CARNEY, GOVERNOR OF DELAWARE v. ADAMS

Certiorari To The United States Court Of Appeals For The Third Circuit

No. 19–309. Argued October 5, 2020—Decided December 10, 2020

Delaware’s Constitution contains a political balance requirement for appointments to the State’s major courts. No more than a bare majority of judges on any of its five major courts “shall be of the same political party.” Art. IV, §3. In addition, on three of those courts, those members not in the bare majority “shall be of the other major political party.” Ibid. Respondent James R. Adams, a Delaware lawyer and political independent, sued in Federal District Court, claiming that Delaware’s “bare majority” and “major party” requirements violate his First Amendment right to freedom of association by making him ineligible to become a judge unless he joins a major political party. The District Court held that Adams had standing to challenge both requirements and that Delaware’s balancing scheme was unconstitutional. The Third Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part. It held that Adams did have standing to challenge the major party requirement, because it categorically excludes independents from becoming judges on three courts, but that he lacked standing to challenge the bare majority requirement, which does not preclude independents from eligibility for any vacancy.

Held: Because Adams has not shown that he was “able and ready” to apply for a judicial vacancy in the imminent future, he has failed to show a “personal,” “concrete,” and “imminent” injury necessary for Article III standing. Pp. 4–13.

 (a) Two aspects of standing doctrine are relevant here. First, standing requires an “ ‘injury in fact’ ” that must be “concrete and particularized,” as well as “ ‘actual or imminent.’ ” Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U. S. 555, 560. Second, a grievance that amounts to nothing more than an abstract and generalized harm to a citizen’s interest in the proper application of the law does not count as an “injury in fact” and does not show standing. Hollingsworth v. Perry, 570 U. S. 693, 706. Pp. 4–5.

 (b) Adams has not shown the necessary “injury in fact.” To establish that he will suffer a concrete, particularized, and imminent injury beyond a generalized grievance, Adams must at least show that he is likely to apply to become a judge in the reasonably foreseeable future, if he were not barred because of political affiliation. He can show this only if he is “ ‘able and ready’ ” to apply. See Gratz v. Bollinger, 539 U. S. 244, 262. Adams’ only supporting evidence is two statements he made that he wanted to be, and would apply to be, a judge on any of Delaware’s five courts. Those statements must be considered in the context of the record. Pp. 5–9.

 (c) The record evidence fails to show that, at the time he commenced the lawsuit, Adams was “able and ready” to apply for a judgeship in the reasonably foreseeable future. First, Adams’ statements stand alone, without any other supporting evidence, like efforts to determine possible judicial openings or other such preparations. Second, the context suggests an abstract, generalized grievance, not an actual desire to become a judge. For example, Adams did not apply for numerous existing judicial vacancies while he was a registered Democrat and eligible for those vacancies. He then read a law review article arguing that Delaware’s judicial eligibility requirements unconstitutionally excluded independents, changed his political affiliation to independent, and filed this lawsuit shortly thereafter. Third, a holding that Adams’ few words of general intent were sufficient to show an “injury in fact” would significantly weaken the longstanding legal doctrine preventing this Court from providing advisory opinions. Finally, precedent supports the conclusion that an injury in fact requires an intent that is concrete. See, e.g., Lujan, supra. And arguably similar cases in which standing was found all contained more evidence that the plaintiff was “able and ready” than Adams has provided. See, e.g., Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Peña, 515 U. S. 200. Pp. 9–13.

922 F. 3d. 166, vacated and remanded.

 Breyer, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which all other Members joined, except Barrett, J., who took no part in the consideration or decision of the case. Sotomayor, J., filed a concurring opinion.


Tanzin et al. v. Tanvir et al.

Certiorari To The United States Court Of Appeals For The Second Circuit

No. 19–71. Argued October 6, 2020—Decided December 10, 2020

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) was enacted in the wake of Employment Div., Dept. of Human Resources of Ore. v. Smith, 494 U. S. 872, to provide a remedy to redress Federal Government violations of the right to free exercise under the First Amendment. Respondents are practicing Muslims who sued under RFRA, claiming that federal agents placed them on the No Fly List for refusing to act as informants against their religious communities. They sought injunctive relief against the agents in their official capacities and monetary damages against the agents in their individual capacities. As relevant here, the District Court found that RFRA does not permit monetary relief and dismissed their individual-capacity claims. The Second Circuit reversed, holding that RFRA’s remedies provision encompasses money damages against Government officials.

Held: RFRA’s express remedies provision permits litigants, when appropriate, to obtain money damages against federal officials in their individual capacities. Pp. 3–9.

  (a) RFRA’s text provides that persons may sue and “obtain appropriate relief against a government,” 42 U. S. C. §2000bb–1(c), including an “official (or other person acting under color of law) of the United States,” §2000bb–2(1). RFRA supplants the ordinary meaning of “government” with a different, express definition that includes “official[s].” It then underscores that “official[s]” are “person[s].” Under RFRA’s definition, relief that can be executed against an “official . . . of the Unites States” is “relief against a government.” This reading is confirmed by RFRA’s use of the phrase “persons acting under color of law,” which has long been interpreted by this Court in the 42 U. S. C. §1983 context to permit suits against officials in their individual capacities. See, e.g., Memphis Community School Dist. v. Stachura, 477 U. S. 299, 305–306. Pp. 3–5.

  (b) RFRA’s term “appropriate relief” is “open-ended” on its face; thus, what relief is “ ‘appropriate’ ” is “inherently context dependent.” Sossamon v. Texas, 563 U. S. 277, 286. In the context of suits against Government officials, damages have long been awarded as appropriate relief, and though more limited today, they remain an appropriate form of relief. The availability of damages under §1983 is particularly salient here. When Congress first enacted RFRA, the definition of “government” included state and local officials. In order to reinstate the pre-Smith substantive protections of the First Amendment and the right to vindicate those protections by a claim, §2000bb(b), the remedies provision must have encompassed at least the same forms of relief authorized by §1983. Because damages claims have always been available under §1983 for clearly established violations of the First Amendment, that means RFRA provides, as one avenue for relief, a right to seek damages against Government employees. The presumption in Sossamon, 563 U. S. 277, is inapplicable because this case does not involve sovereign immunity. Pp. 5–9.

894 F. 3d 449, affirmed.

 Thomas, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which all other Members joined, except Barrett, J., who took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.


United States v. Briggs

Certiorari To The United States Court Of Appeals For The Armed Forces

No. 19–108. Argued October 13, 2020—Decided December 10, 2020 1

The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) has long provided that a military offense, “punishable by death, may be tried and punished at any time without limitation.” 10 U. S. C. §843(a). Other military offenses are subject to a 5-year statute of limitations. §843(b). Respondents are three military service members, each convicted of rape. When they were charged, the UCMJ provided that rape could be “punished by death.” §920(a) (1994 ed.). Because this Court held that the Eighth Amendment forbids a death sentence for the rape of an adult woman, Coker v. Georgia, 433 U. S. 584, respondents argue that they could not, in fact, have been sentenced to death, and therefore the UCMJ’s 5-year statute of limitations applies and bars their convictions. Agreeing, the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces set aside their convictions.

Held: Respondents’ prosecutions for rape under the UCMJ were timely. Pp. 2–9.

  (a) Respondents contend that the UCMJ phrase “punishable by death” means capable of punishment by death when all applicable law is taken into account. By contrast, the Government sees the phrase as something of a term of art, meaning capable of punishment by death under the penalty provisions of the UCMJ. Pp. 2–3.

  (b) For three reasons, the phrase’s context—appearing in a statute of limitations provision for prosecutions under the UCMJ—weighs heavily in favor of the Government’s interpretation. Pp. 3–9.

   (1) First, the UCMJ is a uniform code. As such, a natural referent for a statute of limitations provision within the UCMJ is other law in the UCMJ itself. The most natural place to look for Congress’s answer to whether rape was “punishable by death” within the meaning of §843(a) is §920’s directive that rape could be “punished by death.” That is so even if the UCMJ’s separate prohibition on “cruel or unusual punishment,” §855, would have been held to provide an independent defense against the imposition of the death penalty for rape. Pp. 3–4.

   (2) Second, respondents’ interpretation of §843(a) is not the sort of limitations provision that Congress is likely to have chosen. Statutes of limitations typically provide clarity, see United States v. Lovasco, 431 U. S. 783, 789, and it is reasonable to presume that clarity is an objective when lawmakers enact such provisions. But if “punishable by death” means punishable by death after all applicable law is taken into account, the deadline for filing rape charges would be unclear. That deadline would depend on an unresolved constitutional question about Coker’s application to military prosecutions, on what this Court has described as “ ‘evolving standards of decency’ ” under the Eighth Amendment, Kennedy v. Louisiana, 554 U. S. 407, 419, and on whether §855 of the UCMJ independently prohibits a death sentence for rape. Pp. 4–7.

   (3) Third, the ends served by statutes of limitations differ sharply from those served by provisions like the Eighth Amendment or UCMJ §855. Factors legislators may find important in setting a statute of limitations—such as the difficulty of gathering evidence and mounting a prosecution—play no part in the Court’s Eighth Amendment analysis. Thus, it is unlikely that lawmakers would want to tie a statute of limitations to judicial interpretations of such provisions. Pp. 8–9.

No. 19–108, 78 M. J. 289; No. 19–184, 78 M. J. 415 (first judgment) and 79 M. J. 199 (second judgment), reversed and remanded.

 Alito, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which all other Members joined, except Barrett, J., who took no part in the consideration or decision of the cases. Gorsuch, J., filed a concurring opinion.

Notes
1 Together with No. 19–184, United States v. Collins and United States v. Daniels (see this Court’s Rule 12.4), also on certiorari to the same court.


Rutledge, Attorney General of Arkansas v. Pharmaceutical Care Management Association

Certiorari To The United States Court Of Appeals For The Eighth Circuit

No. 18–540. Argued October 6, 2020—Decided December 10, 2020

Pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) act as intermediaries between pharmacies and prescription-drug plans. In that role, they reimburse pharmacies for the cost of drugs covered by prescription-drug plans. To determine the reimbursement rate for each drug, PBMs develop and administer maximum allowable cost (MAC) lists. In 2015, Arkansas passed Act 900, which effectively requires PBMs to reimburse Arkansas pharmacies at a price equal to or higher than the pharmacy’s wholesale cost. To accomplish this result, Act 900 requires PBMs to timely update their MAC lists when drug wholesale prices increase, Ark. Code Ann. §17–92–507(c)(2), and to provide pharmacies an administrative appeal procedure to challenge MAC reimbursement rates, §17–92–507(c)(4)(A)(i)(b). Act 900 also permits Arkansas pharmacies to refuse to sell a drug if the reimbursement rate is lower than its acquisition cost. §17–92–507(e). Respondent Pharmaceutical Care Management Association (PCMA), which represents the 11 largest PBMs in the country, sued, alleging, as relevant here, that Act 900 is pre-empted by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). Following Circuit precedent in a case involving a similar Iowa statute, the District Court held that ERISA pre-empts Act 900. The Eighth Circuit affirmed.

Held: Arkansas’ Act 900 is not pre-empted by ERISA. Pp. 4–10.

 (a) ERISA pre-empts state laws that “relate to” a covered employee benefit plan. 29 U. S. C. §1144(a). “[A] state law relates to an ERISA plan if it has a connection with or reference to such a plan.” Egelhoff v. Egelhoff, 532 U. S. 141, 147. Act 900 has neither of those impermissible relationships. Pp. 4–7.

  (1) Act 900 does not have an impermissible connection with an ERISA plan. To determine whether such a connection exists, this Court asks whether the state law “governs a central matter of plan administration or interferes with nationally uniform plan administration.” Gobeille v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 577 U. S. 312, 320. State rate regulations that merely increase costs or alter incentives for ERISA plans without forcing plans to adopt any particular scheme of substantive coverage are not pre-empted by ERISA. See New York State Conference of Blue Cross & Blue Shield Plans v. Travelers Ins. Co., 514 U. S. 645, 668. Like the law at issue in Travelers, Act 900 is merely a form of cost regulation that does not dictate plan choices. Pp. 4–6.

  (2) Act 900 also does not “refer to” ERISA. It does not “ ‘ac[t] immediately and exclusively upon ERISA plans,’ ” and “ ‘the existence of ERISA plans is [not] essential to the law’s operation.’ ” Gobeille, 577 U. S., at 319–320. Act 900 affects plans only insofar as PBMs may pass along higher pharmacy rates to plans with which they contract, and Act 900 regulates PBMs whether or not the plans they service fall within ERISA’s coverage. ERISA plans are therefore also not essential to Act 900’s operation. Pp. 6–7.

 (b) PCMA’s contention that Act 900 has an impermissible connection with an ERISA plan because its enforcement mechanisms both directly affect central matters of plan administration and interfere with nationally uniform plan administration is unconvincing. First, its claim that Act 900 affects plan design by mandating a particular pricing methodology for pharmacy benefits is simply a long way of saying that Act 900 regulates reimbursement rates. Second, Act 900’s appeal procedure does not govern central matters of plan administration simply because it requires administrators to comply with a particular process and may require a plan to reprocess how much it owes a PBM. Taken to its logical endpoint, PCMA’s argument would pre-empt any suits under state law that could affect the price or provision of benefits, but this Court has held that ERISA does not pre-empt “state-law mechanisms of executing judgments against” ERISA plans, Mackey v. Lanier Collection Agency & Service, Inc., 486 U. S. 825, 831. Third, allowing pharmacies to decline to dispense a prescription if the PBM’s reimbursement will be less than the pharmacy’s cost of acquisition does not interfere with central matters of plan administration. The responsibility for offering the pharmacy a below-acquisition reimbursement lies first with the PBM. Finally, any “operational inefficiencies” caused by Act 900 are insufficient to trigger ERISA pre-emption, even if they cause plans to limit benefits or charge plan members higher rates. See De Buono v. NYSA–ILA Medical and Clinical Services Fund, 520 U. S. 806, 816. Pp. 7–10.

891 F. 3d 1109, reversed and remanded.

 Sotomayor, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which all other Members joined, except Barrett, J., who took no part in the consideration or decision of the case. Thomas, J., filed a concurring opinion.