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February 20, 2013
Supreme Court Action: Antitrust, Detention Incident To A Search, And Mootness
As I wrote in yesterday’s post, the Supreme Court issued four opinions yesterday. Five more were released today. Here is the remainder of the opinions issued yesterday. The first is FTC v. Phoebe Putney Health Systems, Inc. (11-1160). The case involves a grant of authority by the Georgia Legislature to local hospital authorities to lease or acquire hospitals as a means of providing indigent health care. One county in Georgia formed a non-profit corporation to manage its hospital which itself was a non-profit corporation. The hospital authority decided to buy the only other hospital in the county and add it to its health system. The FTC sued to block the purchase on antitrust ground, alleging that the purchase would reduce competition in the local market. The trial judge dismissed the complaint and the Eleventh Circuit affirmed, holding that the state action doctrine applies. That doctrine holds that states are allowed to manage their own economies and are entitled to immunity if the anticompetitive action was a foreseeable result of the legislation.
The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the grant of authority by the legislature was no different from general grants of power to corporations. That type of grant does not exempt the authority from the operation of the antitrust laws any more than it would for a corporation operating in the market. The Court stated the anticompetitive consequences of the law had to foreseeable. The legislature need not expressly articulate that purpose in the law. However, a general grant to participate in a competitive market without more is not one that exempts the application of the antitrust laws. Justice Sotomayor delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.
The next case is Bailey v. United States (11-770). Police were about to execute a search warrant seeking an illegal handgun in a building when they saw two people leave the premises. They followed the car driven by the individuals and stopped and detained them about a mile away. The search team had found a gun and illegal drugs in an apartment. Defendant Bailey’s personal possessions included a key that opened the apartment. Baily moved to suppress the key and statements he made about it. The police defended the search under Michigan v. Summers, 452 U. S. 692, which allows officers to detain the occupants of a house while a search is conducted. They alternatively argued that the detention was valid under Terry v. Ohio, 392 U. S. 1. The District Court denied the motion and the Second Circuit affirmed using Summers as authority. Neither court considered the Terry argument.
The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Summers only applied to individuals in the immediate vicinity of the search. That was not the case with Bailey and his co-defendant. None of the factors normally favoring detention at the time of a search—that the defendants would disrupt the search, destroy evidence, or pose a risk to officers were present. Summers could apply if the defendants had returned to the scene. The question as to whether Terry applied would be determined on remand. Justice Kennedy delivered the opinion of the Court, joined by Chief Justice Roberts, and Justices Scalia, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan. Justice Scalia filed a concurring opinion joined by Justices Ginsburg and Kagan. Justice Breyer filed a dissenting opinion joined by Justices Thomas and Alito.
The final case from yesterday is Chafin v. Chafin (11-1347). The case concerns the application of the mootness doctrine in the context of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and the implementing act, International Child Abduction Remedies Act (ICARA). Mr. Chafin married Ms. Chafin, a citizen of the United Kingdom, in Germany when he was stationed there as a member of the armed forces. They had a daughter. Mr. Chafin returned to the United States and filed for divorce and child custody in Huntsville, Alabama. Ms. Chafin was deported and the daughter remained with Mr. Chafin. Ms. Chafin later filed a petition seeking return of the daughter under ICARA. The District Court held the child’s country of habitual residence was Scotland and granted the petition and entered a preliminary injunction prohibiting Mr. Chafin from removing the daughter from Scotland. Ms. Chafin immediately left for Scotland where she filed for and was granted custody. The Eleventh Circuit dismissed the appeal as moot.
The Supreme Court reversed holding that this was still a live case where a court could grant relief. The Court noted that the Chafins are vigorously contesting where their daughter will be raised and is not hypothetical. Mr. Chafin is seeking relief from the District Court’s judgment. The litigation may continue in the United States and Scotland depending on the outcome of the appeal. The merits of the case are quite different from mootness. Chief Justice Roberts delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court. Justice Ginsburg filed a concurring opinion joined by Justices Scalia and Breyer.
I’ll review the five decisions from today in tomorrow’s post. They are available at the Court’s website. [MG]