The Supreme Court of the United States announced decisions in three cases today: 

Town of Greece v. Galloway, No. 12-696: In Greece, New York, monthly town hall meetings, since 1999, have opened with the Pledge of Allegiance and a prayer given by clergy from congregations listed in a local directory. The prayer program is open to all creeds, but given that nearly all of the local congregations are Christian, the clergy giving the prayers have nearly all been Christian as well. Respondents are citizens who attend these meetings and filed suit, alleging a violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause by the town’s preferring Christians over other prayer givers and sponsoring sectarian prayers. Respondents sought to limit the practice to “inclusive and ecumenical prayers” referring only to a “generic God.” The District Court upheld the prayer practice on summary judgment, but the Second Circuit reversed, holding that some aspects of the prayer program, viewed in their totality by a reasonable observer, conveyed the message that the Town of Greece was endorsing Christianity. Today, the Court reversed, holding that the town’s prayer program does not violate the Establishment Clause. 

The Court's decision is available here.

Robers v. United States, No. 12-9012: Petitioner Robers, after being convicted of a federal crime for submitting fraudulent mortgage loan applications to two banks, argued on appeal that the District Court had miscalculated his restitution obligation. The Mandatory Restitution Act of 1996, 18 U.S.C. §3663A-3664, includes a provision requiring that, when return of the property lost by the victim is “impossible, impracticable, or inadequate,” the offender must pay the victim “an amount equal to . . . the value of the property” less “the value (as of the date the property is returned) of any part of the property that is returned.” The District Court had ordered Robers to pay the difference between the amount lent to him and the amount the banks received in selling the houses that had served as collateral. The Seventh Circuit rejected Robers’ argument that the restitution amount should have been reduced by the value of the houses on the date the banks took title to them, since that was when “part of the property” was “returned.” The Court today affirmed, holding that the statutory phrase “any part of the property” refers only to the specific property lost by a victim, which, in the case of a fraudulently obtained loan, is the money lent. As a result, a sentencing court must reduce the restitution amount by the amount of money the victim received in selling the collateral, not the value of the collateral when the victim received it. 

The Court's decision is available here.

Tolan v. Cotton, No. 13-551: Petitioner Tolan brought a civil suit against Respondent Cotton, the police sergeant who shot Tolan in his lung while he was unarmed on his parents’ front porch, for excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The District Court granted summary judgment to Cotton, determining that Cotton was entitled to qualified immunity because he did not violate any clearly established right. The Fifth Circuit affirmed. Today, in a per curiam opinion, the Court vacated and remanded, holding that the Fifth Circuit, in articulating the factual context of the case, had failed to adhere to the requirement at summary judgment that the evidence of the nonmovant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor. 

The Court's decision is available here.

Today, the Court granted certiorari in the following cases: 

T-Mobile South v. Roswell, No. 13-975: Whether a document from a state or local government stating that an application has been denied, but providing no reasons whatsoever for the denial, can satisfy the requirement of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended by the Telecommunications Act of 1996, that any decision by a state or local government denying a request to place, construct, or modify a personal wireless service facility “shall be in writing and supported by substantial evidence contained in a written record.” 

M&G Polymers USA v. Tackett, No. 13-1010: Whether, when construing collective bargaining agreements in Labor Management Relations Act cases, courts should presume that silence concerning the duration of retiree health-care benefits means the parties intended those benefits to vest (and therefore continue indefinitely), as the Sixth Circuit holds; or should require a clear statement that health-care benefits are intended to survive the termination of the collective bargaining agreement, as the Third Circuit holds; or should require at least some language in the agreement that can reasonably support an interpretation that health-care benefits should continue indefinitely, as the Second and Seventh Circuits hold.