Category: U.S. Supreme Court

The Stench of Politics at DOJ

Remember all the stuff we were hearing during the Presidential campaign about how we needed to make a change in order to get politics out of the Justice Department?  It was all a joke  —  on us.  Ed Whelan has the story today of what would surely be a scandal if Bill Barr tried it, and is a scandal today, squarely on the plate of Merrick Garland  —  a man I’m sure knows better.

Continue reading . . .

Supreme Court Decides Two Change-in-Law Questions

The Supreme Court decided two cases today dealing with how to address existing cases when the law changes. Greer v. United States, No. 19-8709, addresses the situation where the defense lawyer does not object at trial, because the law seems settled at the time, but the Supreme Court later decides to the contrary. Terry v. United States, No. 20-5904, addresses which inmates convicted prior to the First Step Act can get their sentences for crack cocaine offenses reduced. Continue reading . . .

Fractured Supreme Court Cripples Armed Career Criminal Act

The U.S. Supreme Court today issued a fractured decision that will severely limit the provision of the Armed Career Criminal Act that allowed the federal government to put away habitual felons who commit three violent felonies.

Definitions of crimes generally require both a bad act and a bad state of mind. For many violent crimes in many states, the bad state of mind may be either intentional or reckless. In deciding whether a prior conviction is for a violent crime, the Supreme Court looks only at the definition, not the actual facts of the crime.

Under today’s decision in Borden v. United States, No. 19-5410, violent crimes that could possibly be committed recklessly will no longer be considered “violent” for ACCA purposes no matter how clearly intentional the crime was in the actual case.

There is no majority opinion providing a coherent rationale for this appalling result. Continue reading . . .

Supreme Court Takes Up Surveillance Case

The U.S. Supreme Court today took up a case on the relationship between the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and the common law “state secrets” privilege. The Ninth Circuit had held that the procedures in FISA regarding deciding the legality of surveillance displace the traditional privilege. The case is FBI v. Fazaga, No. 20-828. The government’s petition for certiorari is here. Continue reading . . .

Supreme Court Takes Up Capital Habeas Corpus Case

The U.S. Supreme Court this morning decided to take up for full briefing and argument the Arizona capital habeas corpus case of Shinn v. Ramirez, No. 20-1009.

The case involves the interaction between the Court’s “equitable exception” to the procedural default rule in Martinez v. Ryan and one of the lesser-known habeas reforms of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(2). Continue reading . . .

Supreme Court Limits “Caretaking” Searches and Seizures in Home

The U.S. Supreme Court today decided Caniglia v. Strom, No. 20-157:

Decades ago, this Court held that a warrantless search of an impounded vehicle for an unsecured firearm did not violate the Fourth Amendment. Cady v. Dombrowski, 413 U. S. 433 (1973). In reaching this conclusion, the Court observed that police officers who patrol the “public highways” are often called to discharge noncriminal “community care-taking functions,” such as responding to disabled vehicles or investigating accidents. Id., at 441. The question today is whether Cady’s acknowledgment of these “caretaking” duties creates a standalone doctrine that justifies warrantless searches and seizures in the home. It does not. Continue reading . . .