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May 24, 2010

Is the biggest SCOTUS story this morning what the Justices decided not to decide?

Perhaps vindicating Chief Justice Roberts' vision of a more "minimalist" Supreme Court, the biggest story emerging from the sets of criminal justice opinions issued this morning (links here) seems to be what the Justices decided not to decide.  That said, I suspect this morning's minimalist SCOTUS reality in criminal justice cases is just a short-term reality until the next set of criminal justice opinions get handed down.

Specifically, the Court dodged a bunch of interesting and challenging issues by DIGing Robertson v. US ex rel. Watson(Interestingly, though, Chief Justice Roberts wrote the chief dissenting opinion complaining about the Court's decision to shake this challenging case off its docket.)  Somewhat similarly, as explained here, the Justices opted to decide the latest case implicating Apprendi/Blakely issues on the narrowest possible statutory grounds.

But I have a feeling that all this minimalism today is just prelude to some big-time forthcoming opinions in the honest services fraud cases and perhaps also in lower-profile sentencing cases like Dillon and Barber.  Relatedly, it bears recalling that the more minimal approaches to the issues decided last week in Graham and Comstock did not carry the day and ended up in the form of concurrences (by Chief Justice Roberts in Grahamand by Justice Alito in Comstock) complaining about how broad the opinion for the Court reached.

May 24, 2010 at 11:01 AM | Permalink


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