Recently in US Supreme Court Category

This morning the Court issued an opinion in Abbott v. United States and Gould v. United States.  The Court held that a federal defendant is subject to the highest mandatory minimum specified for his conduct in 18 USC 924(c) unless another statute directed to conducted prohibited by 924(c) specifically imposes a greater mandatory minimum sentence.  The opinion was authored by Justice Ginsburg for a unanimous court.

The Court granted certiorari in Tolentino v. New York.  The case concerns the Exclusionary Rule and DMV records.

The Court also granted certiorari in Fowler v. United States.  The case concerns the federal death penalty and whether the Government presented sufficient evidence that the defendant committed murder with the intent to prevent a person from communicating information about a federal offense to a federal law enforcement officer or judge of the United States.

Briefs and lower court opinions are available at Scotusblog.
The case is Ashcroft v. al-Kidd.  Scotusblog has the details at the link.

US Supreme Court oral arguments

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On Tuesday, the Court will hear Harrington v. Richter (whether a state court's denial of an IAC claim warrants deference under AEDPA), Premo v. Moore (IAC claims based upon a plea deal made after counsel failed to suppress an unconstitutionally obtained confession), and Bruesewitz v. Wyeth (to what extent does the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 immunize vaccine manufacturers against design-defect claims).  


On Wednesday, the Court will hear Skinner v. Switzer (whether a convicted prisoner seeking access to biological evidence for DNA testing may assert that claim in a civil rights action under 42 USC 1983, or whether such a claim may be asserted only in a petition for a writ of habeas corpus) and Kasten v. Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics (whether the anti-retaliation clause of the Fair Labor Standards Act applies to oral complaints).

Bond v. United States - Whether a criminal defendant convicted under a federal statute has standing to challenge her conviction on grounds that, as applied to her, the statute is beyond the federal government's enumerated powers and inconsistent with the Tenth Amendment.


Camreta v. Greene and Alford v. Green - whether the traditional warrant/warrant exception requirements that apply to seizures of suspected criminals should apply to an interview of a child in light of reports of child abuse, or whether a balancing standard should apply; and whether the Ninth Circuit's constitutional ruling is reviewable, notwithstanding that it ruled in the petitioner's favor on qualified immunity grounds.

Duryea, PA v. Guarnieri - whether state and local government employees may sue their employers for retaliation under the First Amendment's Petition Clause when they petition the government on matters of private concern. 

DePierre v. US - Whether the term "cocaine base" encompasses every form of cocaine that is classified chemically as a base, or whether the term "cocaine base" is limited to "crack" cocaine.

Global Tech Appliances v. SEB - whether the legal standard for the "state of mind" element of a claim for actively inducing an infringement under 35 US 271(b) is "deliberate indifference of a known risk" that an infringement may occur or whether it is "purposeful, culpable expression and conduct" to encourage an infringement.


Madison County v. Oneida Indian Nation
- Whether tribal sovereign immunity from suit bars taxing authorities from foreclosing to collect lawfully imposed property taxes and whether the ancient Oneida reservation in New York was disestablished or diminished.

www.scotusblog.com will have links to the cert. petitions and responses, and the lower court opinions.
Via Scotusblog:  The US Supreme Court has announced that beginning with its October Term 2010, audio recordings of all oral arguments heard by the Court will be available, free to the public on the Court's website - www.supremecourt.gov, at the end of each argument week.

US Supreme Court grants cert. in 14 cases

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Via Scotusblog:

Title: Kentucky v. King
Issue(s): Under what circumstances can lawful police action impermissibly "create" exigent circumstances that preclude warrantless entry?

Opinion below (Supreme Court of Kentucky)

Title: United States v. Tinklenberg
Issue(s): Whether the time between the filing of a pretrial motion and its disposition is automatically excluded from the deadline for commencing trial under the Speedy Trial Act of 1974, or is instead excluded only if the motion actually causes a postponement, or the expectation of a postponement, of the trial. (Kagan, J., recused.)

Title: Freeman v. United States

Issue(s): federal sentencing guidelines for crack offenders for cases in which the defendant entered a guilty plea.

Title: Bullcoming v. New Mexico 
Issue(s): Whether admission of a blood alcohol report, through the testimony of a qualified analyst who did not conduct and observe the testing, is admissible under Crawford. v. Washington and Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts.

Title: Sykes v. United States
Issue(s): Whether a prior conviction for resisting law enforcement is a violent felony for the ACCA sentencing enhancment.

 

 

Title: Smith v. Bayer Corp.

Issues: Collateral estoppel, whether issues are identical, jurisdiction over absent members of a class

 

Title: Astra USA, Inc. v. Santa Clara County

Issue(s): Whether, in the absence of a private right of action to enforce a statute, federal courts have the federal common law authority to confer a private right of action simply because the statutory requirement sought to be enforced is embodied in a contract. (Kagan, J., recused.)

Opinion below (9th Circuit)

 

Title: Federal Communications Commission v. AT&T, Inc.

Issue(s): Whether Exemption 7(C) of the Freedom of Information Act -- which exempts from mandatory disclosure records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes when such disclosure could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of "personal privacy" - protects the "privacy" of corporate entities. (Kagan, J., recused.)

 

 

The two cases below are consolidated.

Title: General Dynamics Corp. v. United States
Issue(s): Whether the government can maintain its claim against a party when it invokes the state-secrets privilege to completely deny that party a defense to the claim.

Title: The Boeing Company v. United States
Issue(s): Whether the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment permits the government to maintain a claim while simultaneously asserting the state-secrets privilege to bar presentation of a prima facie valid defense to that claim.

 

 

Title: J. McIntyre Machinery v. Nicastro
Docket: 09-1343
Issue(s): May a state exercise in personam jurisdiction over a foreign manufacturer solely because the manufacturer targets the US market and the product is purchased by a consumer in the forum state.

Title: Goodyear v. Brown
Issue(s): Whether a foreign corporation is subject to general personal jurisdiction, on causes of action not arising out of or related to any contacts between it and the forum state, merely because other entities distribute in the forum state products placed in the stream of commerce by the defendant.

Title: Stern v. Marshall
Issue(s): (1) Whether the Ninth Circuit's interpretation of 28 U.S.C. § 157(b)(2)(C) contravenes congressional intent; (2) whether Congress may authorize core jurisdiction over debtors' compulsory counterclaims to proofs of claim; and (3) whether the Ninth Circuit contravened Supreme Court precedent and created a circuit split by holding that Congress cannot constitutionally authorize non-Article III bankruptcy judges to enter final judgment on all compulsory counterclaims to proofs of claim.

Opinion below (9th Circuit)

Title: Schindler Elevator Corp. v. US ex rel. Kirk
Issue(s): Whether a federal agency's response to a Freedom of Information Act request is a "report . . . or investigation" within the meaning of the False Claims Act public disclosure bar, 31 U.S.C. § 3730(e)(4). (Kagan, J., recused.)

 

Somewhat lost among the four opinions issued yesterday was a per curiam decision in Sears v. Upton (scroll down a few pages).  It's a must-read for those handling capital or habeas cases.  The Court finds that the lower courts erred in assessing the prejudice caused by counsel's failure to fully investigate and present mitigating evidence.  The trial court had found that the defendant could not demonstrate prejudice because some mitigating evidence was presented, despite the fact that the mitigation presented at trial was minimal, and the mitigation that was available but not presented was overwhelming.  "Although the [trial] court appears to have stated the proper prejudice standard, it did not correctly conceptualize how that standard applies to the circumstances of this case."  Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito would have not granted certiorari.  Justice Scalia authored a dissenting opinion that is joined by Justice Alito.

Via Scotusblog:

In McDonald v. Chicago, the Court reverses and remands in an opinion by Justice Alito.  The vote is 5-4.  Justice Stevens writes a dissenting opinion, and Justice Breyer writes a separate one, joined by Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor.  The opinion finds that the Second Amendment rights recognized in Heller, to keep and bear arms, applies to the states.  Justice Alito finds that the right exists through the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment.  Justice Thomas finds that the right exists through the Privileges or Immunities Clause.  The opinion is 204 pages.

In  Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, the Court affirms and remands, in an opinion by Ginsburg.  The vote is 5-4. Justice Alito dissents, joined by the Chief Justice and Justices Scalia and Thomas.  Justices Stevens and Kennedy each concur.  The Court finds that a policy of Hastings College of Law, which mandates an "all comers" policy for student groups receiving school funding, is constitutionally reasonable and may therefore be enforced.

In  Bilski v. Kappos, the Court affirms, in an opinion by Justice Kennedy.   The opinion for the majority is not supported in all respects by those who join in part.  Justice Breyer concurs in the judgment, joined by Scalia.  Stevens concurs in the judgment, joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor.  The opinion concerns patent law.

In  Free Enterprise Fund v. Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, the Court reverses in part, affirms in part, and remands, in an opinion by the Chief Justice.  The vote is 5-4.  Justice Breyer dissents, joined by Justices Stevens, Ginsburg, and Sotomayor.  The Court finds that certain limitations on the power to remove board members is unconstitutional under the separation of powers doctrine.

Live coverage is available on c-span.

With thanks to Scotusblog:

Carr v. United States - the Court, on a 6-3 vote, reverses and remands in an opinion by Justice Sotomayor. Justice Scalia concurs in part and in the judgment, but joins most of Justice Sotomayor's opinion.  Justice Alito dissents, joined by Justices Thomas and Ginsburg.

  • Holding: The Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, a 2007 law that requires sex offenders to register, does not apply to sex offenders whose interstate travel occurred before the Act went into effect.

The Court rejects the Government's argument that a violation of 18 U.S.C. 2250(a), which requires (1) a sex-offense conviction, (2) subsequent interstate travel, and (3) a failure to register, may be violated by a failure to register after the effective date, even if the conviction and interstate travel took place before the effective date.  The Court's ruling deals primarily with statutory interpretation and deals extensively with past tense vs. present tense words.  The Court does not address the ex-post facto clause issues because the case is resolved as a matter of statutory interpretation.

Berghuis v. Thompkins - the Court reverses and remands in an opinion by Justice Kennedy.  The vote is 5-4, with Justice Sotomayor dissenting joined by Justices Stevens, Ginsburg, and Breyer.

  • Holding: The Court upholds the state court decision rejecting the claim of a violation of Miranda v. Arizona.  The defendant's silence while being questioned by police did not amount to an invocation of his Miranda right to remain silent.

After advising Thompkins of his rights, detectives interrogated him about a shooting.  He did not say that he wanted to remain silent or that he wanted an attorney.  He was largely silent during the 3-hour interrogation, but eventually said "yes" when asked if he prayed to God to forgive him for the shooting.  The Sixth Circuit found that Thompkins had not waived his right to remain silent and found that the state court was unreasonable in finding an implied waiver based upon Thompkins' response to the detectives.   The Supreme Court finds that the state court's decision was correct and that silence during an interrogation does not invoke the right to remain silent.  Officers are not required to obtain a waiver before interrogating the accused. As with the right to counsel, the defendant must make an unambiguous invocation of the right to remain silent.  In other words, a defendant is required to speak, by saying that he wants to remain silent or does not want to talk, and may not merely remain silent to invoke his right to remain silent.  Insane.  Here's to hoping that our state constitution provides a more rational result.

Levin v. Commerce Energy - the Court reverses and remands, with Justice Ginsburg writing the opinion for the Court.  The vote is unanimous.  Justice Kennedy concurs and Justice Thomas concurs in the judgment only, joined by Justice Scalia.  Justice Alito concurs separately in the judgment.

  • Holding: Under the doctrine of comity, a tax payer's lawsuit claiming discriminatory state taxation must proceed originally in state court, even when it is a request to increase the tax burden on a competitor.

 

Alabama v. North Carolina -  the Court overrules the exceptions to the Special Master's reports and adopts the Special Master's recommendations.  Justice Scalia writes the opinion for the Court.  The Chief Justice dissents in part and concurs in part, joined by Justice Thomas. 

Samantar v. Yousuf - the Court affirms the lower court's judgment and remands the case, in an opinion by Justice Stevens.  The vote is unanimous.  Justice Alito concurs, Justice Thomas concurs in part and concurs in the judgment, and Justice Scalia separately concurs in the judgment.

  • Holding:  Former Somalian official Mohamed Ali Samantar's claim of immunity to a damages lawsuit for alleged atrocities in Somalia is not governed by the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.  But the Court leaves to litigation in the lower court whether Samantar is entitled to common law immunity, or whether he may assert other legal defenses.

 

The Court granted certiorari in Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research v. United States.  The issue presented is whether the Treasury Department can categorically exclude all medical residents and other full-time employees from the definition of "student" in 26 USC 3121(b)(1), which exempts from Social Security taxes "service performed in the employ of a school, college or university" by a "student who is enrolled and regularly attending classes at such school, college or university."  Briefs are available at the link above.

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