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

American Express Co. v. Italian Colors Restaurant, No. 12-133: The agreement between petitioner American Express and the respondent merchants who accept American Express cards, requires that all disputes be resolved by arbitration, and provides that there “shall be no right or authority for any Claims to be arbitrated on a class action basis.” After respondents filed a class action alleging antitrust violations in federal court, petitioners moved to compel individual arbitration under the Federal Arbitration Act. The District Court granted the motion over respondents’ argument that the cost of expert analysis would greatly exceed the maximum recovery for an individual plaintiff. The Second Circuit reversed, holding that due to the prohibitive costs of individual arbitration, the class-action waiver was unenforceable. The Court today reversed, holding that a contractual waiver of class arbitration is enforceable under the Federal Arbitration Act even when the plaintiff’s cost of individually arbitrating a federal statutory claim exceeds the potential recovery.

The Court's decision is available here.

Agency for Int’l Development v. Alliance for Open Society Int’l, Inc., No. 12-10: The United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act of 2003 (Leadership Act), 22 U.S.C. §7601 et seq., imposes two conditions on nongovernmental organizations’ funding to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS globally, one of which is that no funds may be used by an organization “that does not have a policy explicitly opposing prostitution and sex trafficking.” §7631(f). The federal agencies responsible for the Leadership Act enforce this requirement by directing that the funding recipient agree in the award document that it is opposed to prostitution. Respondents are recipients of Leadership Act funds who wish to remain neutral on prostitution, and sought a declaratory judgment that this policy requirement violates their First Amendment rights. The District Court issued the preliminary injunction, and the Second Circuit affirmed. Today, the Court affirmed, holding that the policy requirement, by compelling as a condition of federal funding the affirmation of a belief that by its nature cannot be confined within the scope of the Government program, violates the First Amendment.

The Court's decision is available here.

Descamps v. United States, No. 11-9540: Petitioner Descamps was convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm, and the Government sought a sentence enhancement under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), which increases the sentences of federal defendants with three prior convictions for a violent felony, including burglary. The District Court rejected petitioner’s argument that a prior conviction for burglary under California law could not serve as an ACAA predicate because it went beyond the “generic” definition of burglary. The Ninth Circuit, in turn, affirmed, on the basis that petitioner’s plea colloquy showed that his California burglary conviction rested on facts satisfying the elements of generic burglary. Today, the Court reversed, holding that sentencing courts may not apply the modified categorical approach, which permits courts to consult a limited class of factual documents, when the crime for which the defendant was convicted, like the California burglary law here, has a single, indivisible set of elements.

The Court's decision is available here.

The Court also granted review on Monday, June 17, in four cases:

Mount Holly, NJ v. Mt. Holly Gardens Citizens, No. 11-1507: Are disparate impact claims cognizable under the Fair Housing Act?

Air Wisconsin Airlines Corp. v. Hoeper, No. 12-315: Whether ATSA immunity may be denied without a determination that the air carrier's disclosure was materially false.

Ray Haluch Gravel Co. v. Central Pension Fund, No. 12-992: Whether a district court’s decision on the merits that leaves unresolved a request for contractual attorney’s fees is a “final decision” under 28 U.S.C. §1291.

Law v. Siegel, No. 12-5196: Did the Ninth Circuit err in allowing the bankruptcy trustee to surcharge the debtor’s constitutionally protected homestead property?