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Public Citizen in the Supreme Court

Public Citizen Litigation Group is involved in three important cases pending before the United States Supreme Court this fall.

Northwest v. Ginsberg

Public Citizen represents Rabbi S. Binyomin Ginsberg, a long-time customer of Northwest Airline, who, in 2005, earned the highest level of membership benefits in Northwest’s customer loyalty program. In 2008, however, Northwest abruptly terminated his membership status in the program, claiming it could do so in its sole discretion. Rabbi Ginsberg filed suit, alleging, among other things, that termination of his membership status was a breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. The district court held that his claim was preempted by a provision of the Airline Deregulation Act that preempts state laws relating to air carrier prices, routes, or services, and the Ninth Circuit reversed. The Supreme Court granted certiorari and Public Citizen attorney Adina Rosenbaum argued the case before the Court in December.

McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission

In McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, the U.S. Supreme Court is considering whether to strike down longstanding provisions of the Federal Election Campaign Act that impose an “aggregate limit”of approximately $125,000 on the amounts individuals can contribute during an election cycle to federal candidates, political parties, and other political committees. The elimination of that cap would allow candidates and party officials to solicit million-dollar plus contributions to be shared among the major parties’ various candidates and committees. Despite the Supreme Court’s repeated holdings that limits on such huge contributions are constitutional because they are a bulwark against corruption—the exchange of political favors for money—the Republican National Committee and one of its large donors argue in the case that the limits should be wiped away because the resulting contributions will not be “huge” enough to cause concern. On behalf of U.S. Representatives Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and David Price (D-NC), Public Citizen submitted an amicus brief supporting the constitutionality of the existing limits.

Mississippi, ex rel. Hood v. AU Optronics Corp

In Mississippi, ex rel. Hood v. AU Optronics Corp., the state of Mississippi alleged that several companies artificially limited the supply and increased the price of LCD panels from 1996-2006. Mississippi filed a parens patriae lawsuit against the companies, which the defendant removed to federal court on the theory that suit constituted a removable class action under the Class Action Fairness Act. Because the suit was not a class action, Mississippi moved to remand it to state court. The district court granted the motion, but the Fifth Circuit reversed. The Supreme Court considered the case last fall, and in the process resolved a conflict among the federal courts of appeal on the question whether a state’s parens patriae action is a class action under CAFA. In an amicus brief filed in support of the state, Public Citizen argued that by CAFA’s express terms, parens patriae actions filed in the name of states by their attorneys general fall outside the scope of CAFA jurisdiction. In a 9-0 opinion, the Supreme Court agreed that a state’s parens patriae action is not a class action.

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