Jenner & Block Supreme Court and Appellate Clinic—Significant Achievements for 2020-21

The Jenner & Block Supreme Court and Appellate Clinic represented clients in a number of significant cases in the U.S. Supreme Court and U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit this academic year. All of the Clinic’s students did important work on the Clinic’s cases—from researching legal issues, to assessing potential arguments, to developing case strategy, to drafting and editing briefs.

U.S. Supreme Court Cases

The Clinic is co-counsel for Respondents Charles Gresham, et al., in Cochran, et al., v. Gresham, et al., and Arkansas v. Gresham, et al., Supreme Court Case Nos. 20-37 and 20-38. At issue in the cases is whether the Secretary of Health and Human Services’ approval of Medicaid demonstration projects in Arkansas and New Hampshire that condition health insurance coverage on satisfying work requirements was arbitrary and capricious, in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act.

As Respondents explained in their briefing:

Settled principles of administrative law decide this case. The Secretary of Health and Human Services approved work-requirement projects in Arkansas and New Hampshire under Section 1115 of the Social Security Act. That narrow provision allows the agency to waive certain statutory requirements of Medicaid for “experimental, pilot, or demonstration” projects “likely to assist in promoting the objectives” of the program. 42 U.S.C. § 1315(a). In turn, the “objectives” of Medicaid are set forth in the text: Congress enacted Medicaid for the express purpose of enabling States to “furnish ... medical assistance” to families and individuals “whose income and resources are insufficient to meet the costs of necessary medical services.” Id. § 1396-1. The Secretary therefore was required to consider whether the proposed projects were likely to advance that purpose. He failed to do so. His approvals were thus arbitrary and capricious, in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act.

See Brief for Respondents at 1.

On April 5, 2021, the Court issued an order stating that “[u]pon consideration of the motion of petitioners to vacate the judgments of the court of appeals and remand, to remove the cases from the March 2021 argument calendar, and to hold further briefing in abeyance, these cases are held in abeyance pending further order of the Court.”

In addition, the Clinic filed a petition for certiorari raising an important question of statutory interpretation that has divided the federal courts of appeals. The Controlled Substances Act (“CSA”) imposes sentencing enhancements based on an offender’s prior felony convictions. 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A). A “felony” is defined, for purposes of the CSA, as “[a]n offense that is punishable by imprisonment for more than one year under any law of the United States or of a State.” Id. § 802(44). The question presented in the Clinic’s petition was whether an offense is “punishable by imprisonment for more than one year” when the maximum term permitted by the applicable statutory sentencing scheme at the time of conviction was one year or less. The Court denied the petition for certiorari. The case was Dozier v. United States, Supreme Court Case No. 20-136.

Seventh Circuit Cases

The Clinic also is representing clients in two pending Seventh Circuit appeals, both of which raise significant questions under the Fourth Amendment.

In the first case, a federal agent instructed state parole officers to conduct two searches of the Clinic’s client, Mark Price. Neither of those searches would have been constitutional if the federal agent had conducted them himself. But instead, the federal agent called state parole officers to the scene, handed them the keys to the car Price had driven, and asked them to initiate an investigation of the vehicle. Once that search was finished, the federal agent asked the parole officers to conduct a search of Price’s home—which they did, with the federal agent waiting outside. The district court denied Price’s motions to suppress evidence uncovered in the searches, and he was convicted of federal firearms offenses.

The Clinic was appointed to represent Price on appeal. In the appellate briefing, Price argued that the searches violated the Fourth Amendment. Price argued that it is unconstitutional for a federal agent to use state parole officers as pawns to conduct searches that he could not legally conduct, and that these searches further were unreasonable under the totality of the circumstances. Price therefore argued that the fruits of these unconstitutional searches should have been suppressed. Price also argued that the trial evidence was insufficient to sustain his conviction and that the district court erred in applying sentencing enhancements in the case. The case is United States v. Price, Seventh Circuit Case No. 20-3191.

In the second case, a police officer conducted a traffic stop of the car being driven by the Clinic’s client, Rapheal Seay. The officer did not personally witness any traffic violations giving him probable cause or reasonable suspicion for the stop. The district court held that the stop was permissible, however, because a different officer previously had witnessed Seay committing traffic violations. Based on evidence uncovered in a search following the stop, a jury convicted Seay of a single federal firearm offense.

The Clinic was appointed to represent Seay on appeal. In the appellate briefing, Seay argued that the traffic stop violated the Fourth Amendment. Seay argued that the government failed to carry its burden of establishing that information known to other officers not present at the scene of the stop could be imputed to the officer who conducted the stop under the Fourth Amendment’s collective knowledge doctrine. Seay explained that the government failed to establish any clear chain of communication between an officer with probable cause based on something he observed at one location, and the different officer who conducted a traffic stop at a different location. Moreover, the officer making the traffic stop could not identify who told him what. Seay therefore argued that the evidence uncovered following the stop and during the resulting search should have been suppressed. The case is United States v. Seay, Seventh Circuit Case No. 21-1104.

These Seventh Circuit appeals have not yet been argued and remain pending.