Chuck Grassley

United States Senator from Iowa





Court Decisions Rejecting the Obama Administration Legal Positions

Mar 07, 2016

The following is a list of 36 significant Supreme Court and Court of Appeals rulings rejecting legal positions of the Obama Administration that sought to advance the President’s power or the power of federal agencies or departments.  

1)    NLRB v. Noel Canning  -- Supreme Court ruled that because under the Recess Appointments Clause, the Senate is in session when it says it is, provided that it retains the capacity to conduct business, President Obama’s purported recess appointments to the NLRB were unconstitutional.  9-0.

2)    Sackett v. EPA – Supreme Court rejected EPA’s position that EPA could enforce with fines a compliance order that construction on a homeowner’s property occurred in navigable waters without the homeowner’s ability to challenge that order in court under the Administrative Procedure Act.  9-0.

3)    Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores – Supreme Court ruled the Department of Health and Human Services could not require employer group plans to cover contraceptives that operate after conception where providing them would violate the closely held corporation’s religious beliefs.

4)    Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church v. EEOC – Supreme Court rejected EEOC’s claim that a minister could sue her church for alleged employment discrimination, notwithstanding the Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses of the First Amendment.  9-0.

5)    Chamber of Commerce v. EPA  -- Supreme Court granted a stay of the EPA carbon regulations for the electricity sector while the regulations are under review by the courts, providing a window into its view whether challengers of those regulations were ultimately likely to prevail on the merits.

6)    FCC v. Fox Television Stations – FCC’s change in policy about the permissibility of broadcasting isolated examples of indecent language violated due process, Supreme Court ruled 8-0.

7)    Michigan v. EPA – Supreme Court held that EPA interpreted the Clean Air Act unreasonably when it deemed cost irrelevant to the decision to regulate emissions of hazardous air pollutants from power plants.  5-4.

8)    New Process Steel v. NLRB  -- NLRB cannot make decisions without a quorum of 3 members, not the 2 that NLRB used to make certain decisions once various member positions became vacant.  5-4.

9)    Arkansas Game and Fish Comm’n v. United States --  Supreme Court held, contrary to the view of the Army Corps of Engineers, that government-induced temporary and recurring flooding, can constitute a taking.  8-0.

10)    United States v. Jones --  Supreme Court disagreed with the Justice Department's view that no search warrant was required under the Fourth Amendment when it installed a GPS device on a vehicle, and used the device to monitor the car’s movements.  9-0.

11)    DHS v. MacLean – Supreme Court found that TSA’s firing of a whistleblower for violating a TSA regulation was not for a disclosure “specifically prohibited by law” because the regulation was not a law and because the law authorizing the regulation didn’t prohibit the disclosure.  7-2.

12)    Bond v. United States --  Supreme Court rejected a Justice Department prosecution of a person under the Chemical Weapons Convention because the Convention didn’t reach the defendant’s simple assault, which involved using a chemical irritant in an attempt to give the victim a skin rash.  9-0.

13)    United States v. Clarke –  Supreme Court rejected IRS’s position and held that when IRS  brings an action to enforce a taxpayer summons, the taxpayer has a right to examine IRS officials regarding their reasons for issuing the summons if the taxpayer identifies specific facts plausibly raising an inference of bad faith.  9-0.

14)    Mach Mining v. EEOC --  Supreme Court rejected EEOC’s argument that its decision that it has fulfilled its statutory duty to attempt to conciliate an employment claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is not subject to judicial review.  9-0.

15)    Christopher v. Smith Kline Beecham --  Supreme Court rejected the Labor Department’s decision that pharmaceutical sales representatives are outside salesmen exempt from overtime pay requirements of FLSA.  5-4.

16)    Henderson v. Shinseki – Supreme Court disagreed with the Department of Veterans Affairs contention that a veteran’s failure to file an appeal challenging rejection of his benefits claim within a particular time limit deprived a reviewing court of the ability to hear the veteran’s case.  8-0.

17)    Horne v. Dept of Agriculture – Supreme Court found that the uncompensated requirement that a raisin grower physically set aside part of the raisin crop under USDA’s marketing order is a Taking under the Fifth Amendment.  5-4.

18)    Milner v. Dept of the Navy – Supreme Court rejected Navy’s argument that explosives data and maps fell within a FOIA exemption for personal records and internal practices.  8-1.

19)    Skilling v. United States – Supreme Court found, contrary to the Department of Justice, that the honest services fraud law covers only bribes and kickback schemes, not a scheme to deceive investor’s about a corporation’s true financial performance by making false statements and manipulating financial results.

20)    Utility Air Reg v. EPA – Supreme Court, in a mixed victory and loss for EPA, ruled that although EPA could impose BACT on greenhouse gas pollutant emissions, it could not expand its permit authority to stationary sources that generated greenhouse-gas emissions standards.

21)    United States v. Rodriguez – Supreme Court disagreed with the Department of Justice and concluded that absent a reasonable suspicion, police extension of a traffic stop to conduct a dog sniff violates the Fourth Amendment.  6-3.

22)    Yates v. United States  -- Supreme Court ruled, contrary to the Justice Department’s view, that a statute criminalizing the knowing destruction of a record or tangible object with intent to obstruct a federal investigation does not cover an undersized fish defendant disposed of to avoid civil penalties for violating federal conservation regulations.  5-4.

23)    Elonis v. United States  -- Supreme Court ruled that the Department of Justice could not convict a defendant of making a threat to injure another in interstate commerce by posting violent material about his estranged wife on Facebook by proving only that the communication of the threat was made negligently rather than a greater standard of intent.  7-2.

24)    Fowler v. United States -- Supreme Court rejected the Justice Department’s argument that a prosecution for tampering with a witness to prevent a communication to a federal law enforcement officer need not require the defendant to have the mens rea of intending that the communication be to a federal law enforcement officer.   7-2.

25)    Sekhar v. United States -- Supreme Court overturned defendant’s conviction based on DOJ’s prosecution of a person for extortion due to his attempting to compel a person to approve an investment, or face consequences, which does not entail, as the Hobbs Act requires, obtaining the property of another.  9-0.

26)     McFadden v. United States – Supreme Court, disagreeing with the Department of Justice, ruled that when the controlled substance in a prosecution is an analogue, the Department of Justice must prove the defendant had the intent element of knowledge that he was dealing with a substance regulated under the Controlled Substance Act or the Analogue Act and not merely knowledge of the substance.  9-0.

27)    State of Texas v. United States --  5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an injunction preventing implementing President Obama’s Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and lawful Permanent Residents program for non-compliance with the Administrative Procedure Act.  Government’s appeal pending in Supreme Court.

28)    National Ass’n of Manufacturers v. SEC --  D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals found that SEC’s “conflict minerals” public disclosure rule violates the First Amendment by compelling companies to declare that their products might contribute to human rights abuses in the Congo, a politically controversial and non-factual message.

29)    Texas v. EPA – 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that EPA’s decision under the Clean Air Act to remove from Texas the authority to issue flexible air quality permits, which capped emissions from the entire facility rather than from an individual source, failed to recognize the central role of the states in the CAA regulatory structure.

30)    United States v. Caronia – 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, rejecting FDA, ruled that to comply with the First Amendment, a conviction for promoting a drug for off-label use must not be based on the truthful off-label promotion of FDA-approved drugs.

31)    SW General, Inc. v. NLRB – DC Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the actions of the Acting General Counsel of the NRLB violated the Vacancies Reform Act because he could not serve in that capacity as a nominee to hold the position on a permanent basis, rejecting the view of the statute held by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel.

32)    Business Roundtable v. SEC – DC Circuit Court of Appeals found that SEC’s proxy rule under Dodd-Frank violated the Administrative Procedure Act because of failure to quantify the rule’s cost, and because SEC failed to respond to comments.

33)    RJ Reynolds v. FDA – DC Circuit Court of Appeals vacated an FDA rule requiring a tobacco company to use its packaging and resources to promote a government message designed to discourage consumers from buying lawful products.

34)    Hornbeck Offshore Services v. Salazar – 5th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to reinstitute Interior’s 6 month moratorium on oil exploration in the Gulf of Mexico

35)    EEOC v. CVS Pharmacy – 7th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected EEOC’s expansive interpretation of its powers initiating “pattern or practice” lawsuits and held that EEOC cannot bring such suits without complying with pre-suit procedural requirements, including conciliation.

36)    EEOC v. Van Expedited --  8th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that EEOC “wholly failed” to follow Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act’s requirement for EEOC to investigate class claims or give the defendant the opportunity to settle before EEOC files a lawsuit.