June 19, 2014 United States Supreme Court opinions

United States v Clarke

Clarke moved to0 examine IRS officials about the issuance of a subpoena to Clarke. The district court denied the motion. The 11th Circuit reversed under circuit precedent requiring examination whenever bare allegations of bad faith are made. Resolving a circuit split, the Court reversed. It held that the proper rule is examination of IRS officials is required when the subpoenaed person submits enough facts to allow a plausible inference of bad faith. The case was remained for analysis under the correct rule.

Lane v Franks

Lane testified at a criminal trial pursuant to a subpoena. He was later fired by Franks and sued alleging violation of his First Amendment free speech rights. The district t court granted summary judgment to Franks and the 11th Circuit affirmed under its rule that testimony concerning issues learned as a public employee were unprotected. Resolving a circuit split, the Court afifiemd in part, reversed in part and remanded. It held that because testifying in court was not part of Lane’s ordinary duties, he acted as a “citizen” not an “employee” when he testified. The subject of the trial, public corruption, is of obvious public concern and refusing to extend protection here would create an impossible situation when public employees witness corruption as fear of termination would conflict with the duty to testify. The judgment was affirmed in part, however, as it was not clearly established that firing Lane was prohibited given the circuit split and confused sate of the law in the 11th Circuit. The case was remanded to evaluate certain claims not subject to qualified immunity. Justice Thomas, joined by Scalia dn Alito, added a concurrence emphasizing that eh case did not resolve whether truthful testimony by those who testify as part of their ordinary duties, like police officers, are also protected from retaliation.

Alice Corporation Pty. Ltd. V CLS Bank International

CLS sued Alice alleging its patents for a computer based payments clearing house were not valid. The district court granted judgment to CLS and the Federal Circuit affirmed. The Court affirmed. It held the patents in this case were not valid as intermediated settlement is a longstanding feature of capitalist systems and therefore not patentable and mere use of a generic computer does not create a patentable innovation. Justice Sotomayor, joined by Ginsberg and Breyer added a concurrence noting their continued belief that business methods are not patentable.

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