Minimum Competence - Daily Legal News Podcast
Minimum Competence
Legal News for Fri 6/28 - 5th Circuit Conservative Push Continues, Home Health Industry Renews Lawsuit Against Medicare Cuts and NFL Antitrust Verdict

Legal News for Fri 6/28 - 5th Circuit Conservative Push Continues, Home Health Industry Renews Lawsuit Against Medicare Cuts and NFL Antitrust Verdict

Fifth Circuit's conservative legal push despite Supreme Court setbacks, the home health industry's renewed lawsuit against Medicare cuts, and the NFL is hit with a massive antitrust verdict.
Supreme Court of the United States, pencil sketch

This Day in Legal History: Regents of the University of California v. Bakke

On June 28, 1978, the US Supreme Court delivered a landmark decision in the case of Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, shaping the future of affirmative action in university admissions. The case centered around Allan Bakke, a white applicant who was twice denied admission to the University of California, Davis Medical School, despite having higher test scores than some minority candidates who were admitted under a special admissions program. Bakke argued that he was a victim of racial discrimination.

The Court's ruling was complex, resulting in a split opinion. By a narrow 5-4 margin, the Supreme Court held that the university's use of rigid racial quotas, specifically reserving 16 out of 100 seats for minority students, violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This decision invalidated the quota system used by the university.

However, the Court also ruled, in a separate 5-4 vote, that race could be considered as one of many factors in the admissions process. This part of the decision, delivered by Justice Lewis Powell, emphasized that while quotas were unconstitutional, affirmative action programs aimed at increasing diversity and providing opportunities for historically disadvantaged groups could be constitutionally permissible.

The Bakke decision was a pivotal moment in the ongoing debate over affirmative action, setting a precedent that continues to influence educational policies and the broader discourse on racial equality in the United States. The case highlighted the delicate balance between prohibiting racial discrimination and promoting diversity and inclusion in higher education.

Despite repeated reversals from the Supreme Court, the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has continued to push conservative legal boundaries. This term, the Supreme Court reversed or vacated six out of nine Fifth Circuit decisions, yet still made significant rulings in favor of conservative positions, including limiting the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) enforcement power and rejecting a federal bump stock ban. Observers note that while the Supreme Court often overturned Fifth Circuit rulings, it also aligned with the circuit's conservative ideology in key cases.

A notable example was the Supreme Court's decision that people subject to civil penalties for alleged securities fraud have a constitutional right to a jury trial, significantly impacting the SEC's adjudication process. Another major case saw the Supreme Court upholding the Fifth Circuit’s rejection of the bump stock ban, a regulation initially issued by the Trump administration. 

The Fifth Circuit also won a case involving incomplete deportation hearing notices, which, though technical, reflected the court's influence. However, the Supreme Court criticized the Fifth Circuit for overreaching, particularly on issues like the abortion pill mifepristone and social media censorship, emphasizing the importance of standing.

The Fifth Circuit’s decisions are often driven by judges appointed by former President Donald Trump, whose influence reshaped the court. Legal experts suggest that despite some setbacks, the Fifth Circuit’s conservative rulings continue to shape national policies, revealing a complex interplay between the circuit and the Supreme Court.

Conservatives Gain Despite Fifth Circuit Setbacks at High Court

The home health industry is preparing to refile its lawsuit against Medicare payment cuts after a recent unfavorable court ruling. William A. Dombi, president of the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC), stated that the organization will first complete the necessary administrative appeals before returning to court. This legal battle could significantly impact Medicare home health providers and beneficiaries.

The US District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed NAHC's initial lawsuit because it was filed before exhausting all administrative remedies. Instead of appealing, NAHC will follow the court’s directive and refile the case. Meanwhile, industry groups are lobbying Congress to pass legislation to block a proposed 1.7% cut to home health payments in 2025.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) proposed a 2.5% payment increase but also a 3.6% cut due to a “permanent behavior adjustment” and a 0.6% cut for outlier payments. This is the third consecutive year of proposed cuts, which, according to Joanne Cunningham, CEO of the Partnership for Quality Home Healthcare, make it difficult for providers to meet the growing care demands of an aging population. High labor costs and workforce shortages exacerbate these challenges, and Katie Smith Sloan of LeadingAge noted that the cuts make it harder to recruit nurses.

Senators Debbie Stabenow and Susan Collins, along with Representatives Terri Sewell and Adrian Smith, have introduced legislation to block the CMS proposal and restrict its authority over payment adjustments based on provider behavior. Dombi emphasized ongoing efforts with lawmakers, indicating that CMS is unlikely to change its stance.

The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) has consistently recommended reductions in home health payments, citing that current payments are significantly higher than costs. Their latest report projects a profit margin of 18% for 2024, arguing that excess payments diminish the value of home health care. However, Dombi countered that MedPAC’s estimates don’t account for lower payments from private Medicare Advantage plans, which now cover a majority of Medicare beneficiaries.

Home Health Agencies to Renew Suit Over Medicare Payment Rates

A California federal jury has ordered the National Football League (NFL) to pay over $4.7 billion in damages for overcharging subscribers of its "Sunday Ticket" telecasts. The jury found that the NFL conspired with member teams to inflate the price of "Sunday Ticket" for millions of residential and commercial subscribers. This decision followed more than a decade of litigation. The plaintiffs, who were DirecTV subscribers, argued that the NFL's agreements with broadcast partners allowed DirecTV to charge higher prices by monopolizing distribution. A judge may triple the damages under U.S. antitrust law, potentially bringing the total to over $14 billion. The NFL plans to contest the verdict.

NFL hit with $4.7 billion verdict in 'Sunday Ticket' antitrust trial | Reuters

Ludwig van Beethoven, pencil sketch

This week’s closing theme is by Ludwig van Beethoven, once again, and still a composer of some note.

As we close out this week, we turn to the life and music of Ludwig van Beethoven, one of classical music’s most iconic figures. On June 28, 1802, Beethoven penned a poignant letter to his friend Franz Wegeler, revealing his deep struggles with his worsening deafness. Despite the profound personal challenge this posed, Beethoven's determination to overcome his condition fueled some of his most extraordinary compositions.

In light of this story, our closing theme is Beethoven’s "Symphony No. 3 in E-flat major, Op. 55," commonly known as the "Eroica Symphony." This symphony, composed between 1803 and 1804, epitomizes Beethoven's resilience and innovation. Originally dedicated to Napoleon Bonaparte, whom Beethoven admired for his democratic ideals, the dedication was famously retracted when Napoleon declared himself emperor. The "Eroica" is renowned for its emotional depth and groundbreaking structure, marking a significant shift from classical to romantic symphonic form.

Beethoven's ability to compose such a powerful and transformative piece while grappling with the despair of impending deafness is a testament to his genius and perseverance. The "Eroica Symphony" not only reflects Beethoven’s personal triumphs but also serves as an enduring symbol of human resilience in the face of adversity.

As you listen to the stirring movements of this symphony, remember the indomitable spirit of Beethoven. Let his story and music inspire you as we conclude this week, reminding us all of the power of determination and the beauty that can emerge from our greatest challenges. Thank you for joining us, and we look forward to sharing more with you next week.

Once again and without further ado, Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 in E-flat major, Op. 55, the “Eroica Symphony” – enjoy!

Minimum Competence - Daily Legal News Podcast
Minimum Competence
The idea is that this podcast can accompany you on your commute home and will render you minimally competent on the major legal news stories of the day. The transcript is available in the form of a newsletter at