separation of powers

Petrella v. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc.

Issues: 

Can the laches defense be raised to bar all remedies for copyright claims filed within the three-year statute of limitations prescribed by Congress?

Frank Petrella was the screenwriter behind the critically acclaimed 1980 film Raging Bull. In 1978, United Artists Corporation, a subsidiary of Respondent Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios (“MGM”), acquired the rights to the screenplay. When Frank Petrella died in 1981, the renewal rights passed to his heirs. His daughter, Petitioner Paula Petrella (“Petrella”), renewed the copyright in 1991. Over the next two decades, Petrella and MGM engaged in a series of communications, during which Petrella accused MGM of infringing her copyright. Petrella filed suit in 2009; pursuant to the three-year statute of limitations of the Copyright Act, the suit only involved claims arising from 2006 on. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the district court’s decision to bar Petrella’s copyright claims according to the non-statutory doctrine of laches, an equitable defense that bars claims filed too late. The Supreme Court’s ruling in this case will impact not only how quickly plaintiffs must bring copyright claims, but also the extent to which equitable defenses may apply to an area regulated by Congress. 

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties: 

Whether the non statutory defense of laches is available without restriction to bar all remedies for civil copyright claims filed within the three-year statute of limitations prescribed by Congress, 17 U.S.C. § 507(b)?

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Facts

Jake LaMotta, a retired professional boxer, and his long-time friend Frank Petrella collaborated on a book and two screenplays about LaMotta’s life and boxing career.  See Petrella v. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc., 695 F.3d 946, 949 (9th Cir.

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Executive Benefits Insurance Agency v. Arkison

Issues: 

Does Article III of the Constitution permit bankruptcy courts to enter final judgments in “core” proceedings as defined in 28 U.S.C. § 157(b)? If not, can bankruptcy courts exercise jurisdiction over litigants through their “implied consent”?

In 2011, the Supreme Court held in Stern v. Marshall that bankruptcy courts are constitutionally barred from granting final judgments on certain “core” state law claims. Since then, lower courts have tried to determine the scope of the holding, which addresses bankruptcy courts’ ability, as non-Article III courts, to preside over issues traditionally considered to be core bankruptcy issues. Petitioner, Executive Benefits Insurance Agency, (“EBIA”) was a third party to a bankruptcy proceeding. The bankruptcy court found that the debtor in the proceeding had fraudulently transferred $373,291.28 to EBIA before filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The bankruptcy trustee, Arkison, sued EBIA to recover those funds, and the bankruptcy court granted a judgment against EBIA. EBIA appealed and invoked Stern v. Marshall, claiming that the bankruptcy court could not enter a final judgment on a fraudulent transfer claim. The district court and Ninth Circuit affirmed the bankruptcy court, reasoning that EBIA had impliedly consented to the bankruptcy court’s jurisdiction. The Supreme Court’s ruling in this case will clarify the limits of Stern v. Marshall and define “core” bankruptcy proceeding. The Court will also determine what kind of consent is necessary for bankruptcy courts to have jurisdiction over claims requiring adjudication by Article III judges. 

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties: 

In Stern v. Marshall, 131 S. Ct. 2594 (2011), this Court held that Article III of the United States Constitution precludes Congress from assigning certain “core” bankruptcy proceedings involving private state law rights to adjudication by non-Article III bankruptcy judges. Applying Stern, the court of appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that a fraudulent conveyance action is subject to Article III. The court further held, in conflict with the Sixth Circuit, that the Article III problem had been waived by petitioner’s litigation conduct, which the court of appeals construed as implied consent to entry of final judgment by the bankruptcy court. The court of appeals also held, in conflict with the Seventh Circuit, that a bankruptcy court may issue proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law, subject to a district court’s de novo review, in “core” bankruptcy proceedings where Article III precludes the bankruptcy court from entering final judgment. The court of appeals’ decision presents the following questions, about which there is considerable confusion in the lower courts in the wake of Stern: 

  1. Whether Article III permits the exercise of the judicial power of the United States by bankruptcy courts on the basis of litigant consent, and, if so, whether “implied consent” based on a litigant’s conduct, where the statutory scheme provides the litigant no notice that its consent is required, is sufficient to satisfy Article III.
  2. Whether a bankruptcy judge may submit proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law for de novo review by a district court in a “core” proceeding under 28 U.S.C. 157(b). 

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Facts

Nicholas Paleveda and Marjorie Ewing, a married couple, operated a series of companies, including Aegis Retirement Income Services, Inc. (“ARIS”) and the Bellingham Insurance Agency, Inc. (“BIA”). See Exec. Benefits Ins. Agency v. Arkison (“EBIA”), 702 F.3d 553, 556 (9th Cir.

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National Labor Relations Board v. Noel Canning

Issues: 
  1. Can the President exercise the recess-appointment power during a recess while the Senate is still in session? Can the President exercise this power when the Senate convenes every three days in pro forma sessions?
  2. Can the President use the recess-appointment power to fill any vacancy that exists during a recess, or only to fill those vacancies that arose during the recess?

In February 2012, the National Labor Relations Board ("NLRB") upheld a ruling that the soft-drink bottler Noel Canning had violated the National Labor Relations Act ("NLRA"). Noel Canning argued that the NLRB decision was invalid because, at the time, the NLRB had lacked the minimum number of officials required to enforce the NLRA. Specifically, Noel Canning argued that President Obama, in January 2012, had improperly appointed three of the NLRB’s members under the Recess Appointments Clause. The Supreme Court will determine (1) whether the Recess Appointments Clause authorizes the President to make appointments for vacancies that do not arise during a Senate recess and (2) whether the President can exercise the power between pro forma sessions or only during breaks between enumerated sessions. While the NLRB argues that a narrow reading of the Recess Appointments Clause threatens the executive branch’s ability to pragmatically overcome Senate delays in approving nominees, Noel Canning counters that the President cannot exercise the recess appointment power to fill vacancies that did not arise during breaks between enumerated sessions. The Court's ruling will affect the President’s ability to appoint officials without the Senate’s approval during pro forma recesses. The Court’s decision could invalidate earlier executive appointments (and government actions arising from those appointments) that have been made under the Recess Appointments Clause.

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties: 

The Recess Appointments Clause of the Constitution provides that "[t]he President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session." Art. II, § 2, C1. 3. The questions presented are as follows:

  1. Whether the President's recess-appointment power may be exercised during a recess that occurs within a session of the Senate, or is instead limited to recesses that occur between enumerated sessions of the Senate.
  2. Whether the President's recess-appointment power may be exercised to fill vacancies that exist during a recess, or is instead limited to vacancies that first arose during that recess.

Note: In addition to the questions presented by the petition, the parties are directed to brief and argue the following question: whether the President’s recess-appointment power may be exercised when the Senate is convening every three days in pro forma sessions.

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Facts

In January 2013, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals held that a February 2012 decision by the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB” or “the Board”) was invalid because the Board did not have a sufficient number of board members to act at the time. See Noel Canning v. NLRB, 705 F.3d 490, 492-93 (D.C. Cir. 2013). 

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