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January 24, 2011

Lots of interesting prison and prisoner law activity by SCOTUS today

The Supreme Court Justices have started a month break from oral argument this week.  But, on their way out of town, the Court gave prison jurisprudence fans a going away gift.  Specifically, the Justices via a summary reversal in Swartout v. Cooke (available here) told the Ninth Circuit that it must not be reviewing the substance of parole decisions in California.  Here is a key snippet from the per curiam ruling:

The liberty interest at issue here is the interest in receiving parole when the California standards for parole have been met, and the minimum procedures adequate for due-process protection of that interest are those set forth in Greenholtz....

Because the only federal right at issue is procedural, the relevant inquiry is what process Cooke and Clay received, not whether the state court decided the case correctly.  The Ninth Circuit’s questionable finding that there was no evidence in the record supporting the parole denials is irrelevant unless there is a federal right at stake, as §2254(a) requires.  See id., at 67.  The short of the matter is that the responsibility for assuring that the constitutionally adequate procedures governing California’s parole system are properly applied rests with California courts, and is no part of the Ninth Circuit’s business. 

In addition, though technically a civil case with its real impact on civil lawyers, the Justices also handed down an opinion today in Ortiz v. Jordan (available here), which concerns "a procedural issue arising in a civil rights action brought under 42 U.S.C. §1983 by Michelle Ortiz, a former inmate at the Ohio Reformatory for Women." 

And, not to be overlooked, the Court granted cert in two cases involving prison and post-prison criminal procedural concerns.  The issues in these two new SCOTUS cases are well explained in this new SCOTUSblog post

The Supreme Court agreed on Monday to clarify when prison or jail officials must give an inmate warnings about his rights under Miranda v. Arizona, any time they take the prisoner out of a cell for questioning about another crime. The issue arises in a Michigan child sex abuse case, Howes v. Fields (10-680).  The Court’s ruling on the case — expected in its next Term — will clarify the scope of the Court’s ruling in 1968 in Mathis v. U.S.  That was one of two cases granted review before the Justices began a four-week recess.

In the second granted case, the Court will decide whether an individual convicted of violating a 2006 federal sex offender law has a right to go to court to challenge the U.S. Attorney General’s decision to apply that law to those who were convicted of sex crimes before the law’s enactment.  That issue is posed in Reynolds v. U.S. (10-6549).  The Court declined to review issues raised in the petition about the constitutionality of the federal law.

January 24, 2011 at 10:56 AM | Permalink


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Reynolds Brief: http://sblog.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/FINAL-Reply-to-Gov-Brief-in-Opp-11-19-10.pdf

Posted by: Eric Knight | Jan 24, 2011 3:26:55 PM

Another reversal of one of Reinhardt's opinions. Pregerson isn't much better. Typical ultra liberal Carter appointees.

Posted by: DaveP | Jan 24, 2011 8:38:01 PM

Oh great, now what? Prison activity and prison rights are now getting higher and bolder. Prisoners are now becoming active in taking advantage and always appealing here and there and always wanting new terms and conditions. This is pretty interesting indeed, so I bet the Supreme Court is on their nerves every time new interesting prison and prisoner law activity surfaces.

Posted by: top pc games | Jan 25, 2011 5:29:47 AM

I am a court-appointed attorney (and my case load includes several lifer parole appeals in CA.

Hopefully, you will have the time to dissect the Swarthout opinion in a bit more detail. What is remarkable and troubling about this per curiam opinion is that it fails to acknowledge it is significantly undermining, if not completely overruling, the Court's prior decision in Hicks v. Oklahoma (1983) 447 U.S. 343.

Posted by: Gene | Jan 25, 2011 2:32:14 PM

Thank you very much for keeping me up to date.

Posted by: Health Blog | Jan 26, 2011 7:12:30 AM

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