Court agrees to hear nine new cases, including challenge to tech companies’ Section 230 immunity
By Amy Howe
October 3, 2022
at 7:56 p.m.
The Supreme Court on Monday added nine new cases to its docket, including a high-profile dispute over the scope of immunity for tech companies from lawsuits because of the content they host.
The new additions to the record came in a list of commands from last week’s ‘long conference’ – the first regularly scheduled conference since the judges began their summer vacation in July. Judges normally consider about 2,000 petitions at this conference.
Technology companies and terrorism
In Gonzalez vs. Googlethe judges agreed to address an important issue regarding the scope of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which generally shields Internet platforms from liability for content posted by others. Congress passed the law in 1996, after a New York court held an Internet service provider liable for a defamatory statement posted on the website’s bulletin board.
Two years ago, in a statement regarding the judges’ decision not to consider another case involving the extent of liability under Section 230, Judge Clarence Thomas suggested that the court should consider “whether the text of this increasingly important law aligns with the current state of immunity enjoyed by internet platforms.” On Monday morning, the judges agreed to do just that.
The question now before the court is whether Section 230 protects internet platforms when their algorithms target users and recommend someone else’s content. The case was brought by the family of an American woman who was killed in a Parisian bistro during a 2015 IS attack. They filed a lawsuit under anti-terrorism law, arguing that Google (owner of YouTube) had aided ISIS recruitment through YouTube videos – specifically, recommending ISIS videos to users through its algorithms.
A split panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled that Section 230 protects these recommendations, at least if the provider’s algorithm treats its website content the same way. The majority acknowledged that Section 230 “housing more activity than Congress intended.” However, the majority concluded that Congress — rather than the courts — should specify to what extent Section 230 applies.
Judges also agreed to hear a review petition filed by Twitter, in a lawsuit brought against it by the family of a Jordanian citizen killed in an Islamic State attack on a nightclub at night in Istanbul. Along the same lines as its decision in Gonzálezthe 9th Circuit ruled that Twitter, Facebook, and Google could be held liable, independently of Section 230, for aiding and abetting international terrorism by allowing ISIS to use their platforms.
Other new cases
In a case known as In re Grand JuryThe judges will intervene on grand jury subpoenas ordering an anonymous law firm specializing in international tax matters to turn over documents that the firm says are protected from disclosure.
The law firm provided one of its clients with legal advice and prepared his tax returns. When a grand jury investigating the client issued subpoenas for documents related to the investigation, the firm provided more than 20,000 pages of documents, but it refused to turn over any other documents, arguing that they are protected by professional secrecy. Some of these documents, the firm said, are “dual-use” communications — in which the firm both provides legal advice and discusses the preparation of the client’s tax returns.
A federal district court found the company in contempt for failing to produce the documents, and the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit upheld that decision.
In Turkiye Halk Bankasi v. United States, the judges have agreed to decide whether criminal charges can be brought against a Turkish bank owned and controlled by the Turkish government. The charges stem from an alleged scheme to divert billions of dollars from Iranian accounts held by the bank so that the funds could be used in a manner not authorized by US sanctions.
In October 2019, federal prosecutors indicted the bank on money laundering and bank fraud charges. The bank asked the federal district court in New York to dismiss the charges, arguing that US courts lacked jurisdiction to hear a criminal case against it because of its relationship with the Turkish government. The district court rejected this claim and the United States Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit upheld this decision.
In Perez vs. Sturgis Public Schools, judges granted a petition for review filed by Miguel Perez, a deaf student who claims a Michigan school district failed for years to provide him with a qualified sign language interpreter, leaving him an “outcast.” academic and social”. Perez has asked judges to decide if and when federal education law requires him to fully pursue his claims against the school district in an administrative proceeding, even if it would be unnecessary.
Perez, now 24, entered Sturgis public schools at age nine, after emigrating from Mexico. Perez never received a qualified sign language interpreter; instead, he was only assigned a class assistant who had no training in working with deaf students. Just months before Perez — who has consistently received grades that qualify him for the honor roll — is expected to graduate in 2016, the school district told him for the first time that he would not be graduating.
Perez filed an administrative complaint against the school district. He alleged that the school district violated both the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which requires school districts to provide students with disabilities with free and appropriate public education, and the Americans with Disabilities Act, which ( among others) prohibits discrimination against children with disabilities. disabilities in public schools. A hearing officer dismissed the ADA’s claim, on the grounds that it lacked authority to hear it, and the school board ultimately settled Perez’s IDEA claim by agreeing that he could attend the Michigan School of the Deaf.
Perez then took her ADA complaint to federal court, but the district court dismissed it because he did not fully pursue her in state administrative proceedings after settling her IDEA claims. After the United States Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit upheld that decision, Perez appealed to the Supreme Court, which in June asked the federal government to intervene. brief filed on August 24US Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar urged judges to take up the case, which they did on Monday.
The judges agreed on Monday to consider four additional cases:
The nine cases awarded today will likely be litigated early next year.
Asks for the Biden administration’s perspective
The justices asked the Biden administration to provide the federal government’s perspective on four cases:
There is no deadline for Prelogar to file its briefs expressing the government’s views.
Refusal in notable cases
With thousands of cases to consider at last week’s conference, the list of cases the court refused to deal with stretched to 40 pages on Monday’s order list. Some of the notable denials included:
- Aposhian v. Garland and Gun Owners of America vs. Garlandtwo challenges to a Trump-era rule that classifies bump stocks – an attachment that harnesses the energy of a semi-automatic rifle’s “bounce” to allow the weapon to fire much faster – like machine guns , which are generally illegal, under federal gun laws.
- Kowall v. Benson, a constitutional challenge to Michigan lawmakers’ term limits — capped at three two-year terms for members of the state House of Representatives and two four-year terms for members of the state senate . A federal district court rejected the argument that the limitations violated the United States Constitution, and the United States Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit upheld that decision.
- Florida vs USA, implying whether the federal government can sue Florida for violating a portion of the Americans with Disabilities Act that prohibits state and local governments from discriminating against people with disabilities. The federal government alleges that due to Florida’s Medicaid policies, hundreds of children with complex medical needs in the state have been placed unnecessarily in nursing facilities. The United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit allowed the dispute to continue.
- Missouri vs. Biden, a challenge return by 10 states to the Biden administration’s vaccination mandate for healthcare workers in facilities that receive federal funding. In January, the Supreme Court granted the Biden administration’s request to be allowed to temporarily enforce the mandate. The judges refused Monday to intervene again.
This article has been originally published at Howe on the Court.