Military jurisdiction and two cases on arbitration and wage disputes

Petitions of the week

This week, we highlight certificate petitions that ask the Supreme Court to consider, among other things, whether the Constitution limits the jurisdiction of the court martial over retired military personnel, whether a claimant must prove prejudice to show that a defendant has waived his right to arbitrate, and whether an airport supervisor who occasionally handles passenger baggage is a “transport worker” exempt from arbitration.

Begani v. United States considers the constitutional limits to the jurisdiction of military courts over retired military personnel. Stephen Begani worked as a government contractor after 24 years of active service. Special agents from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service arrested Begani in an attack on a Marine Corps airbase, where he expected to meet a minor with whom he had exchanged sexual messages. Begani was tried and sentenced by a court martial. A panel of the Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeal ruled that the court martial violated Begani’s constitutional right to equal protection, but the NMCCA en banc disagreed and upheld his conviction. The United States Armed Forces Court of Appeals also asserted, noting that Begani is “still paid” by the military and “required to maintain military readiness” – although Begani disputes the latter qualification. In his petition, Begani asks the Supreme Court to review this decision and limit military jurisdiction over retirees.

In the years 2011 AT&T Mobility LLC v. ConceptionJudge Antonin Scalia wrote for the majority that federal arbitration law obliges lower courts to “put arbitration agreements on an equal footing with other contracts.” In Morgan v. Sundance, Inc., the plaintiffs argue that the lower courts violated AT&T by making it more difficult to prove that a defendant has waived an arbitration clause than it is necessary to prove waivers of other clauses. In that case, Robyn Morgan, who worked at a Taco Bell franchise owned by Sundance, Inc., filed a putative class action lawsuit in federal court under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Sundance requested the dismissal and then filed a response to its complaint, making various arguments but not insisting on arbitration. After mediation failed to reach a settlement, Sundance sought individual arbitration of Morgan’s claims. Although the district court ruled that Sundance had waived its arbitration argument by failing to do so earlier, the United States Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit overturned due to “lack of evidence of prejudice to Morgan “. In his petition, Morgan argues that lower courts are divided on whether prejudice is a requirement to prove that a party has waived an argument, and that, in any event, prejudice does not. is not a required factor for waiver of other contractual clauses.

Southwest Airlines Co. v. Saxon presents to the judges another case involving the Federal Arbitration Law and a lawsuit under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The FAA’s support for arbitration agreements contains an exemption for “contracts of employment of seafarers, railway employees or any other category of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce”. The Supreme Court said that the residual clause of the exemption, “any other class of workers”, refers only to “transport workers”, but it did not further define “transport worker”. This case arises out of a salary dispute between Southwest Airlines Co. and Latrice Saxon, a ramp agent supervisor. In her role, she trains, supervises and sometimes assists ramp agents in the loading and unloading of passenger baggage from aircraft. After Saxon filed a lawsuit in federal court under the FLSA, Southwest decided to dismiss in favor of arbitration. The district court agreed with Southwest that Saxon was not a transport worker because she “did not physically transport goods at all, let alone out of state.” The United States Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit reversed on the grounds that “freight loaders are generally a class of workers engaged in the actual transport of goods”, including supervisors who occasionally load and unload baggage. Arguing that the lower courts are divided over the meaning of “transport worker”, Southwest is asking for a review.

These and other petitions of the week are below:

Southwest Airlines Co. v. Saxon
21-309
Problem: Workers who load or unload goods from vehicles moving in interstate commerce, but do not physically transport these goods themselves, are they interstate “transport workers” exempt from the Federal Arbitration Law.

Willis v. United States
21-311
Problems: (1) While the Federal Tort Claims Act’s discretionary function exception protects the government from prosecution whenever a government official fails to fulfill a mandatory duty that only applies in certain circumstances, based on the theory that the agent must have determined that these circumstances did not exist; and (2) whether the discretionary function exception protects the unchallenged failure of a government official to exercise his or her discretion.

Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft v. Ohio, ex rel. Yost
21-312
Problem: If the Air Quality Act prevents state and local governments from regulating national aftermarket updates from manufacturers of vehicle emissions systems.

Morgan v. Sundance, Inc.
21-328
Problem: Does the specific arbitration requirement that the defender of a contractual waiver must prove the damage violate the Supreme Court instruction in AT&T Mobility LLC v. Conception that lower courts must “put arbitration agreements on an equal footing with other contracts”.

Begani v. United States
21-335
Problem: Does the Constitution authorize court martial of retired military personnel for offenses committed after the performance of their duties?


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