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November 1, 2010

New SCOTUS cert grants on a number of criminal procedure issues

As detailed in this order list, the Supreme Court this morning granted cert in five new cases and it appears that at least three involve criminal justice matters.  Sentencing fans should not get too excited, however, as it appears that the three cases involve Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendment pre-trial issues. 

The cases still seem likely to garner significant buzz; they deal with various high-profile procedural concerns involving the exclusionary rule, Miranda warnings, and right to counsel.  This post by Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSblog spotlights some of the particulars.  As detailed in Lyle's post, sentencing fans might want to keep an eye on the right to counsel case if it gets past a procedural hurdle:

The Court took on a potentially significant case on the right of a poor person to have a lawyer when facing a possible jail sentence, but indicated that the case may have jurisdictional problems. In Turner v. Price, et al. (10-10), the main issue is whether a poor person has a constitutional right to a lawyer in a civil contempt case, if the proceeding could lead to being sent to jail or prison. The case involves a South Carolina man who has been put in jail for contempt three times for failure to pay child support. In accepting the case, however, the Court also told the two sides to brief and argue whether the Justices have jurisdiction to review the state Supreme Court decision in the case.

Relatedly, Justice Alito penned this dissent from the denial of certiorari in Wong v. Smith, an AEDPA habeas case out of California.  The opinion addresses an interesting trial procedure issue: e.g., Justice Alito notes, when complaining about the Ninth Circuit's habeas grant, that at "common law, the judge was empowered to weigh the evidence and share an opinion with the jury, even in matter of fact."   Also interesting is that the Chief Justice and Justice Scalia join this dissent, but this troika could not garner one more vote for cert from Justice Kennedy (who always takes a special interest in the work of the Ninth Circuit) or Justice Thomas (who often is troubled by federal courts not showing deference to state adjudications).

November 1, 2010 at 10:39 AM | Permalink


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Wong is unfortunate. It's a particularly egregious flouting of AEDPA. Moreover, a state Constitutional provision was involved. If SCOTUS wants the law changed in this area, then it should decide a case.

Posted by: federalist | Nov 1, 2010 1:39:39 PM

Any wild guesses as to why Thomas voted to deny?

Posted by: . | Nov 1, 2010 3:05:16 PM

Because all moving traffic violations have a potential jail sentence, are controlled by the Rules of Criminal Procedure, and one may plead, "Guilty" or "Not Guilty," a favorable decision in this case could generate massive lawyer employment at taxpayer expense.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Nov 1, 2010 9:59:26 PM

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