Monthly Archive: February 2020

Additional Malvo Replacement Candidates

Yesterday, I noted the case of Newton v. Indiana, No. 17-1511 as a possible replacement for the recently-dropped Malvo case on sentencing juvenile murderers to life-without-parole. I have since been made aware of four other cases also listed for tomorrow’s U.S. Supreme Court conference. Update: See end of post.

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Circuit Split on Sanctuary Cities and Byrne Grants

Yesterday the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit decided in favor of the federal government in New York v. USDOJ, No. 19-267. The court upheld the authority of DoJ to withhold federal funds for state and local law enforcement in the Byrne Grant program from jurisdictions that refuse certain cooperation with enforcement of federal immigration law.

This decision creates a split of authority among the federal circuits, as the Seventh, Third, and Ninth Circuits have decided differently. Unless the full Second Circuit overrules the three-judge panel, the Supreme Court is likely to resolve the issue.

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Support for New Bail Law Plunges in NY

Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg says, “Support for the new bail law – which took effect in January after passage as part of the budget last year – continues to plummet. In April, New Yorkers thought the new law would be good for the state by 17 points. Last month, voters said the new law is bad for the state by a margin of 12 points. Today, that margin for thinking the law is bad for New York has bulged to 26 points.”

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Next JLWOP Case on Conference List for Friday

Well, that didn’t take long. On Monday the parties asked the U.S. Supreme Court to drop the now-moot juvenile life-without-parole (JLWOP) case of the D.C. Sniper, Jr., as noted in this post. I expected the Court to take up the case of Newton v. Indiana, No. 17-1511, presenting the same issue. Sure enough, after nearly a year on hold pending Malvo, the Newton case is suddenly on the conference list for this Friday.

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California Death Row Dispersal

Earlier this month we noted the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s pilot program to disperse death-sentenced inmates away from death row. This authority was given to CDCR in Proposition 66 to defuse the abolition advocates’ argument that keeping them in San Quentin was much more expensive than it would cost to house the same murderers if they were not sentenced to death. CDCR now has an information page on its website further explaining the pilot program.

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Cross-Border Shooting Case Decided Today

Today the U.S. Supreme Court held in Hernandez v. Mesa that the parents (citizens of Mexico) of a teenager (also a citizen of Mexico) who was shot and killed by a U.S. Border Patrol Agent on the Mexican side of the U.S.-Mexico border are prohibited from suing the agent for damages under the U.S. Constitution.

CJLF originally joined the case in 2017 to encourage a decision denying the lawsuit.  We argued that in a case involving relations between the U.S. and a foreign country, the judicial branch should not step in but should leave the matter to Congress.  CJLF’s amicus curiae brief in that case (Hernandez I) is available here.

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Major Death Penalty Decision in McKinney

Today the U.S. Supreme Court decided two major issues in capital litigation in McKinney v. Arizona. The Court affirmed that the jury trial requirement of Ring v. Arizona applies only to the finding of an aggravating circumstance that makes a defendant eligible for the death penalty, not to the weighing process or the final sentencing decision.

The Court also reaffirmed that a state appellate court may fix a problem at trial regarding the aggravating and mitigating circumstances by reweighing them itself, rather than sending the case back for a new sentencing hearing.

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Malvo, Mootness, and Munsingwear

As noted in my post earlier today, the Virginia Legislature has enacted a law that eliminates, for that state, the dispute underlying the U.S. Supreme Court case of Mathena v. Malvo, No. 18-217. There is no doubt that the case should now be removed from the Supreme Court’s docket, leaving the issue to be decided in another case. It does matter how this is done, however.

Virginia had successfully asked the Court to take up the case to decide this question:

Did the Fourth Circuit err in concluding that a decision of this Court (Montgomery) addressing whether a new constitutional rule announced in an earlier decision (Miller) applies retroactively on collateral review is properly interpreted as modifying and substantially expanding the very rule whose retroactivity was in question?

Virginia then proceeded to argue that the answer is “no.” That is correct, in my opinion, and it remains correct despite the legislative change mooting the underlying question. Why should this erroneous precedent stand until the Supreme Court is able to decide the issue in another case?

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