The Supreme Court of the United States announced decisions in two cases this morning:
Brown v. Plata, No. 09-1233: Substantial overcrowding in California state prisons led to federal lawsuits alleging Eighth Amendment violations regarding deficient medical care. After the state failed to comply with remedial orders, a three-judge federal district court ordered the state to reduce the prison population, including release of prisoners if necessary. On appeal of that order, the Court today affirmed, holding that the federal Prison Litigation Reform Act authorized the relief ordered, and that the court-mandated population limit is necessary to remedy the violation of prisoners’ constitutional rights, subject to the right of the State to seek a modification of the order if circumstances change.
The Court's opinion is available here.
General Dynamics Corp. v. United States, Nos. 09-1298 and 09-1302: When petitioners fell behind on government contracts to develop stealth aircraft, the government terminated the contracts and ordered petitioners to repay progress payments for work the government had not accepted. Petitioners defended on the ground that precedent allowed their default to be excused because the government had failed to share its “superior knowledge” about how to design and manufacture stealth aircraft. The government asserted a "state secrets" privilege and declined certain discovery, which prevented petitioners from litigating their defense. The lower courts held petitioners liable for the repayments, and declined the request to turn the termination into a "termination of convenience," which would have entitled the petitioners to payments for costs and partial profits. The Court today held that when, to protect state secrets, a court dismisses a government contractor’s prima facie valid affirmative defense to the government’s allegations of contractual breach, the proper remedy is to leave the parties where they were on the day they filed suit, here most likely meaning that, following remand, neither side will get any recovery.
The Court's decision is available here.
The Court also granted review in one case today:
Kawashima v. Holder, No. 10-577: Whether petitioners’ convictions of filing, and aiding and abetting in filing, a false statement on a corporate tax return were aggravated felonies involving fraud and deceit, making petitioners removable under the immigration laws.