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March 5, 2018

SCOTUS grants cert on structural SORNA issue and Justice Sotomayor dissents in capital case with IAC issues

The Supreme Court has been mulling over a number of cases that would, if cert were granted, be of great interest to sentencing fans. But the Justices, via today's new SCOTUS order list, did not grant (or deny) cert on any blockbusters. Here is the SCOTUSblog accounting of what sentencing fans did get today:

The second grant is Gundy v. US, but only limited to the fourth question presented by the petition: whether Congress's delegation of power to the attorney general to issue regulations interpreting the Sex Offender Notification and Registration Act violates the nondelegation doctrine....

The non-delegation challenge to SORNA is (1) more plausible than most non-delegation challenges because of the criminal context; but (2) would be the first non-delegation challenge that has prevailed at the Court in a very long time. And it would blast a giant hole in SORNA.

Justice Sotomayor dissented from the denial of review in Wessinger v. Vannoy, a capital case involving an attorney's duties to conduct a mitigation investigation when the court has denied funds for expert assistance.

Justice Sotomayor's solo dissent in Wessinger ends this way:

The Court’s denial of certiorari here belies the “bedrock principle in our justice system” that a defendant has a right to effective assistance of trial counsel, and undermines the protections this Court has recognized are necessary to protect that right. Martinez, 566 U.S., at 12. Indeed, the investigation of mitigation evidence and its presentation at sentencing are crucial to maintaining the integrity of capital proceedings.  The layers of ineffective assistance of counsel that Wessinger received constitute precisely the type of error that warrants relief under this Court’s precedent.  Yet, Wessinger will remain on death row without a jury ever considering the significant mitigation evidence that is now apparent. Because that outcome is contrary to precedent and deeply unjust and unfair, I dissent from the denial of certiorari.

March 5, 2018 at 09:52 AM | Permalink


Amy Howe provides more detail on the sex offender case:


In part, we get a sense of who is sometimes involved:

"The petitioner in the case is Herman Gundy, who was on supervised release in Maryland after pleading guilty to federal drug charges in Pennsylvania. While in Maryland, Gundy was convicted of a sex offense – raping an 11-year-old girl to whom he had given cocaine – and sentenced to 20 years in prison. When he finished serving his sentence on the sex-offense charge, he was transferred to federal custody to serve his sentence for violating his federal supervised release. The Bureau of Prisons sent him to a federal facility in Pennsylvania, where he received permission to travel, without supervision, by bus from Pennsylvania to New York."

Posted by: Joe | Mar 5, 2018 12:15:33 PM

Ah, the "wise [sic] Latina" strikes again.

This is the same "Justice" who decided that a patently incorrect interpretation of a the Constitution by the Supreme Court of Kansas tossing death sentences should stand--thereby consigning a surviving victim (and the families of four who did not) to years more of pain. Now she wants to flyspeck death sentences and dissents from the decision to deny cert. in harsh terms (knowing full well that the Court doesn't look at every last capital case).

Sotomayor pretends to be applying the law in an even-handed fashion, when in fact, she is allowing her abolitionist views free rein. She could at least be honest about it.

Posted by: federalist | Mar 5, 2018 10:29:47 PM

Federalist, please read the briefing and opinion below on scotus blog. This case was a serious miscarriage of justice and I expected summary reversal. It’s really not much different than Maples from a few terms ago. If you (as is Kent S.) are not in favor of death penalty for every murder, and agree that Lockett/eddings was correctly decided, this case should not be one for you to rave over.

Posted by: Calif appeals lawyer | Mar 5, 2018 11:08:29 PM

california appeals lawyer--perhaps you missed my point--I juxtaposed Sotomayor's studied indifference to lower courts' crass errors favoring capital defendants.

Maples, for the reasons I have explained previously, is a joke of a decision unworthy of a court of law. Prior to Maples, "abandonment" had a degree of willfulness, else attorney error was attributed to the defendant. In Maples, without saying what it had did, ascribed the "abandonment" label to ordinary negligence.


Posted by: federalist | Mar 6, 2018 6:53:34 AM

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