US Supreme Court: December 2009 Archives

Via Scotusblog, the US Supreme Court issued four authored opinions this morning.

Beard v. Kindler Vacated and remanded.  Chief Justice Roberts authored the opinion of the Court; Justice Kennedy concurred, joined by Justice Thomas.  Justice Alito took no part.  The Court holds that a state procedural rule is not automatically "inadequate" under the adequate state ground doctrine, for federal habeas corpus petitions, because the state procedural rule is discretionary rather than mandatory.  The controlling question is whether the state rule is firmly established and regularly followed.

The opinion is here

Alvarez v. Smith : Vacated and remanded as moot.  Justice Breyer authored the opinion of the Court; Justice Stevens joined in part, filing an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part (so the vote count is 8-1 on some parts).  The Court had granted certiorari on the issue of whether a state's failure to provide a speedy postseizure hearing, concerning forfeiture of movable personal property used to facilitate a drug crime, violated the federal due process clause.  The Court finds that the case is moot because the property disputes between the parties had been resolved.  The Court finds that the lower court judgment should be vacated.

The opinion is here.

Mohawk Industries v. Carpenter  Affirmed.  Justice Sotomayor delivered the opinion of the Court; Justice Thomas joined in part and filed a separate opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment. The Court holds that disclosure orders about the attorney-client privilege cannot qualify for immediate appeal under the collateral order doctrine.  An erroneous order compelling disclosure can be remedied by postjudgment review.  In other situations, a party may ask for an interlocutory appeal involving a controlling question of law, a party may seek a writ of mandamus, or the party may defy a disclosure order and incur court-imposed sanctions. 

The opinion is here.

Union Pacific Railroad Co. v. Brotherhood of Teamsters : Affirmed. Justice Ginsburg wrote for a unanimous Court.  The opinion deals with jurisdiction and the National Railroad Adjustment Board.  Scotusblog will have more details.

The opinion is here.


The US Supreme Court has issued two recent per curiam decisions: one today and one last week.

In Michigan v. Fisher, the Court finds that police officers acted reasonably in entering a home without a warrant based upon their belief that there was a need to render emergency assistance.  The failure to call for emergency medical assistance was not determinative because officers needed to assure that the person was not endangering someone else in the house as they had observed violent behavior inside.  Justice Stevens and Sotomayor dissented.

In Porter v. McCollum, the Court finds that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to investigate and present evidence of post-traumatic stress disorder during a capital penalty phase.  In the unanimous pc opinion, the Court noted that "Our Nation has a long tradition of according leniency to veterans in recognition of their service, especially for those who fought on the front lines as Porter did."  This is a must read for those defending capital cases.

This morning the US Supreme Court granted certiorari in two cases.  In Christian Legal Society v. Martin the Court will decide whether it is unconstitutional for a state-run college (Hastings Law School) to exclude from official status a student religious group that limits its officers and voting members to those who accept its religious beliefs.  In Dillon v. U.S., the Court will consider whether the Court's 2005 ruling in U.S. v. Booker, which made the federal sentencing guidelines advisory rather than mandatory, applies to sentence modification proceedings.

The briefs in these cases and today's order list are available via Scotusblog.

About this Archive

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

US Supreme Court: October 2009 is the previous archive.

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