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2011 Term Winds Down: Tribal Issues, Confrontation Clause, and Overtime Pay

By Robyn Hagan Cain on June 18, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The Nine released four more Supreme Court decisions on Monday, bringing the outstanding opinion total for the 2011 Term down to ten. The four decisions are: Williams v. Illinois, Christopher v. SmithKline Beecham, Salazar v. Ramah Navajo, and Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band v. Patchak.

We're going to discuss these opinions in greater detail in the coming days. For today, we're just going to cover the highlights of each opinion.

  • Williams v. Illinois. In a 5-4 vote, the Court affirmed an Illinois Supreme Court decision allowing an expert witness to testify about DNA testing results performed by non-testifying analysts. Justice Samuel Alito wrote the opinion, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Stephen Breyer and Anthony Kennedy. Justice Thomas concurred in the judgment only.
  • Christopher v. SmithKline Beecham. The Court affirmed the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, finding that a pharmaceutical sales representative is an "outside salesperson," exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act's overtime pay requirements. This was another 5-4 decision, but the split fell along the ideological lines that we expect from the Court. Justice Alito wrote the opinion, joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia, Kennedy, and Thomas. Justice Breyer wrote the dissenting opinion, joined by Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan.
  • Salazar v. Ramah Navajo. In a 5-4 decision written by Justice Sotomayor, the Court ruled in favor of the tribe, finding that the federal government must pay each tribe's contract support costs, even when Congress tries to cap those costs. This is another unusual split: Justices Scalia, Thomas, Kennedy, and Kagan voted together, while Chief Justice Roberts, and Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, and Alito, dissented.
  • Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band v. Patchak. In an 8-1 decision written by Justice Kagan -- Justice Sotomayor was the lone dissenter -- the Court affirmed the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that the federal government waived its sovereign immunity from Patchak's lawsuit challenging the government's decision to take land into trust for an Indian tribe that wanted to use the land for a casino.

Brief thanks to the team at SCOTUSblog for their live-blogging coverage of these cases this morning. Look for more information on these Supreme Court decisions during the week, as well additional opinions from the 2011 Term on Thursday.

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