenty of other fireworks earlier. First off, the Court refused to take on consideration of the military's "don't ask/don't tell" policy in a lawsuit brought by veterans challenging the way the military deals with gay and lesbian members of the armed forces. However, considering that a federal appeals court in California previously allowed a separate suit against the military to proceed, it may just be a matter of time before the Supreme Court is faced with the issue from the flip-side of the coin.

The Court also issued a bevy of opinions today, with one of the most noteable being the decision in Caperton v. A.T. Massey Co., Inc. That case, which dealt with a state court justice's refusal to recuse himself despite having received significant campaign contributions from a party in a case, had garnered significant attention, and CNN noted it provided the basis for the John Grisham best-seller "The Appeal". In a close 5-4 decision, the Court found that the justice should, indeed, have recused himself. The following are FindLaw's summaries to all five cases today, and links to the decisions will be added shortly:

Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Co.: In an appeal from the denial of a motion to recuse a state supreme court justice, where the justice had received campaign contributions in an extraordinary amount from the board chairman and principal officer of the corporation found liable for the damages at issue, the denial of the motion is reversed, as the probability of actual bias on the part of the justice was too high to be constitutionally tolerable.

Iraq v. Beatty: In an action alleging mistreatment by Iraqi officials during the 1991 Gulf War, the Court of Appeals' holding that the District Court had jurisdiction to hear the case is reversed where the District Court lost jurisdiction when the President exercised his Emergency Wartime Supplemental Appropriations Act authority to make 28 U.S.C. section 1605(a)(7) inapplicable with respect to Iraq.

Boyle v. US: Defendant's Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act conviction is affirmed where the District Court did not err in declining to instruct the jury that an association-in-fact enterprise must have an ascertainable structure beyond that inherent in the pattern of racketeering activity in which it engages.

US v. New York: In a False Claims Act action challenging a fee charged by Defendant-City to nonresident workers, the dismissal of Plaintiff's appeal is affirmed where, when the U.S. has declined to intervene in a privately initiated False Claims Act action, it is not a "party" to the litigation for purposes of either 28 U.S.C. section 2107 or Fed. R. App. P. 4.

US v. Denedo: In a petition for a writ of coram nobis seeking to void a fraud conviction in military court, the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces' order permitting Petitioner to seek the writ is affirmed, where the Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals has jurisdiction to entertain Petitioner's request under Uniform Code of Military Justice Article 66.

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