The U.S. Supreme Court's recent Term yielded a number of cases substantially affecting business. Arbitration, environmental law, and COVID-19 vaccine mandates figured prominently. The MoloLamken Supreme Court Business Briefing succinctly explains the impact of those decisions on the litigation landscape and business environment. Read this analysis from one of the Nation's leading litigation boutiques.
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The Supreme Court delivered a number of landmark rulings on highly charged social issues this Term. While in recent years the Court had often taken an incremental and consensus-oriented approach, this year a newly emboldened conservative majority took a different tack, handing down major decisions on controversial topics such as abortion, gun rights, and public funding for religious schools. That trend appears likely to continue, as the Court granted review in a major affirmative action case to be heard this fall.
The Court also confronted unfamiliar and unwanted scrutiny of its internal deliberations as someone leaked a draft opinion in the abortion case to the media. That highly unusual incident spurred protests, an internal investigation, and additional security for the Court's Justices.
While the Court's high-profile decisions this year will provoke no shortage of commentary, the Court's business docket was comparatively light. An unusually large portion involved arbitration. The Court held that a statute authorizing U.S. discovery in aid of foreign or international proceedings does not apply to private arbitrations, but only to proceedings before courts or other government tribunals. That decision shuts down a popular tool parties had used to gather evidence for international arbitrations. In another case, the Court held that federal arbitration law restricted California's authority to empower workers to sue for labor code violations as "private attorneys general." The Court also broadly interpreted an exemption from arbitration requirements for certain transportation workers, and it clarified the scope of federal court jurisdiction over petitions to confirm or vacate domestic arbitration awards.
In another important business decision, the Court held that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration lacked authority to impose a COVID-19 vaccine mandate, reasoning that the agency's statutory authority over workplace safety did not empower it to promulgate general health measures. That decision will not only complicate future agency efforts to combat the pandemic, but also call into question agency power to impose other far-reaching mandates in the absence of clear legislative guidance.
In another case, the Court issued a major environmental ruling under the Clean Air Act, paring back the Environmental Protection Agency's power to demand high-level changes to how States structure their power generation resources. Finally, the Court imposed new limits on remedies for discrimination by recipients of federal funding, holding that plaintiffs may not recover damages for emotional distress.
With those and other leading decisions in mind, we are pleased to present the twelfth annual MoloLamken Supreme Court Business Briefing. We have identified cases with the greatest potential impact on a wide range of businesses. For each, we have distilled the facts and holdings to a concise summary and highlighted why the decision matters to business. Our aim is to allow busy people to stay current on the Supreme Court's docket and understand the potential impact of its decisions with a minimum of time and effort. We hope you find it informative.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.