Sidley prevailed in several cases before the Supreme Court during the 2018 Term. The victories included a landmark ruling regarding the distribution system that has guided alcohol beverage laws since the end of Prohibition and a decision vacating a lower court’s reversal of a ruling interpreting the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). In addition, the firm assisted in three cases resulting in favorable high court decisions on behalf of criminal defendants in conjunction with a unique program between Sidley and Northwestern Pritzker School of Law.
In Sidley’s victory on behalf of Total Wine & More, the Supreme Court affirmed a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. The Court held that a Tennessee law which required that all officers, directors and stockholders of a retail liquor store needed to have lived in the state for two years before it could obtain an alcohol license violated the Dormant Commerce Clause. It found that the Twenty-First Amendment, which repealed Prohibition and recognized broad state authority over alcohol regulation, did not save Tennessee’s law, because even under that broad authority, the states may not discriminate against out-of-state citizens or out-of-state economic interests. Carter G. Phillips, Jacqueline G. Cooper and Derek A. Webb represented Total Wine & More in Tennessee Wine and Spirits Retailers Association v. Thomas.
The firm also won a favorable decision in PDR Network, LLC v. Carlton & Harris Chiropractic, Inc. for leading healthcare information provider, PDR Network. PDR was sued for allegedly violating the TCPA by distributing an “unsolicited advertisement.” The district court dismissed, holding that PDR’s conduct did not violate the TCPA, and that to the extent a 2006 FCC order suggested otherwise, the FCC’s order was inconsistent with the TCPA. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reversed, holding that the Hobbs Act precluded the district court from considering whether the FCC’s interpretation of the TCPA is consistent with the TCPA itself. The Supreme Court vacated the Fourth Circuit’s decision without definitively resolving the Hobbs Act question. It held that “the extent to which the [FCC’s order] binds the lower courts may depend on the resolution of two preliminary sets of questions” highlighted in Sidley’s brief, and sent the case back to the Fourth Circuit for further consideration. Carter Phillips, Kwaku A. Akowuah and Daniel J. Feith represented PDR Network in the case.
Sidley also assisted in securing positive outcomes on behalf of defendants in three criminal pro bono cases. These matters were handled in conjunction with the Supreme Court Clinic program, a special partnership between the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law and Sidley that provides representation on behalf of indigent criminal defendants, and gives Northwestern students the opportunity to work on cases pending before the Supreme Court. Sidley partners Carter Phillips and Jeffrey T. Green serve as the clinic’s directors, along with Northwestern faculty member Sarah O. Schrup.
The decision in Rehaif v. United States is expected to significantly affect federal court prosecutions across the United States involving charges against felons of unlawful possession of a firearm. The Supreme Court held that prosecutors must prove that defendants are aware of their immigration status, in addition to deliberate possession. Virginia A. Seitz and Jeff Green assisted Florida’s Federal Defender service in representing Hamid Mohamed Ahmed Ali Rehaif.
In United States v. Haymond, the Supreme Court for the first time extended jury trial protections to federal defendants who are serving a term of supervised release. The Supreme Court held that a statute that provided for an automatic five-year minimum term of reimprisonment for defendants on supervised release was unconstitutional because the statute did not require a jury trial or the traditional “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard of proof. Jeff Green and Matthew J. Letten from Sidley assisted William D. Lunn in representing Andre R. Haymond.
In United States v. Davis, Sidley worked with the Federal Defender for the Northern District of Texas to obtain another criminal defense victory when the Supreme Court struck down the residual clause of the federal gun possession statute, 18 U.S.C. § 924(c), and, in a holding of first impression, refused to allow the United States to use the doctrine of constitutional avoidance to expand the scope of a criminal statute. Jeff Green, Tobias S. Loss-Eaton, Chike B. Croslin and Gabriel Schonfeld represented the defendant, Maurice L. Davis.