The Supreme Court of the United States announced decisions in four cases yesterday:

PPL Corp. v. Commissioner, No. 12-43: Petitioner PPL Corporation is a part owner of a privatized United Kingdom company that was subject to a one-time “windfall tax” the U.K. imposed on 32 U.K. companies in 1997. PPL, in filing its U.S. federal income-tax return for that same year, claimed a credit for its share of the U.K. windfall tax. In doing so, PPL relied on Internal Revenue Code §901(b)(1), which provides that any “income, war profits, and excess profits taxes” paid overseas may be credited against U.S. income taxes. The Treasury Regulations, in turn, interpret this section such that a foreign tax is creditable if its “predominant character” is "that of an income tax in the U.S. sense.” Treas. Reg. §1.901-2(a)(1)(ii), 26 C.F.R. §1.901-2(a)(1) (1992). The Commissioner of Internal Revenue rejected PPL’s claim, but the Tax Court found the U.K. tax creditable under §901. The Third Circuit then reversed. The Court today, in turn, reversed the Third Circuit, holding that under the predominant character test, the U.K. windfall tax is creditable under §901.

The Court's decision is available here.

Arlington v. FCC, No. 11-1545: In this case, the Court considered whether an agency’s interpretation of a statutory ambiguity concerning the scope of the agency’s regulatory authority is entitled to Chevron deference. Here, the FCC, acting pursuant to its authority under the Communications Act, issued a Declaratory Ruling concluding that “a reasonable period of time,” for purposes of the statutory requirement that state or local governments act on sitting applications for wireless facilities “within a reasonable period of time after the request is duly filed,” 47 U.S.C. §332(c)(7)(B)(ii), is presumptively 90 days to process an application to place a new antenna on an existing tower and 150 days to process all other applications. Certain state and local governments opposed this Declaratory Ruling on the basis that a statutory savings clause and judicial review provision in the Communications Act, 47 U.S.C. §§ 332(c)(7)(A), 337(c)(7)(B)(v), reflected a congressional intent to withhold FCC authority to interpret the provision at issue in the Declaratory Ruling. Respondents brought these arguments to the Fifth Circuit, which held, applying Chevron, that the FCC’s interpretation of its statutory authority was permissible in light of the statute’s ambiguity, and found that the FCC’s presumptive deadlines were entitled to deference. Today, the Court affirmed, holding that where Congress has drawn an ambiguous line concerning an agency’s authority, Chevron applies, and deference is owed to the agency’s interpretation if it is based on a permissible construction of the statute.

The Court's decision is available here.

Sebelius v. Cloer, No. 12-236: Under the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 (NCVIA), 42 U.S.C. §300aa-1 et seq., a court may award attorney’s fees and costs “incurred [by a claimant] in any proceeding on” an unsuccessful vaccine-injury “petition filed under section 300aa-11,” if the petition “was brought in good faith and there was a reasonable basis for the claim for which the petition was brought.” §300aa-15(e)(1). Respondent Cloer brought a claim under the NCVIA, alleging that a vaccine she received caused or exacerbated her multiple sclerosis. The Chief Special Master found Cloer’s claim untimely under the NCVIA’s 36-month limitations period, and the Federal Circuit agreed. The en banc Federal Circuit, however, did find that Cloer was entitled to recover fees on her untimely petition. The Court today affirmed, holding that an NCVIA petition found to be untimely may qualify for an award of attorney’s fees if it is filed in good faith and there is a reasonable basis for its claim.

The Court's decision is available here.

Metrish v. Lancaster, No. 12-547: Respondent Burt Lancaster was granted federal habeas relief from his original first-degree murder conviction on the basis of Michigan Court of Appeals precedent establishing a diminished-capacity defense to negate the specific intent required to commit a particular crime. By the time his retrial occurred, however, the Michigan Supreme Court had rejected the diminished-capacity defense, and the trial court applied that decision in disallowing Lancaster’s renewal of that defense. After being convicted a second time, Lancaster appealed to the Michigan Court of Appeals, which rejected Lancaster’s argument that the trial court’s retroactive application of the Michigan Supreme Court’s decision violated due process. Lancaster then sought federal habeas relief, with the District Court denying the petition, but the Sixth Circuit reversing. Today, the Court reversed, holding that under the standard for federal habeas relief established by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, 28 U.S.C. §2254(d)(1), the Michigan Court of Appeals' decision was not contrary to, nor did it involve an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal Law, as determined by the Supreme Court.

The Court's decision is available here.

The Court also granted review in five cases yesterday:

Lawson v. FMR, LLC, No. 12-3: Is an employee of a privately-held contractor or subcontractor of a public company protected from retaliation by section 18 U.S.C. §1514A of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act?

Northwest, Inc. v. Ginsberg, No. 12-462: Did the court of appeals err by holding, in conflict with the decisions of other Circuits, that respondent’s implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing claim was not preempted under the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 because such claims are categorically unrelated to a price, route, or service, notwithstanding that respondent’s claim arises out of a frequent flyer program and manifestly enlarged the terms of the parties’ voluntary undertakings, which allowed termination in Northwest’s sole discretion?

Greece, NY v. Galloway, No. 12-696: Whether the court of appeals erred in holding that a legislative prayer practice violates the Establishment Clause notwithstanding the absence of discrimination in the selection of prayer-givers or forbidden exploitation of the prayer opportunity.

Medtronic Inc. v. Boston Scientific Corp., No. 12-1128: Whether, in a declaratory judgment action brought by a licensee under MedImmune, Inc. v. Genetech, Inc., 549 U.S. 118 (2007), the licensee has the burden to prove that its products do not infringe the patent, or whether (as is the case in all other patent litigation, including other declaratory judgment actions), the patentee must prove infringement.

Fernandez v. California, No. 12-7822: Whether, under Georgia v. Randolph, 547 U.S. 103 (2006), a defendant must be personally present and objecting when police officers ask a co-tenant for consent to conduct a warrantless search or whether a defendant’s previously stated objection, while physically present, to a warrantless search is a continuing assertion of 4th Amendment rights which cannot be overridden by a co-tenant.

The Court also granted review last week in one case:

Burnside v. Walters, No. 12-7892: Whether the Sixth Circuit erred in holding - in conflict with all eleven other federal circuit courts of appeals - that the in forma pauperis statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), prohibits indigent plaintiffs from amending their complaints.