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SCOTUS Rules for More Litigation and Qualified Immunity

By Robyn Hagan Cain on February 22, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

While the Nine heard oral arguments about the Stolen Valor Act in U.S. v. Alvarez on Wednesday, the Court was also releasing opinions.

The Supreme Court issued three more opinions this morning, raising the decision tally for their first post-recess week to seven. It was a day of reversals, with the Court sending the following cases back to the Montana Supreme Court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

  • PPL Montana v. Montana. In a case addressing whether discrete, identifiable segments of three rivers that flow through Montana were non-navigable under federal law for the purpose of determining riverbed ownership, SCOTUS reversed the Montana Supreme Court and ruled that the court was wrong to conclude that the state owned the riverbeds. The unanimous Court agreed with PPL's argument that the title to dams built on non-navigable portions of the rivers that require portages around obstacles should not go to the state, reports The Washington Post.
  • Douglas v. Independent Living Center. The Supreme Court declined to decide whether California Medicaid patients and providers could sue the state over Medicaid cuts under the Supremacy Clause, ruling that the Supremacy Clause issue no longer defined the outcome in the case because CMS approved some of California's proposed rate changes, and California withdrew others, reports Politico. The case could still go back to the Supreme Court, pending a possible Ninth Circuit review of the agency determination under the Administrative Procedure Act.
  • Messerschmidt v. Millender. In a 6-3 decision, the Court reversed the Ninth Circuit and ruled that police officers cannot be sued personally for obtaining a potentially invalid warrant. In the case, Augusta Millender sued Los Angeles County Sheriff's Detective Curt Messerschmidt and other police officials for the search on her house and confiscation of her shotgun while executing a warrant for "all guns and gang-related material." Justice Roberts wrote for the majority, "The officers' judgment that the scope of the warrant was supported by probable cause may have been mistaken, but it was not 'plainly incompetent.'"

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