This past Monday, the Supreme Court in Allen v. Cooper struck down a 1990 Congressional statute that had allowed citizens to sue a state in federal court for copyright infringement. The case arose after a marine salvage company discovered the wreck of the Queen Anne’s Revenge, Blackbeard’s famous pirate ship, off the coast of North Carolina and recorded documentary footage of the discovery. When North Carolina published some of the footage in various media, the company sued the state for copyright infringement. The question before the Court was whether the Constitution gives Congress the power to rescind the states’ sovereign immunity from copyright infringement claims. Justice Kagan answered “no” with a 7:2 majority, leaving the company marooned. (For lovers of wordplay and maritime puns, this piece is for you.)
The Supreme Court’s December sitting began this week with oral arguments in six cases. One of those cases concerns the first Second Amendment challenge to reach the Court in ten years. However, much of the discussion at oral argument pertained to mootness—that is, whether the case should be dismissed since it’s no longer really a live case. The Court also denied a stay of execution, added to its docket an intriguing First Amendment case out of Delaware, and declined to grant the Trump administration’s request to resume executing federal prisoners. Finally, Justice Ginsburg entered a one-week administrative stay in one of President Trump’s tax returns cases—the third one to reach the Supreme Court. Here’s your recap of what happened at the Supreme Court this past week.