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6th Cir. SCOTUS Grants (So Far): Prison, Securities, Retirement

By Mark Wilson, Esq. | Last updated on

So far, the Supreme Court has granted only three petitions from the Sixth Circuit, on issues as varied as prisoner litigation and securities law. Many more petitions are waiting in the wings, including same-sex marriage, the Amish beard-cutter, and limiting hours for early voting.

For now, though, Sixth Circuit watchers will have to tide themselves over with these three cases:

SCOTUS Week at FindLaw

Andre Lee Coleman v. Todd Tollefson (Oral Argument: TBD)

Prisoners file a lot of lawsuits -- many of them are meritorious, while others demand $3 billion from David Beckham, alleging that his soccer balls are precision-guided by satellites (actual case). Many prisoners qualify for "in forma pauperis" (IFP) status, which allows indigent plaintiffs to be exempted from the filing fees. Abuse of the system, however, led Congress to the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA). The PLRA allows indigent prisoners to file civil suits without paying the filing fees, unless they've had three cases dismissed for failure to state a claim or as frivolous. Once they've had their three strikes (these are lifetime strikes), the prisoner has to pay the filing fee to file a civil suit (unless the claim alleges "imminent danger of serious physical injury").

One of Coleman's three strikes was on appeal from dismissal while he was filing another complaint. The district court denied Coleman IFP status for the new complaint, even though his third strike was on appeal. The Sixth Circuit counts an appealed dismissal as a strike for PLRA purposes -- but seven other circuits don't. The question for the Supreme Court is ... well, which circuits are right?

Omnicare, Inc. v. Laborers District Council Construction Industry Pension Fund (Oral Argument: November 3)

Omnicare is "the nation's largest provider of pharmaceutical care services for the elderly and other residents of long-term care facilities in the United States and Canada." The complaint alleged that Omnicare violated the Securities Act by making material misstatements in a registration certificate for a 2005 stock offering.

The Sixth Circuit held that Section 11 of the Securities Act is a strict liability statute, unlike Section 10, and thus the plaintiffs didn't have to prove the defendants knew the statements were false -- as long as the statements are objectively not true. This places the Sixth Circuit in disagreement with the Second and Ninth Circuits, which require that the defendant knew the statements to be false when he made them. The Supreme Court is being asked which is the right interpretation of the statute.

M&G Polymers USA v. Hobert Freel Tackett (Oral Argument: November 10)

M&G announced that retired employees would have to start contributing to their health insurance plans. The employees sued, claiming their benefit plans allowed them to receive health care for life without having to contribute anything. The collective bargaining agreement wasn't entirely clear on that point, but the Sixth Circuit said that the agreement as a whole evidenced an intent to vest contribution-free health care at retirement. The question presented to the Supreme Court is whether lifetime benefits can be inferred or presumed from the collective bargaining agreement or must be explicit.

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