federal court

Let’s hope Justice Kagan is wrong about this ominous prediction in her dissenting opinion in Knick v. Township of Scott: “today’s decision means that government regulators will often have no way to avoid violating the Constitution.”

In a 5-4 opinion the Supreme Court held that a property owner may proceed directly to federal court with a takings claim. In Knick the Court overturned Williamson County Regional Planning Commission v. Hamilton Bank of Johnson City (1985), which held that before a takings claim may be brought in federal court, a property owner must first seek just compensation under state law in state court. The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) amicus brief urged the Court to keep Williamson County.

The issue in Merrill Lynch v. Manning is whether state law claims alleging that the “naked” short selling at issue in this case violated state law must be heard in federal court.

In a short sale, a short seller identifies a security he or she believes will decline in value, borrows some of those securities from a broker and sells them. When the securities decline in value he or she rebuys them and makes a profit.

In a “naked” short sale the seller doesn’t borrow the securities in time to deliver them to the buyer—to manipulate the security’s price or to avoid borrowing costs. While “naked” short selling isn’t per se illegal under federal law, some schemes may violate federal antifraud law and Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) rules.