The Supreme Court of the United States announced three decisions this morning:

Henderson v. Shinseki, No. 09-1036: In Bowles v. Russell, 551 U. S. 205 (2007), the Supreme Court held that the statute limiting the length of an extension of time to file a notice of appeal in an ordinary civil case is “jurisdictional,” so that a party’s failure to file within that period could not be excused. Today, the Court decided that the deadline for filing a notice of appeal with the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, an Article I court created by Congress, is not jurisdictional because Congress did not clearly so prescribe.

The Court's decision is available here.

Staub v. Proctor Hospital, No. 09-400: The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) forbids an employer to discriminate based on a person’s “membership” in or “obligation to perform service in a uniformed service” and provides that liability is established “if the person’s membership . . . is a motivating factor in the employer’s action.” When petitioner was fired, he sued under USERRA, contending not that the person who actually fired him was motivated by hostility to his military obligations, but that other supervisors were, and that their actions influenced the decision. A jury found respondent hospital liable, but the Seventh Circuit reversed. Today the Supreme Court held it was error to conclude that an employer is not liable unless the de facto decisionmaker is motivated by discriminatory animus. So long as another agent in the decisionmaking chain intended, for discriminatory reasons, that the adverse action occur, the employer may be held to have the scienter required for USERRA liability. Put another way, if a supervisor performs an act motivated by antimilitary animus that is intended by the supervisor to cause an adverse employment action, and if that act is a proximate cause of the ultimate employment action, then the employer is liable under USERRA. (And, the Court noted, USERRA "is very similar to Title VII.").

The Court's decision is available here.

FCC v. AT&T, Inc., No. 09-1279: A provision of the Freedom of Information Act exempts law enforcement records the disclosure of which “could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.” When the FCC was faced with a request for documents AT&T had provided during an investigation, it decided the exemption applied to individuals identified in AT&T’s submissions but not to the company itself, concluding that corporations do not have “personal privacy” interests as required by the exemption. Today, the Supreme Court upheld that determination.

The Court's decision is available here.