There were no new cert grants today, though the Court appended several per curiam decisions to the order list:
(1) The motion of the SG for leave to participate in oral argument and for divided argument was granted in Kellogg Brown & Root Servs. v. United States ex rel. Carter.
(2) The motion of petitioners for divided argument in the Mortgage Bankers Association cases (Nickols and Perez) was denied.
(3) The Court issued a per curiam, summary reversal of the Fifth Circuit in Johnson v. City of Shelby, which is notable to the extent it emphasizes the limits of the pleading requirements set forth in Twombly and Iqbal:
"Plaintiffs below, petitioners here, worked as police officers for the city of Shelby, Mississippi. They allege that they were fired by the city’s board of aldermen, not for deficient performance, but because they brought to light criminal activities of one of the aldermen. Charging violations of their Fourteenth Amendment due process rights, they sought compensatory relief from the city.
Summary judgment was entered against them in the District Court, and affirmed on appeal, for failure to invoke 42 U. S. C. §1983 in their complaint. We summarily reverse. Federal pleading rules call for “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,” Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 8(a)(2); they do not countenance dismissal of a complaint for imperfect statement of the legal theory supporting the claim asserted.....Our decisions in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U. S. 662 (2009), are not in point, for they concern the factual allegations a complaint must contain to survive a motion to dismiss. A plaintiff, they instruct, must plead facts sufficient to show that her claim has substantive plausibility. Petitioners’ complaint was not deficient in that regard. Petitioners stated simply, concisely, and directly events that, they alleged, entitled them to damages from the city. Having informed the city of the factual basis for their complaint, they were required to do no more to stave off threshold dismissal for want of an adequate statement of their claim.... For clarification and to ward off further insistence on a punctiliously stated “theory of the pleadings,” petitioners, on remand, should be accorded an opportunity to add to their complaint a citation to §1983."
(4) The Court issued a per curiam opinion reversing the Third Circuit's denial of qualified immunity to police officers in Carroll v. Carman. The question presented was: "(1) Whether, when a police officer approaches a residence to conduct a “knock and talk,” the Fourth Amendment requires the officer to go to the “front door” even where it reasonably appears that some other entrance is also customarily used by visitors; and (2) whether the court of appeals erred in holding that such a rule was “clearly established” for purposes of qualified immunity." After discussing the facts and several background cases, the Court resolved the second question without deciding the first:
We do not decide today whether those [earlier] cases were correctly decided or whether a police officer may conduct a “knock and talk” at any entrance that is open to visitors rather than only the front door. “But whether or not the constitutional rule applied by the court below was correct, it was not ‘beyond debate.’” Stanton v. Sims, 571 U. S.___, ___ (2013) (per curiam) (slip op., at 8) (quoting al-Kidd, 563 U. S., at ___ (slip op., at 9)). The Third Circuit therefore erred when it held that Carroll was not entitled to qualified immunity."
(5) Justice Scalia, joined by Justice Thomas, issued a statement respecting the denial of cert in Whitman v. United States. The question presented was:
"(1) Whether, in a prosecution for insider trading under § 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act, 15 U.S.C. § 78j(b), the relevant inside information must have been a “significant factor” in the defendant’s decision to buy or sell, or whether -- as the court below held -- mere “knowing possession” of inside information suffices for a criminal conviction; (2) whether, in a prosecution for insider trading under § 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act, 15 U.S.C. § 78j(b), the “fiduciary duty” element must be proved under well-established principles of state law, or whether -- as the court below held -- courts may define and impose the applicable fiduciary duty as a matter of federal common law; and (3) whether exculpatory testimony given by a witness during a deposition in a closely related federal enforcement proceeding is admissible under Federal Rule of Evidence 804(b) in a subsequent criminal trial when the witness is unavailable, or whether -- as the court below held -- such testimony may be excluded merely because it was given in a civil rather than criminal proceeding.
Although the Court denied cert., Justices Scalia and Thomas signaled an interest in restraining deference to agency interpretation where criminal enforcement is involved: "This case, a criminal prosecution under §10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, 48 Stat. 491, as amended, 15 U. S. C. 78j(b), raises a related question: Does a court owe deference to an executive agency’s interpretation of a law that contemplates both criminal and administrative enforcement?....I doubt the Government’s pretensions to deference. They collide with the norm that legislatures, not executive officers, define crimes....With deference to agency interpretations of statutory provisions to which criminal prohibitions are attached, federal administrators can in effect create (and uncreate) new crimes at will, so long as they do not roam beyond ambiguities that the laws contain...The Government’s theory that was accepted here would, in addition, upend ordinary principles of interpretation. The rule of lenity requires interpreters to resolve ambiguity in criminal laws in favor of defendants. Deferring to the prosecuting branch’s expansive views of these statutes “would turn [their] normal construction . . . upside-down, replacing the doctrine of lenity with a doctrine of severity.” Crandon v. United States, 494 U. S. 152, 178 (1990) (SCALIA, J., concurring in judgment). Whitman does not seek review on the issue of deference, and the procedural history of the case in any event makes it a poor setting in which to reach the question. So I agree with the Court that we should deny the petition. But when a petition properly presenting the question comes before us, I will be receptive to granting it."