SCOTUS Recap & Predictions

TexasBarToday_TopTen_Badge_VectorGraphicThe Supreme Court has completed its October sitting, having heard arguments in 8 cases. I’ve already talked about the first 5 cases in a previous post. Read on for a recap of the other 3 cases argued this month, and for predictions about how those cases will be decided…

Samsung Electronics v. Apple is a patent case where Samsung is accused of infringing Apple’s design patent for its iPhone screen, and the question is: Does Apple get to recover the total profits that Samsung made in selling the infringing phones, or does Apple get only the portion of the profits that can be attributed to the infringing component (i.e., the screen design)? And if it’s the latter, how exactly is that determined? This is a $400-million-dollar case, if the total profits are at stake—and the outcome could have a big impact on the patent world—so the justices want to get it right. The lower court awarded the total profits on the phone as a whole. But it was clear that both parties agree the “article of manufacture” at issue must refer to something less than the entire phone. And it was also clear that the justices weren’t entirely satisfied with any of the tests or explanations that the parties offered for determining what, exactly, the “article of manufacture” is and how to ascribe some portion of the profits to it. So I predict Samsung will win, at least in the sense that the case will get remanded for further proceedings.

Pena-Rodriguez v. Colorado is a Sixth Amendment case about jury proceedings. Historically the jury’s deliberations have been a black box in most states—meaning nothing the jury says or does in deliberation can be used, after the fact, to go back and challenge a criminal conviction. In Colorado this is known as the “no impeachment rule,” which bars jurors from testifying about what went on in the jury room. But in this case, it came out that one juror pushed the idea that Pena-Rodriguez must be guilty “because he’s Mexican,” and that an alibi witness couldn’t be trusted for the same reason. The Sixth Amendment guarantees an impartial jury, and this was clearly racial discrimination in the jury room. But the question is, can Pena-Rodriguez do anything about it after he’s been convicted? Most of the oral argument seemed devoted to figuring out where to draw the line—that is, when can evidence of bias be used to undo a conviction and when can’t it? It’s hard to say where the Court will draw the line, or whether its ruling will be broad or narrow. But I predict Pena-Rodriguez ends up on the winning side of the line.

Manrique v. United States is a procedure case about the scope of a criminal defendant’s notice of appeal. Here, Manrique was convicted and his sentence included an order to pay restitution, but the amount of restitution was not yet determined. He filed his notice of appeal, then later the court entered its judgment on the restitution amount—and the question is whether Manrique’s prior notice of appeal encompasses an appeal of the restitution amount, or if he needed to file another notice of appeal after that subsequent judgment. Personally, I think the better answer is that Manrique’s original notice of appeal should encompass the later determination of the restitution amount. But I also agree with Steve Vladeck’s assessment of how things went at oral argument, and likewise predict that Manrique is going to lose.

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