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

Alice Corporation Pty. Ltd. v. CLS Bank International, No. 13-298: Petitioner Alice Corporation is the assignee of patents disclosing a scheme for mitigating “settlement risk” in financial transactions—the risk that only one party to an agreed-upon exchange will satisfy its obligation. Respondents, who operate a global network that facilitates currency transactions, sued Alice Corporation, contending the patent claims were invalid. Concluding the claims were directed to an abstract idea, the district court held them ineligible for protection under 35 U.S.C. §101, and the en banc Federal Circuit affirmed. Today the Supreme Court unanimously affirmed the decision of the Federal Circuit. The Court determined that the patent claims at issue “are drawn to the concept of intermediated settlement,” which is a “fundamental economic practice long prevalent in our system of commerce.” Relying on its decision in Bilski v. Kappos, 561 U.S. 593 (2010), which invalidated claims directed to financial hedging, the Court explained that “intermediated settlement, like hedging, is an ‘abstract idea’ beyond the scope of §101.”

The Court's decision is available here.

United States v. Clarke, No. 13-301: The IRS issued summonses to Respondents seeking information relevant to the tax obligations of a partnership with which Respondents were affiliated. Respondents failed to comply, and the IRS brought an enforcement action in district court. Questioning the IRS’s motives in issuing the summonses, Respondents sought to question the responsible agents. The district court denied the request and ordered the summonses enforced. The Eleventh Circuit reversed, holding that Respondents were entitled to question the agents regardless of whether they had presented any factual support for their claims. Today the Supreme Court unanimously reversed, holding that as part of an adversarial proceeding concerning the validity of a summons, a taxpayer is entitled to examine an IRS agent when the taxpayer can point to specific facts or circumstances plausibly raising an inference of bad faith.

The Court's decision is available here.

Lane v. Franks, No. 13-483: Petitioner Edward Lane was Director of a program for underprivileged youth operated by Central Alabama Community College (“CACC”). While conducting an audit of the program, he discovered misfeasance by Suzanne Schmitz, an Alabama State Representative who was on the program payroll. Lane terminated Schmitz’s employment and later testified under subpoena in a federal investigation regarding the events that led to her termination. Lane’s own employment was later terminated by Respondent Franks, CACC’s president, ostensibly in an effort to cure budget shortfalls. Lane sued Franks under 42 U.S.C. §1983, alleging Franks violated the First Amendment by firing him in retaliation for testifying against Schmitz. The district court granted Franks’s motion for summary judgment and the Eleventh Circuit affirmed, holding that Lane’s testimony was not entitled to First Amendment protection because he had spoken in his capacity as an employee and not as a citizen. Acting unanimously, the Supreme Court today reversed in part and affirmed in part, holding that Lane was entitled to First Amendment protection insofar as he had testified outside the course of his ordinary job responsibilities, but that Franks was entitled to qualified immunity with respect to the claims against him in his individual capacity.

The Court's decision is available here.

On June 16, 2014, the Court granted certiorari in the following cases:

Elonis v. United States, No. 13-983: Does conviction of threatening another person require proof of the defendant’s subjective intent to threaten, as required by the Ninth Circuit and supreme courts of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont; or is it enough to show that a “reasonable person” would regard the statement as threatening, as held by other federal courts of appeals and state courts of last resort?

Perez v. Mortgage Bankers Association, Nickols v. Mortgage Bankers Association, Nos. 13-1041, 13-1052 (consolidated): Must a federal agency engage in notice-and-comment rulemaking before it can significantly alter an interpretive rule that articulates an interpretation of an agency regulation?