Supreme Court considers three key cases during Gorsuch hearing week

While Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch is under the glare of Senate questioning next week, the eight Justices at the Court will be hearing three days of case arguments.

The Court returns from a respite on March 20, the same day that the Senate Judiciary Committee begins considering testimony about Gorsuch’s nomination to the bench.  Three significant cases are scheduled for arguments that week, including cases about eminent domain, class-action lawsuits, and the immunity of police officers from prosecution.

On Monday, the Court hears arguments in Murr v. Wisconsin. The Murr family has owned two riverfront lots since the 1960s; one of the lots contained a vacation cottage; the other lot wasn’t developed. A zoning law established in 1975 barred family members from selling the empty lot separate from the cottage. Two landmark Fifth Amendment takings cases will be in play here: Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council (1992), the Penn Central v. New York City case (1978).

On Tuesday, the Court then considers Microsoft v. Baker, where a group of consumers in Washington State have sued Microsoft, complaining that its Xbox 360 device had a defect. The group sued as a class, since their individual claims would have been for small amounts, and pursuing them individually wasn’t feasible. The group then lost the lawsuit in a trial court but they also used a legal option called a voluntary dismissal of a claim with prejudice to keep the case alive. The court accepted the Microsoft appeal to clear up a conflict among lower courts on the legality of the dismiss-then-appeal question.

And on Wednesday,  Los Angeles County v. Mendez centers on a legal rule that one federal appeals court has adopted, but others refuse to follow. It takes away the legal immunity of police officers for the use of “excessive force” – here, the shooting two homeless people in the shed they occupied – if the officers’ actions provoked a violent response. The response at issue, in this case, was that one of the individuals who was shot and wounded raised a BB gun and pointed it at officers after they had broken into the shed without a search warrant.

Also on Monday, March 20, the Court could accept more cases for its fall docket, after considering cases in private conference on March 17.

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