March 07, 2012

Case Highlights 2005-2006 Term

Following are case highlights for the topic areas of Immigration Law, Indian Law, Intellectual Property and International Law. To access other case highlights for the 2005-2006 Term or previous terms, or to return to the main Case Highlights page, use the Topic Area menu to the right.


Fernandez-Vargas v. Gonzales
Docket No. 04-1376
Affirmed: The Tenth Circuit

Argued: March 22, 2006
Decided: June 22, 2006
For Case Analysis: See ABA Preview 318

May an alien who was deported and reentered the country prior to the date of passage of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA), be deported under a provision of the Act?

Yes. Section 241(a)(5) applies to those who reentered the United States before IIRIRA's effective date and is not impermissibly retroactive.

From the opinion by Justice Souter (joined by Chief Justice Roberts, and Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Alito):

Common principles of statutory interpretation fail to unsettle the apparent application of §241(a)(5) to any reentrant present in the country, whatever the date of return. … This facial reading is confirmed by two features of IIRIRA, not previously discussed, that describe the conduct to which §241(a)(5) applies, and show that the application suffers from no retroactivity in denying Fernandez-Vargas the opportunity for adjustment of status as the spouse of a citizen of the United States. One is in the text of that provision itself, showing that it applies to Fernandez-Vargas today not because he reentered in 1982 or at any other particular time, but because he chose to remain after the new statute became effective. The second is the provision setting IIRIRA's effective date, §309(a), 110 Stat.3009-625, which shows that Fernandez-Vargas had an ample warning of the coming change in the law, but chose to remain until the old regime expired and §241(a)(5) took its place.

Dissenting: Justice Stevens

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Wagnon v. Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation

Docket No. 04-631

Reversed: The Tenth Circuit

Argued: October 3, 2005

Decided: December 6, 2005

For Case Analysis: See ABA Preview 36

Can a state tax the fuel that is sold by non-Indian distributors to tribal gas stations on reservations?

Yes. Because Kansas's motor fuel tax is a nondiscriminatory tax imposed on an off-reservation transaction between non-Indians, the tax is valid and poses no affront to the Nation's sovereignty.

From the opinion by Justice Thomas (joined by Chief Justice Roberts, and Justices Stevens, O'Connor, Scalia, Souter, and Breyer):

The State of Kansas imposes a tax on the receipt of motor fuel by fuel distributors within its boundaries. Kansas applies that tax to motor fuel received by non-Indian fuel distributors who subsequently deliver that fuel to a gas station owned by, and located on, the Reservation of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation (Nation). The Nation maintains that this application of the Kansas motor fuel tax is an impermissible affront to its sovereignty. The Court of Appeals agreed, holding that the application of the Kansas tax to fuel received by a non-Indian distributor, but subsequently delivered to the Nation, was invalid under the interest-balancing test set forth in White Mountain Apache Tribe v. Bracker, 448 U. S. 136 (1980). But the Bracker interest-balancing test applies only where "a State asserts authority over the conduct of non-Indians engaging in activity on the reservation." … It does not apply where, as here, a state tax is imposed on a non-Indian and arises as a result of a transaction that occurs off the reservation. Accordingly, we reverse.

Dissenting: Justice Ginsburg (joined by Justice Kennedy)

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eBay Inc. v. MercExchange L.L.C.

Docket No. 05-130

Vacated: The Federal Circuit

Argued: March 29, 2006

Decided: May 15, 2006

For Case Analysis: See ABA Preview 332

In patent cases, must a district court, absent exceptional circumstances, issue a permanent injunction after a finding of infringement?

No. The Court held that the traditional four-factor test applied by courts of equity when considering whether to award permanent injunctive relief to a prevailing plaintiff applies to disputes arising under the Patent Act.

From the opinion by Justice Thomas (for a unanimous Court):

According to well-established principles of equity, a plaintiff seeking a permanent injunction must satisfy a four-factor test before a court may grant such relief. A plaintiff must demonstrate: (1) that it has suffered an irreparable injury; (2) that remedies available at law, such as monetary damages, are inadequate to compensate for that injury; (3) that, considering the balance of hardships between the plaintiff and defendant, a remedy in equity is warranted; and (4) that the public interest would not be disserved by a permanent injunction. … These familiar principles apply with equal force to disputes arising under the Patent Act. … Nothing in the Patent Act indicates that Congress intended such a departure. To the contrary, the Patent Act expressly provides that injunctions "may" issue "in accordance with the principles of equity."

Concurring: Chief Justice Roberts (joined by Justices Scalia and Ginsburg)

Concurring: Justice Kennedy (joined by Justices Stevens, Souter, and Breyer)

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Sanchez-Llamas v. Oregon

Docket No. 04-10566

Affirmed: Oregon Supreme Court

Argued: March 29, 2006

Decided: June 28, 2006

For Case Analysis: See ABA Preview 304

Is suppression of evidence an appropriate remedy when a state fails to inform a foreign national that he is entitled, under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, to inform his consulate of his detention?

No. Even assuming that the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations creates judicially enforceable rights, neither the Convention itself nor Supreme Court precedents applying the exclusionary rule support suppression of a defendant's statements to police as a remedy for violation of Article 36 of the Convention.

From the opinion by Chief Justice Roberts (joined by Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas and Alito):

[S]uppression is not the only means of vindicating Vienna Convention rights. A defendant can raise an Article 36 claim as part of a broader challenge to the voluntariness of his statements to police. If he raises an Article 36 violation at trial, a court can make appropriate accommodations to ensure that the defendant secures, to the extent possible, the benefits of consular assistance. Of course, diplomatic avenues—the primary means of enforcing the Convention—also remain open.

Concurring in the judgment: Justice Ginsburg

Dissenting: Justice Breyer (joined by Justices Stevens and Souter and joined in part by Justice Ginsburg)

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