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October 31, 2007

Teague, state powers and retroactivity issues in Danforth

With the recent Wilson ruling from the US Supreme Court and the US Sentencing Commission debating the reach of new crack rules, the issue of retroactivity is coming up again and again.  Today, in a particularly interesting context, the issues was before the Supreme Court in the case of Danforth v. Minnesota.  As previously discussed here, Danforth concerns a state court's authority to apply retroactively Supreme Court criminal procedure rulings and it is a spooky cool case for true law geeks.

Lyle Denniston has this detailed report on the argument, which includes this snippet:

As if conducting an oral exam in basic constitutional law, the Justices explored whether a right that they announce was, in fact, always there though previously undiscovered, or whether it simply emerged as a brand-new product of the judicial imagination. Curiously, some of the Justices who believe that the Constitution means only what it did in the beginning (the “originalist” persuasion) were arguing that the Court certainly can and does creates new constitutional meaning, while some of those who believe in a “living Constitution” (it changes with the times) were suggesting that a new right is simply an old right that always was. It was, for a time, purely “metaphysical,” as Justice Stephen G. Breyer suggested unapologetically. But it could have real-world consequences for individuals accused or convicted of crime.

For those eager to have a first-hand experience with the metaphysical, the transcript of the argument is now available here.  After the goblins have their fun tonight and I get a chance to review the argument, I may have more to say about this interesting case.

October 31, 2007 at 03:58 PM | Permalink


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