WASHINGTON - Every year, the United States Supreme Court issues decisions in around 70 cases, rulings that can profoundly affect American society for generations to come. But the powerful high court also considers a handful of cases with far-reaching consequences for the citizens, businesses and governments of other countries.
This year the court decided at least five such cases. They include whether Indian farmers and fishermen can sue the private sector arm of the World Bank in federal U.S. court and whether an undocumented student from the United Arab Emirates can be convicted for illegally possessing firearms.
Here is a look at them:
Apple Inc. v. Pepper
In a big win for iPhone users, the Supreme Court allowed an antitrust lawsuit against the global tech giant to proceed. In the 2013 lawsuit, four iPhone users accused Apple of unfairly raising app prices through its monopoly of the App Store. The iPhone maker asked a federal court to throw out the lawsuit, arguing the users could not sue the company because they buy apps from the developers and not Apple. The justices did not weigh whether Apple violated antitrust laws but allowed the lawsuit to proceed in lower courts.
Nielsen v. Preap
The justices ruled that immigration authorities can legally keep deportable immigrants in custody pending a removal decision, strengthening the Trump administration’s hand amid a crackdown on illegal immigration. The defendants in the case fell into one of four categories justifying automatic deportation but they argued that they could not be subject to immediate removal because they were not detained by immigration officials right after their release from prison. The court rejected that argument, allowing the government to keep them in detention.
The ruling was a victory for a group of Indian residents suing the World Bank’s finance arm. At issue was whether the fishing and farming communities of Gujrat, India, could sue the IFC in U.S. court over environmental and economic harm allegedly caused by a coal-fired power plant funded by the organization. IFC cited a U.S. law granting it immunity from lawsuits, but the court focused on another law that makes an exception for foreign organizations engaged in commercial activities like IFC, enabling the fishermen to sue.
This decision was a setback for the victims of the 2000 USS Cole bombing and their families suing the government of Sudan for financial compensation. U.S. law generally protects foreign governments from civil lawsuits, but governments designated as state sponsors of terrorism such as Sudan’s lose that immunity. A district court ordered $314 million in damages, but Sudan challenged the ruling on a technicality, arguing that the plaintiffs improperly sent their complaint to Sudan’s embassy in Washington instead of its foreign ministry in Khartoum. The high court agreed with Sudan. The ruling means the plaintiffs will have to start the lawsuit all over again.
Rehaif v. U.S.
The justices reversed the conviction of an undocumented student from the United Arab Emirates charged with illegally possessing firearms. Hamid Rehaif entered the United States on a student visa but was dismissed from school because of poor grades. Rehaif later used guns at a shooting range. The government prosecuted him under a law that makes it illegal for undocumented foreign nationals to possess firearms. A jury found him guilty. The high court ruled that in cases such as Rehaif’s, the government “must prove both that the defendant knew he possessed a firearm and that he knew he belonged to the relevant category of persons barred from possessing a firearm.”