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October 12, 2009

A big SCOTUS oral argument week on tap for sentencing fans

As detailed in this SCOTUSblog post and in this CrimProf post, the Supreme Court is hearing oral argument on three notable sentencing-related cases during this abbreviated week.  Specifically, these three (of my list of top 10) sentencing cases to watch this term are to be argued in the next two days (with links and descriptions from SCOTUSwiki):

To be argued Tuesday, October 13:

To be argued Wednesday, October 14:

I suspect that Spisak and Alvarez might get the most press attention, but I think Padillais the case that could prove to be the most consequential.  All three cases are likely to be quite significant if the Justices ultimately resolve them in "big" ways; all three may well be forgotten before long if the Justices embrace a minimalist approach to their decision-making.   As always, I heartily welcome and encourage pre-argument predictions and punditry on any or all of these SCOTUS cases in the comments.

October 12, 2009 at 06:49 PM | Permalink


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The more I read about Spisak the more important I think it is. However I also have a hard time crediting the 6th circuit opinion here. You have to make such a large guess that jurors misunderstood the instructions, rather than the instructions themselves saying to do something incorrect.

As I said before I have a hard time seeing Padilla as a winner. I am in full agreement with the SG that even assuming the attorney failed that failure does not provide a hook for prejudice.

As for Alvarez I've seen indication that it might be moot because the plaintiffs did get the mandated hearing. At least I seem to recall seeing a bit where the parties were ordered to be ready to argue that point.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Oct 12, 2009 10:05:14 PM

Every bill in the Justices' wallets has traces of cocaine. I would like federal marshals to confiscate those bills, and arrest the Justices for bringing cocaine into a federal facility.


There is enough cocaine on money to cause a positive drug test in a bank clerk or police officer who counts money a lot. Get a urine from the cocaine spreading Justices.

Meanwhile, the price of illegal cocaine is dropping because the lawyer will not allow it to be legalized, nor will he allow anyone to really punish and intimidate drug dealers or users. The current situation of failure of the War on Drugs, and these seizure laws point to the real aim of the lawyer, rent seeking. Lots of pointless lawyer procedures to generate lawyer jobs, achieving nothing except costs to the taxpayers.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 13, 2009 5:42:06 AM

SH, Alito raised an interesting point--what if the lawyer had given him bum dope re: immigration consequences, and the guy chose to go to trial, and he gets convicted of a greater crime--would he be entitled to relief? Cannot imagine that he would.

Posted by: federalist | Oct 13, 2009 5:06:25 PM

I am a Supreme Court follower but not a lawyer.

I agree that Padilla has a chance to be a "big" ruling. Although the “collateral consequence” in Padilla is mandatory deportation, the case may not be so limited. Indeed, the petitioner’s brief argues that attorney misadvise regarding any collateral consequence can result in ineffective assistance of counsel. If the Court accepts that argument, prisoners will have another avenue to challenge the ineffectiveness of counsel. Furthermore, collateral consequences can encompass a broad range of attorney misadvise possibly including, for example, misadvise on: the denial of federal benefits for defendants convicted of drug trafficking offenses; the denial of the year off for residential drug treatment for defendants pleading to violent offenses; the submission of DNA for the federal database; and the inability to gain licensure for certain types of employment. In other words, Padilla could open up a range of possibilities for prisoners who were misadvised on a number of collateral consequences.

Posted by: Shon Robert | Oct 13, 2009 5:13:25 PM

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