Category Archives: Supreme Court

US Supreme Court issues new tax opinion

Today, the Supreme Court issued a unanimous opinion (8-0; Justice Kagan did not participate) in United States v. Quality Stores, Inc. holding that severance payments to involuntarily-terminated employees because of the end of the business in bankruptcy constitutes taxable wages for the purpose of FICA taxes under 26 USC sec. 3101. Justice Kennedy wrote the opinion, which reversed the decision of the Sixth Circuit.

The case is somewhat notable for its procedural history, as it is a tax case that was litigated originally as an adversary proceeding in bankruptcy court, rather than as a more typical deficiency case in Tax Court or a refund suit in district court or the Court of Federal Claims.


It’s October – Supreme Court Resources

US Supreme CourtAs the U.S. Supreme Court enters its first week of the new term, be sure to make use of the resources highlighted in the library’s Supreme Court Research Guide to monitor the court. Some of the tools for current awareness include:

Should you have any questions about the resources, feel free to ask a reference librarian.

Same-Sex Marriage Cases

The Supreme Court this morning released its opinions in the two same-sex marriage cases:

United States v. Windsor. Holding 5-4 (Kennedy, J.) that section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act violates equal protection under the 5th Amendment and accordingly is unconstitutional.

Hollingsworth v. Perry. Holding 5-4 (Roberts, C.J.) that the Proposition 8 proponents lacked standing and vacating the decision of the 9th Circuit.

NEW: Bibliography for the Equal Justice Film Festival

To supplement this spring’s successful Equal Justice Film Festival and encourage further research and exploration, the Georgetown Law Library has compiled a brief bibliography of resources, including books, scholarly articles, and other films on related topics.

You can view or download it in PDF: Georgetown Law Library Equal Justice Film Festival – A Concise Bibliography.

For more information about the films and speakers that were part of the series, see the Film Festival website at

Equal Justice Film Festival: Gideon’s Army – Friday, April 19

Gideon's Army poster

Please join the Friends of the Law Library, National Equal Justice Library, The Innocence Project, Georgetown Criminal Law Association, the Georgetown chapter of the National Lawyers’ Guild, and Law Docs at the latest co-sponsored Law at the Movies event, part of the ongoing Georgetown Law Library Equal Justice Film Festival:

Movie: Gideon’s Army (2013)
Date: Friday, April 19, 2013
Time: 6:00pm (refreshments & seating), showtime 6:30pm
Location: Hart Auditorium, Georgetown University Law Center

This screening is free and open to the public map and directions.

A 2013 Sundance award winning documentary by Georgetown Law alumna Dawn Porter, Gideon’s Army follows the personal stories of three young public defenders in the Deep South challenging the assumptions that drive a criminal justice system strained to the breaking point. 50 years since the landmark Supreme Court ruling Gideon v. Wainwright that established the right to counsel, can these courageous lawyers and their colleagues revolutionize the way America thinks about indigent defense and make “justice for all” a reality?

After the screening, stay for a discussion of the film and its context, led by:

  • Jo-Ann Wallace, President and CEO, National Legal Aid & Defender Association
  • Abbe Smith, Director, Criminal Defense & Prisoner Advocacy Clinic; Co-Director, E. Barrett Prettyman Fellowship Program; Professor of Law
  • Alec Karakatsanis, Attorney, Special Litigation Division, Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia

For information on other upcoming events in the Georgetown Law Library Equal Justice Film Festival, visit

To learn more about the Friends of the Georgetown Law Library program and the benefits of becoming a member, visit

Supreme Court Decision in Kirtsaeng

The Supreme Court today announced its decision in Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Kirtsaeng was an enterprising Cornell student, who asked his relatives in Thailand to ship him cheaply-published textbooks, which he resold in the United States, undercutting the exclusive U.S. publisher’s editions sold at the university bookstore. The Court, in a 6-3 decision, held that the First Sale doctrine of copyright law applies to permit the resale of these “gray market” imported textbooks. 

Justice Breyer wrote the majority opinion (joined by Justices Roberts, Thomas, Sotomayor, Alito, and Kagan). Justice Kagan filed a concurrance (joined by Justice Alito). Justice Ginsburg filed the dissent, which was joined by Justices Scalia and Kennedy.

Will the opening of a “global marketplace” for textbooks ultimately lower prices for students?

Upcoming 50th Anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright

In preparation for the upcoming 50th anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright, the National Equal Justice Library, within Georgetown Law Library, would like to highlight a few unique materials from our collections that relate to the history of the case, and that document its impact on the development of public defender systems in the United States.

On March 18, 1963, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that states had the obligation to provide counsel for defendants who are unable to afford an attorney, extending the Constitutional right to counsel in criminal cases to poor and low-income people. By highlighting the responsibility of the government to provide legal counsel to low-income Americans, Gideon was a landmark case in the equal justice movement in the United States, paving the way for the creation and expansion of the public defender system in the country.

Among the unique NEJL materials are oral history interviews with several key participants in the case, including an interview with Abe Krash, who worked closely with Abe Fortas on Gideon’s defense team, and an interview with Bruce Jacob, who argued against Gideon on behalf of the State of Florida as a young Assistant Attorney General. Transcripts of both interviews are available online at:

The collection also includes an interview with Anthony Lewis, the author of Gideon’s Trumpet (1964), who followed the case as a reporter, and David Rintel’s movie script of Gideon’s Trumpet, as well as some still pictures and advertisements of the 1980 movie featuring Henry Fonda as Clarence Gideon. In addition, the NEJL holds a set of photocopies of original documents from the case, including copies of Clarence Gideon’s petition for writ of habeas corpus with the Supreme Court of Florida, and transcripts from the State of Florida v. Clarence Earl Gideon (1962).

Collections documenting the development and state of indigent criminal defense in the United States include the papers of James Doherty, who served as Public Defender of Cook County, Illinois, the papers of Sheldon Portman, the former Public Defender of Santa Clara County, CA, and the papers the papers of Marshall Hartman, one of the leading figures of the public defender movement in the United States. Special Collections also holds the papers of General Charles L. Decker, a Georgetown Law graduate, who was a key participant in the drafting of the Model Defender Act of 1970, and the Director of the National Defender Project of the NLADA.

Researchers are welcome to visit the NEJL, and our Special Collections Department.

Contact: Katharina Hering, NEJL Project Archivist 202-662-4043 (NEJL)
Special Collections Department: 202-662-9149

The Anti-Injunction Act

Today's argument at the US Supreme Court on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act concerns whether the "penalty" assessed under 26 U.S.C. §5000A against individuals who do not meet the minimum coverage provisions is a "tax" for the purposes of the Anti-Injunction Act.

The Anti-Injunction Act (26 U.S.C. §7421) provides that "Except as provided in sections 6015(e), 6212(a) and (c), 6213(a), 6225(b), 6246(b), 6330(e)(1), 6331(i), 6672(c), 6694(c), 7426(a) and (b)(1), 7429(b), and 7436, no suit for the purpose of restraining the assessment or collection of any tax shall be maintained in any court by any person, whether or not such person is the person against whom such tax was assessed." In other words, an individual cannot bring a suit to enjoin the Government from collecting or assessing a tax, and must instead wait until that tax is assessed against him.

This first day of argument, accordingly, is to determine whether or not the Supreme Court even has jurisdiction to hear this case — inasmuch as the "penalty" arising under the PPACA does not even take effect until 2014, if the "penalty" is a "tax", the Anti-Injunction Act would apply. Only individuals who have actually been assessed the "penalty" could bring a suit, and only then after they have met the administrative procedures required for any tax litigation.

An example of a nominal "penalty" that is considered to be a "tax" for the purposes of the Anti-Injunction Act is the Trust Fund Recovery Penalty that arises under 26 U.S.C. §6672. See, e.g., Kelly v. Lethert, 362 F.2d 629 (8th Cir. 1966).

The merit and amicus briefs on the Anti-Injunction Act are available at

For more information about the Anti-Injunction Act, and tax collection generally, please refer to William D. Elliott, Federal Tax Collections, Liens, and Levies, (2d ed. 1995), available in print in the Library (KF6313 .E45 1995) and on Westlaw (WGL-COLLECT).