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

CTS Corp. v. Waldburger, No. 13-339: The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA), 42 U.S.C. §9601 et seq., contains a provision, §9658, that by its terms pre-empts statutes of limitations applicable to state-law tort actions for personal injury or property damage arising from the release of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant into the environment. Respondents brought suit against Petitioner CTS Corp. for damages from contaminants CTS had stored in a plant before it sold the plant 24 years ago. CTS moved to dismiss, citing a state statute of repose that prevented subjecting a defendant to a tort suit brought more than 10 years after the defendant’s last culpable act. The District Court granted the motion because CTS’s last act occurred when it sold the property more than 20 years earlier. The Fourth Circuit reversed on preemption grounds, finding §9658 ambiguous, and holding that the statute’s remedial purpose favored pre-emption. Today, the Court reversed, holding that §9658 does not pre-empt state statutes of repose.

The Court's decision is available here.

Executive Benefits Ins. Agency v. Arkison, No. 12-1200: In 2011, the Court decided Stern v. Marshall, 564 U.S. __, which held that even though bankruptcy courts are statutorily authorized to enter final judgments on a class of bankruptcy-related claims, Article III of the Constitution prohibits bankruptcy courts from finally adjudicating certain of these claims. Stern, however, did not decide how bankruptcy or district courts should proceed when a “Stern claim” is identified. Here, Respondent Arkison, the bankruptcy trustee, filed a complaint in the Bankruptcy Court against petitioner Executive Benefits Insurance Agency (EBIA), and the Bankruptcy Court granted summary judgment for the trustee on his claims. The District Court affirmed after de novo review. While pending on appeal, the Court decided Stern. The Ninth Circuit affirmed, recognizing the trustee’s claims as “Stern claims,” but concluding that there was no need to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, concluding that EBIA had impliedly consent to jurisdiction, and that the Bankruptcy Court’s judgment could instead be treated as proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law, subject to de novo review. The Court today affirmed, holding that when, under Stern’s reasoning, the Constitution does not permit a bankruptcy court to enter final judgment on a bankruptcy-related claim, the relevant statute nevertheless permits a bankruptcy court to issue proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law to be reviewed de novo by the district court.

The Court's decision is available here.

Scialabba v. Cuellar de Osorio, No. 12-930: Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. §1101 et seq., citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPRs) of the United States may petition for certain family members (i.e., the petition’s “principal beneficiary”) to obtain immigrant visas. Any principal beneficiary’s minor child (under the age of 21) qualifies as a “derivative beneficiary” entitled to the same immigration status and order of consideration as his or her parent. This suit addresses what happens when a minor child, after the petition was filed, has “aged out” by turning 21. While the Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) ensures that the time Government officials have spent processing immigration papers will not count against the beneficiary in assessing his status, even then, a beneficiary may age out solely because of the time spent waiting in line for a visa to become available. The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) has interpreted the CSPA as providing a remedy for those who aged-out even after excluding administrative delays only to those aged-out aliens who qualified or could have qualified as principal beneficiaries of a visa petition, rather than only as derivative beneficiaries piggy-backing on a parent. Here, the District Court granted summary judgment to the Government on the petitions respondents filed for their aged-out children, deferring to the BIA’s interpretation. The en banc Ninth Circuit reversed, holding that the statute unambiguously entitled all aged-out derivative beneficiaries to automatic conversion and priority date retention. Today, a fractured Court reversed, crediting the BIA’s interpretation.

The Court's decision is available here.