Friday, April 22, 2022
Some Interesting SCOTUS Decisions: Boechler, Brown & Cassirer
Yesterday’s busy Supreme Court opinion day featured a number of interesting decisions:
- In Boechler v. Commissioner, the Court once again weighed in on whether a litigation-related deadline is jurisdictional and, if not, whether it is subject to equitable tolling. The case involves 26 U.S.C. § 6330(d)(1)’s 30-day deadline for petitioning the Tax Court to review certain determinations by the Internal Revenue Service. Writing for a unanimous Court, Justice Barrett concludes that it “is an ordinary, nonjurisdictional deadline subject to equitable tolling.”
- Brown v. Davenport involves the relationship between the deferential standard of review in the AEDPA [28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1)] and the requirement that any state court error cause sufficient prejudice to the defendant under Brecht v. Abrahamson, 507 U.S. 619 (1993). Writing for a six-justice majority, Justice Gorsuch concludes that “a federal court cannot grant relief without first applying both the test this Court outlined in Brecht and the one Congress prescribed in AEDPA.” Justice Kagan authors a dissenting opinion, joined by Justices Breyer and Sotomayor, calling the majority’s approach “pointless” because “the Brecht standard ‘obviously subsumes’ the ‘more liberal’ AEDPA one: If a defendant meets the former, he will ‘necessarily’ meet the latter too.” The opinions also include a robust exchange regarding the history of habeas corpus that is well worth a read.
- And in Cassirer v. Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation, the Court considered what choice-of-law rule governs claims against a foreign state or instrumentality under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. Justice Kagan’s opinion for a unanimous Court holds that courts should apply “whatever choice-of-law rule the court would use if the defendant were not a foreign-state actor, but instead a private party.” In a property-law dispute (this case was a suit to recover expropriated property), that means using “the forum State’s choice-of-law rule, not a rule deriving from federal common law.”