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April 13, 2014

Is SCOTUS now no longer all that interested in criminal justice issues?

The question in the title of this post is prompted by this chart concerning the make-up of the Supreme Court's merits docket this Term from the latest Stat Pack put together by the folks at SCOUTSblog.  The chart highlights that nearly 75% of the merits docket this Term involves civil cases.  In addition, this SCOTUSblog list of cert grants for October 2014 reveals that only one of nine grants for the next Term involves a criminal law issue (and that issue, as noted here, seems stunningly minor).

When Justices Alito and Sotomayor first joined the Court, it seemed as though they brought some extra interest and extra attention to the criminal justice part of the SCOTUS docket.  But of late it seems as though the Court is more eager to avoid rather than take up some important criminal justice matters.

Notably, there are any number of big lurking criminal justice issues relating to the Second (right to carry), Fourth (GPS tracking), Sixth (applications of Apprendi and Booker) and Eighth Amendments (applications of Graham and Miller).  I have an inkling that some of these matters will end up on the October 2014 docket, but this post perhaps highlights that I have a hankering for some more major criminal cases to be on the docket.

April 13, 2014 at 10:25 PM | Permalink


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On the other hand just how many AEDPA and ACCA cases can the court hear? Eventually the legal questions will all have answers and all that will be left are factual issues that the justices simply aren't interested in. Same with 8th amendment challenges to manner of execution.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Apr 14, 2014 2:12:00 AM

I agree, Soronel, that there is (and should be) a limit to consideration of AEDPA and ACCA statutory matters, and I sense the drop-off in criminal law cert grants reflects that reality. But there are dozens of other constitutional and statutory issues that the Court could (and I think should) be taking up in order to provide lower court guidance on all a bunch of issue that are raised and heavily litigated in state and federal courts every day.

Posted by: Doug B. | Apr 14, 2014 11:01:57 AM

I think the main reason the court has so many so-called "civil" cases to hear is that the govt over the last few decades has turned pretty much all civil law into criminal law via the back door.

sorry but when missing a filing deadline can bring decades in prison. There is no such thing anymore as "civil" law.

Posted by: rodsmith | Apr 14, 2014 12:07:46 PM

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