« Prisoners writing to death penalty abolitionists urging end to LWOP advocacy | Main | "Juror Sentiment on Just Punishment: Do the Federal Sentencing Guidelines Reflect Community Values?" »

February 22, 2010

SCOTUS grants cert and issues summary dispositions in more criminal cases

As noted in this post, the US Supreme Court is back to work this morning.  And, as detailed in posts here and herefrom SCOTUSblog, criminal justice issues are at the heart of two new cert grants and two new summary dispositions.  Here are effective accounts of all the new SCOTUS action thanks to the folks SCOTUSblog:

The Court has granted cert. in two cases, Los Angeles County v. Humphries (09-350) and Harrington v. Richter (09-587)....

There are two unanimous summary dispositions: in Wilkins v. Gaddy(08-10914) the judgment of the lower court is reversed and remanded for further proceedings; in Thaler v. Haynes (09-273), the lower court’s judgment is also reversed and remanded. Justice Thomas filed a concurrence, joined by Justice Scalia, in Wilkins.

Cases in which cert was granted:

Los Angeles County v. Humphries issues: (1) For a claim for declaratory relief against a local public entity, must the plaintiff demonstrate that the constitutional violation was the result of a policy, custom or practice attributable to the local public entity; and (2) if the plaintiff has not made such a showing, may he or she be a “prevailing party” under 42 U.S.C. § 1988 for purposes of a fee award?

Harrington v. Richter issue: Does a defense lawyer violate the Sixth Amendment right to the effective assistance of counsel when he does not investigate or present available forensic evidence supporting the theory of defense he uses during trial and instead relies on cross-examination and other methods designed to create reasonable doubt about the defendant’s guilt?

Cases resolved via summary disposition:

Resuming its increased use of deciding cases without full briefing or argument, the Supreme Court ruled summarily on Monday that a trial judge need not personally observe a potential juror’s behavior in deciding later whether that juror was denied a seat on the panel because of race, despite prosecutor’s claim that she was excluded because of her demeanor under questioning.  No prior ruling of the Court, the Justices said in an unsigned, apparently unanimous opinion, requires that the judge must have been on hand during jury selection in order to evaluate a claimed violation of Batson v. Kentucky, when the use of a peremptory strike was based on a claim of juror demeanor.  The ruling came in the case of Thaler v. Haynes (09-2730.

In a second summary ruling, the Court reiterated that claims that police used excessive force on a suspect are to be evaluated on the basis of the nature of the force used, not on whether the individual suffered any injury during the incident.  The ruling in Wilkins v. Officer Gaddy (08-10914) overturned a lower federal court ruling that dismissed an excessive force claim because the suspect’s injuries were minimal.  The new ruling was based on the Court’s 1992 decision in Hudson v. McMillian.  On Monday, Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justice Antonin Scalia, supported the result in Wilkins, but repeated his earlier argument that the Hudson decision was decided wrongly.

February 22, 2010 at 10:35 AM | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference SCOTUS grants cert and issues summary dispositions in more criminal cases:


While I would agree with Thomas and Scalia that the 8th amendment is a poor fit for the prisoner abuse claim that is a complaint about the organization of the law rather than substance. I fully believe that the state should be on the hook when their employees abuse those in custody and if they think the state should get a free pass under such circumstances then I would say they are just plain wrong.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Feb 22, 2010 4:52:21 PM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB