The Supreme Court weighed in on several closely watched rulings Monday, issuing decisions on a variety of cases including a class-action lawsuit against a debt collector, and a challenge to White House regulations extending minimum wage rights to nearly 2 million home health care workers.
(Reuters) The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday allowed a class-action lawsuit against debt collector Encore Capital Group Inc to move forward, declining to hear its claim that such companies should be protected from state “usury” laws barring money-lending at unreasonably high interest rates.
The court left in place a May 2015 ruling by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York that found that Encore’s Midland Funding and Midland Credit Management units were not national banks with legal protection against state usury laws.
(AP) The Supreme Court won’t hear an appeal challenging a Montana law that limits medical marijuana providers to selling the drug to a maximum of three patients each.
The justices on Monday let stand a Montana Supreme Court ruling that upheld key provisions of a state law that rolled back much of the 2004 voter-approved initiative legalizing medicinal marijuana.
The Montana Cannabis Industry Association said the rollbacks would force the closure of dispensaries and leave patients without a legal way to obtain the drug.
McDonnell Corruption Charges
(Reuters) — The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday threw out Republican former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell’s corruption convictions in a ruling that could hem in federal prosecutors as they go after bribery charges against other politicians.
The court ruled 8-0 in overturning McDonnell’s conviction for accepting $177,000 in luxury gifts and sweetheart loans for him and his wife from a wealthy Richmond businessman seeking to promote a dietary supplement, finding that it did not constitute a criminal act under federal bribery law. McDonnell was convicted in 2014 and sentenced to two years in prison but had remained free pending the outcome of his appeal.
Genetic Testing Patents
(Reuters) The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday agreed to weigh in on whether genetic-testing kits made by biotechnology company Life Technologies Corp infringed upon patents held by Promega Corp.
The court will review a December 2014 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit that tossed out some of Promega’s claims while upholding others.
In 2010, Promega sued Life Technologies, now part of Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc, in Massachusetts, accusing it of selling genetic-testing kits that infringed upon four Promega patents and a fifth that Promega licensed from the German Max Planck Society.
Life Technologies responded that the kits were covered by its 2006 licensing agreement with Promega, and that the patents that belonged to Promega were invalid anyway.
Promega countered that the agreement allowed Life Technologies to sell kits only to be used in law enforcement but that the company had sold them for medical research as well.
In 2012, a jury found that Life Technologies willfully infringed upon the patents and awarded Promega $52 million. A lower court judge later set aside the verdict. The appeals court did not reinstate the jury award, saying instead that new damages had to be assessed.
The appeals court ruled that four patents owned by Promega were not valid because they did not provide enough detail to put the genetic testing technology into practice. The court said that one patent Promega licensed from the Max Planck Society was valid and reversed the lower court’s finding that it was not infringed upon.
The legal issue before the Supreme Court is whether a company supplying one part of a patented invention being manufactured outside the United States is liable for patent infringement. Life Technologies manufacturers only one part of its kits in the United States. That part is then exported to Britain, where the other components are manufactured.
Oral arguments and a ruling are due in the court’s next term, which begins in October and ends in June 2017.
Home Health Care Workers
(AP) The Supreme Court has rejected a challenge to Obama administration regulations that extend minimum wage and overtime pay rights to nearly 2 million home health care workers.
The justices on Monday turned away an appeal from several home care industry groups that said the Labor Department overstepped its authority when it approved the new rules in 2013.
The rules apply to workers hired through third-party staffing agencies that provide home care to the elderly and people with injuries, illnesses or disabilities.
A federal judge had scrapped the regulations last year, but a federal appeals court reversed that ruling.
Workers hired through third-party staffing agencies had previously been exempt from minimum wage and overtime pay rules since 1974.
North Carolina Congressional Districts
(AP) The Supreme Court will consider North Carolina’s appeal of a court ruling that said state lawmakers relied too heavily on race in drawing congressional districts.
The justices on Monday added the case to their calendar for the fall.
A panel of three judges struck down two majority black congressional districts and ordered the state to redraw its congressional map.
North Carolina did so and held primaries in the reconfigured congressional districts on June 7.
Voters challenged the new districts as well, but the same judges allowed the primaries to take place.