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July 1, 2008

SCOTUS gets first look at CVRA

As detailed in this great SCOTUSblog post, some of the fascinating issues that surround the federal Crime Victims' Rights Act (CVRA) have now come before the Supreme Court in the form of an application for a stay.  Here is the start of the SCOTUSblog coverage:

In the first attempt to get the Supreme Court to clarify the rights of crime victims under a 2004 federal law, lawyers for 12 victims of an explosion three years ago at an oil refinery in Texas have asked the Supreme Court to delay a federal judge’s action on a plea agreement that would settle federal criminal charges against a large oil company. The victims contend that the plea deal is too lenient, and that it was worked out without any input from the victims — a claimed violation of the Crime Victims’ Rights Act.

At this stage, the victims are asking the Court to block a Fifth Circuit Court ruling that limits their right to challenge denials of rights under that Act; their lawyers are preparing an appeal to the Supreme Court on that point, and want a delay until that is decided.   The application for a stay (Dean, et al., v. U.S. District Court, 08A3) can be downloaded here.  BP Products North America Inc. filed an opposition to the stay request, arguing that the 2004 law does not allow for stays.

If a stay is not issued, the victims’ lawyers argued, the plea deal could be ratified by a federal judge, forever scuttling their rights to have taken part in discussions of what such a bargain should include, before it takes effect.

As I have highlighted in a number of prior posts, the CVRA is a really interesting (and really unclear) bit of federal legislation.  The nature of the claim and the nature of the case here leave me entirely unsure what the Supreme Court will do, though I am sure it will have to confront a number of CVRA issues in the years ahead.

Some related posts:

UPDATE:  As detailed here at SCOTUSblog, the Supreme Court turned down the stay request of victims in this case.  It would seem that the Justices do not entirely agree with Senator John McCain's recent assertion in his crime speech that "[i]n all of criminal justice policy, we must put the interests of law-abiding citizens first -- and above all the rights of victims."  No wonder Senator McCain has taken to judge-bashing.

July 1, 2008 at 02:29 PM | Permalink


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Scalia is the Circuit Justice for the Fifth. I would be stunned if he didn't grant the stay.

Posted by: Not the same | Jul 1, 2008 3:02:58 PM

Nts, why?

Posted by: 3d yr associate | Jul 1, 2008 3:26:30 PM

It's a really asinine piece of federal legislation, and I hope more than any other case the SCOTUS denies this application for stay (and cert). The very notion that victims should not only be allowed to rant at a sentencing hearing, but that they have a right to substantively affect the sentence, is grossly shocking and offensive to the notion of a fair trial.

Posted by: bruce | Jul 1, 2008 7:49:42 PM

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