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November 15, 2010

SCOTUS grants certiorari on two pauper defendant criminal justice petitions

In addition to handing down a unanimous ruling in the Abbott mandatory minimum case (noted here), the SUpreme Court granted cert this morning to two new cases, Tolentino v. New York and Fowler v. United States.  I believe Tolentino deals with an exclusionary rule issue from the New York state courts, and that Fowler deals with the application of a federal murder statute.  (SCOTUSblog will likely have key papers from this cases up before long.)

Though time will tell if either Tolentino or Fowler will be consequential cases, I already find it significant that the Justices decided to take up two cases in which criminal defendants lost appeals below.  This fact along does not ensure a pro-defendant ruling from SCOTUS, but it does suggest that at least four Justices were at least not too pleased with how the government won below in these cases.

November 15, 2010 at 10:30 AM | Permalink


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I don't necessarily agree. I'm not sure that Tolentino being the petitioner means anything. It seems to me that CJ Roberts is leading an active(ist?) agenda to cut back on the exclusionary rule (see, e.g., Kentucky v. King grant this term). This case may simply be the quickest route to reach an open question in Fourth Amendment law and to nail down further the Roberts wing's generally pro-government, anti-suppression view of the Fourth Amendment.

(Tolentino deals with a Fourth Amendment issue upon which there appears to be a circuit split about how to read some key language in a prior USSC opinion.)

As to Fowler, I do think that there is probably some concern about an expansive interpretation of federal criminal law that would tend to make almost any police officer shooting a federal crime, even though such crimes are very effectively dealt with under the state police power.

Posted by: Observer | Nov 15, 2010 10:44:58 AM

The issue in Tolentino is whether information found in DMV records after an illegal stop should be suppressed as a fruit of the 4th Amendment violation. Like Observer, I tend to think that given the current proclivities of the Court, any exclusionary rule case is not good news for Defendants. I don't think there's any way Alito, Roberts, Scalia or Thomas will EVER come close to expanding the exclusionary rule, and Kennedy seems to follow suit.

Personally, any time I see a 4th Amendment issue before the current Court, I expect the worst but hope for the best.

Posted by: DEJ | Nov 15, 2010 11:58:23 AM

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