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

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, No. 10-227: Respondents, current or former employees of petitioner Wal-Mart, brought a nationwide class action on behalf of 1.5 million female employees because of alleged discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. They claimed that this discrimination stemmed from local managers' exercise of their discretion and authority over pay and promotions, and plaintiffs sought injunctive and declaratory relief, punitive damages, and backpay. The District Court certified the class under Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(b)(2), and the Ninth Circuit substantially affirmed. Today, the Supreme Court reversed, holding that the certification of the plaintiff class was not consistent with Rule 23(a)'s commonality requirement, and that Respondents' backpay claims were improperly certified under Rule 23(b)(2), which applies to claims for injunctive or declaratory relief.

The Court's decision is available here.

Turner v. Rogers, No. 10-10: Petitioner was held in contempt and incarcerated for 12 months for failing to pay child support. He appealed, arguing that the Constitution entitled him to counsel at his contempt hearing. Today, the Supreme Court held that here, where an indigent person is facing incarceration for civil contempt, and the custodial parent is also unrepresented by counsel, the State need not provide counsel to the noncustodial parent so long as the State has alternative procedures in place to assure that a fundamentally fair determination is made as to whether the supporting parent is able to comply with the support order. The case was vacated and remanded for proceedings consistent with the Court's opinion.

The Court's decision is available here.

American Elec. Power Co. v. Connecticut, No. 10-174: Plaintiffs, including eight States, New York City, and three nonprofit land trusts, brought federal common law nuisance claims against defendants (Petitioners) relating to their carbon-dioxide emissions, and sought a court decree capping emission levels for each defendant. The Second Circuit held the plaintiffs had Article III standing, that their claims were not barred by the political question doctrine, and that the Clean Air Act did not "displace" federal common law. The Court today, reversed and remanded, affirming jurisdiction, but holding that the Clean Air Act and the EPA action the Act authorizes displace any federal common-law right to seek abatement of carbon-dioxide emissions from fossil-fuel fired power plants.

The Court's decision is available here.

Borough of Duryea v. Guarnieri, No. 09-1476: Respondent, a police chief, filed a suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Petitioner, a borough, alleging that the borough council had issued various directives concerning how he was to perform his duties in retaliation for an earlier union grievance he had filed, which had led to his reinstatement after being fired. The District Court instructed the jury that the suit and grievances were constitutionally protected activity, and the jury found for Respondent. The Third Circuit affirmed. Today, the Supreme Court vacated and remanded that decision, holding that the Petition Clause in the First Amendment, like the Speech Clause, only applies to a government employer's allegedly retaliatory actions against an employee if the employee's petition relates to a matter of public concern.

The Court's decision is available here.

The Court also granted review in four cases today:

PPL Montana, LLC v. Montana, No. 10-218: Whether the constitutional test for determining whether a section of a river is navigable for title purposes requires a trial court to determine, based on evidence, whether the relevant stretch of the river was navigable at the time the state joined the Union.

First American Financial v. Edwards, No. 10-708: Does a private purchaser of real estate settlement services have standing to sue under Article III, § 2 of the Constitution in an action alleging violations of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act of 1976?

FAA v. Cooper, No. 10-1024: Question presented by the petition is currently unavailable.

Mayo Collaborative Svcs. v. Prometheus Labs., Inc., No. 10-1150: Whether 35 U.S.C. § 101 is satisfied by a patent claim that covers observed correlations between blood test results and patient health, so that the claim effectively preempts all uses of the naturally occurring correlations, simply because well-known methods used to administer prescription drugs and test blood may involve "transformations" of body chemistry.