US Supreme Court: January 2009 Archives

The United States Supreme Court has granted certiorari to the Ninth Circuit in a federal habeas corpus case concerning a Nevada conviction.  The questions presented in the State's petition are:

1.  What is the standard of review for a federal habeas court for analyzing a sufficiency-of-the evidence claim under the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA)?

2.  Does analysis of a sufficiency-of-the-evidence claim pursuant to Jackson v. Virginia, 443 US 307, 318-19 (1979), under 28 USC 2254(d)(1) permit a federal habeas court to expland the record or consider non-record evidence to determine the reliability of testimony and evidence given at trial?

The Ninth Circuit's opinion  and the brief in opposition are available.  Paul Turner at the Federal Public Defender's Office represents Troy Brown.  The Ninth Circuit affirmed a ruling by Judge Pro that there was insufficient evidence to support a sexual assault conviction against Troy Brown for murder.  False DNA testimony was provided to the jury and the State conceded that there was insufficient evidence to sustain the conviction without the false testimony.  At issue is a statistical analysis that was submitted in the federal court proceedings that was submitted as a supplement to a claim raised in state court.

The Court also granted certiorari in Mohawk Industries v. Carpenter (whether a party may immediately appeal a discovery order to disclose materials said to be covered by the attorney-client privilege) and Maryland v. Shatzer (whether Edwards v. Arizona, which bars police from initiating questioning with criminal suspects who have invoked their right to counsel, applies to an interrogation that takes place nearly three years later).  Scotusblog provides links to the lower court opinions, petitions and briefs in opposition in those cases. 

US Supreme Court issues opinions

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Apparently there's a lot of consensus at the United States Supreme Court lately, as today's five opinions are all unanimous as to the judgment and there's only one concurring opinion in the group.

Van de Camp v. Goldstein - Prosecutors are absolutely immune from liability in section 1983 civil rights suits brought against prosecutorial actions that are "intimately associated with the judicial phase of the criminal process," and this includes a District Attorney's supervision, training and information-system management claims associated with providing discovery and impeachment information to a defendant in a criminal case.   Absolute immunicty may not apply when a prosecutor is not acting as "an officer of the court," but is instead engaging in investigative or administrative tasks, but discovery issues are directly connected with a trial's conduct and therefore absolute immunity applies.  Justice Breyer authored the opinion.

 Arizona v. Johnson - Terry v. Ohio -- which authorizes "stop and frisk" searches if the temporary detention is lawful (the officer reasonably suspects that the person apprehended is committing or has committed a crime) and the officer reasonably suspects that the person is armed and dangerous -- applies to passengers during a traffic stop.  Based on the "same weighty interest in officer safety," a passenger may be frisked for weapons if an officer reasonably concludes that the passenger might be armed and dangerous.  Justice Ginsburg authored the opinion.

Crawford v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville - The antiretaliation provisions of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act extend to an employee who speaks out about discrimination in response to answering questions during an employer's internal investgation, not just claims made on her own initiative.  Justice Souter authored the majority opinion.  Justice Alito authored a concurring opinion that was joined by Justice Thomas.

Kennedy v. Plan Administrators for Dupont Savings - ERISA, divorce, assignment and alienation.

US v. Eurodif - uranium and anti-dumping 

US Supreme Court issues 5 opinions

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Pearson v. Callahan - qualified immunity for police officers.  Unanimous opinion authored by Justice Alito.  The Court overrules the procedure for determining whether officers are immune from a civil rights action that was established in Saucier v. Katz.  It explains the standards following stare decisis vs. revisiting precedent.  It also finds that the Saucier procedure is often appropriate, but is no longer mandatory in all cases.  The Court also finds that the search at issue, which involved "consent once removed" and an informant, was not cleraly established as unconstitutional at the time of entry, so the officers are entitled to qualified immunity.

Fitzgerald v. Barnstable School Committee - Title IX action re: gender discrimination.  Unanimous opinion authored by Justice Alito.  The Court holds that Title IX does not preclude a 1983 civil rights action alleging unconstitutional gender discrimination in schools.

Locke v. Karass - public sector unions and non-member agency fees for litigation expenses.  Justice Breyer authored the majority opinion.  Justice Alito authored a concurring opinion which was joined by Chief Justice and Justice Scalia.  The Court holds that the First Amendment permits a local union to charge nonmembers for national litigation expenses in certain situations.

Waddington v. Sarausad - habeas relief and ambiguous jury instruction.  Justice Thomas authored the majority opinion.  Justice Souter authored a dissenting opinion which was joined by Justices Stevens and Ginsburg.  The Court holds that the Ninth Circuit erred in granting habeas relief because a Washington court's decision that a jury instruction defining accomplice liability was not ambiguous was not an objectively unreasonable decision.  The Court also finds that the Ninth Circuit erred in concluding that there was a reasonable likelihood that the prosecutor's closing argument caused the jury to apply the instruction in a way that relieved the State of its burden to prove every element beyond a reasonable doubt. 

Spears v. United States - Per curiam opinion concerning the federal sentencing guidelines and the crack/powder cocaine disparity.


On Friday the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari in six cases, three of which involve criminal law related issues:

Bobby v. Bies:  Whether the holding of a state post-conviction hearing to determine the mental capacity of a capital defendant whose death sentence was affirmed before Atkins v. Virginia (2002), which barred the execution of mentally retarded defendants, violates the Double Jeopardy clause where the issue of mental capacity has already been addressed at trial and on direct appeal.

Safford United School District #1 v. Redding: Whether the Fourth Amendment prohibits public school officials from conducting a strip search of a student suspected of possessing and distributing prescription strength ibuprofen on campus in violation of school policy.

Nijhawan v. Mukasey:  Whether the petitioner's conviction for mail, bank and wire fraud qualified as an aggravated felony under the immigration laws, the penalty for which is lifetime banishment from the country.

The other three cases are the following:

Forest Grove School District, Petitioner v. T. A.: Whether parents of a student who has never previously received special education services from a school district may be eligible under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act for reimbursement of private school tuition.

Cuomo v. The Clearing House Ass'n, L.L.C.,:  Whether 12 USC § 484 and 12 CFR § 7.4000 prohibit measures taken by a state prosecutor to enforce state fair lending law against national banks by subjecting those entities to "visitorial powers."

U.S. ex rel. Eisenstein v. City of New York: Whether the 30-day time limit in Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 4(a)(1)(A) for filing a notice of appeal, or the 60-day time limit in Rule 4(a)(1)(B), applies to a qui tam action under the False Claims Act.

Scotusblog provides links to the lower court opinions, petitions, oppositions, replies and amicus briefs.  Briefing will be expedited so the cases may be ruled upon in this term.

This morning the United States Supreme Court issued opinions in two criminal cases.

In Oregon v. Ice, the Court issues a 5-4 decision in which it holds that there is no constitutional violation based upon a judge's imposition of consecutive sentences based upon facts that were not found by the jury.  An Oregon statute provides that sentences for multiple crimes are to be served concurrently unless the trial judge finds that the crimes did not occur as part of the same course of conduct or resulted in separate harms.  The majority opinion is authored by Justice Ginsburg and joined by Justices Alito, Breyer, Kennedy and Stevens. Justice Scalia authored a dissenting opinion which was joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Souter and Thomas. 

In Herring v. U.S., the Court issues a 5-4 decision in which it holds that evidence of a crime is not subject to the Exclusionary Rule if police obtained it while relying on erroneous information supplied by another police officer, unless the situation involves a systemic error or reckless disregard of constitutional requirements.  The majority opinion is authored by Chief Justice Roberts and joined by Justices Alito, Kennedy, Scalia and Thomas.  Justice Ginsburg authored a dissenting opinion which was joined by Justices Breyer, Souter and Stevens.  Justice Breyer filed another dissenting opinion that was joined by Justice Souter. 

This morning the United States Supreme Court issued opinions in Chambers v. United States and Jimenez v. Quarterman. 

In Chambers, the Court concludes that a state court offense of failure to report for penal confinement was not a "violent felony" under the Armed Career Criminal Act.  The federal statute defines "violent felony" in part as a crime that "involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another."  The Court holds that it is the generic crime that counts, not how the crime was committed on a particular occasion.  Under this categorical approach, failure to report for prison is not a violent felony.  The opinion is authored by Justice Breyer.  Justice Alito filed an opinion concurring in the judgment which was joined by Justice Thomas.

In Jimenez, the Court addresses AEDPA's 1 year limitation under 28 USC 2244(d) in a case where a defendant is granted an out-of-time appeal by a state court.  The Court holds that where a state court grants a criminal defendant the right to file an out-of-time direct appeal during state habeas proceedings, but before the defendant has first sought federal habeas review, his judgment is not "final" for purposes of 28 USC 2244(d)(1)(A) until the conclusion of the out-of-time direct appeal or the expiration of the time for seeking certiorari review of that appeal.  Once a state court reopens direct review of a conviction, the conviction is no longer final for 2244(d)(1)(A) purposes.  Justice Thomas authored the unanimous opinion.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the US Supreme Court category from January 2009.

US Supreme Court: December 2008 is the previous archive.

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