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SUPREME COURT
ASSISTANCE PROJECT

Read about our work helping lawyers
with cases in the Supreme Court.

 

Public Citizen's Cases Before the U.S. Supreme Court

This Supreme Court Term, Public Citizen Litigation Group has five cases before the court, all raising important issues about access to the court system.

In United States v. Bormes, an individual filed suit against the United States alleging a violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), which is designed to protect consumers from identity theft. The United States argued that it cannot be sued under the FCRA, regardless of whether it violated the act. As co-counsel for the plaintiff, we argue that the government’s sovereign immunity from suit has been waived, allowing individuals access to the civil justice system to seek a remedy for the FCRA violation. In a unanimous decision, the Court ruled in favor of the government.

As co-counsel for a death-row inmate in Tibbals v. Carter, we are defending a court decision holding that the inmate’s habeas corpus petition should be stayed because, due to his mental illness, he is incompetent to assist his habeas counsel and his assistance is needed to pursue his claims. We are handling the briefing and argument in the case, which the Court heard in October.

In November, Public Citizen argued Marx v. General Revenue Corp. The case asks whether a court can award a defendant its costs in a case brought under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), when the plaintiff brought the action in good faith. Because of a defense in the statute, even a consumer who successfully proves that the defendant violated the FDCPA can lose her case. A decision that a prevailing defendant is entitled to an award of costs would present a significant deterrent to enforcement of the FDCPA.

Public Citizen also drafted the brief for the respondent in Genesis Healthcare Corp. v. Symczyk, which will be argued in December. The case raises the question whether defendants in collective actions brought under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) can moot out an entire case by making an unaccepted settlement offer to the lead plaintiff. The case has important implications for both FLSA cases and class action cases.

Dan’s Auto City v. Pelkey presents the question whether state-law claims against a towing company based on the manner in which the towing company disposed of a towed car are preempted by a provision of the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act that preempts state laws related to prices, routes, or services of motor carriers with respect to the transportation of property. Dan's Auto City towed Robert Pelkey's car from his apartment complex's parking lot. Although Pelkey’s lawyer informed Dan's Auto City that his car was not abandoned and that he wanted to arrange for its return, the towing company traded Mr. Pelkey’s car away without reimbursing him for his loss. Mr. Pelkey brought state consumer protection act and negligence claims.

For a complete list of Public Citizen cases on the Supreme Court docket, visit our Supreme Court Assistance Project page.

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