June 18, 2015

4 boxes of new Supreme Court opinions...

... with SCOTUSblog live-blogging here.

1. Brumfeld v. Cain (PDF). About habeas relief and the question when a person is "mentally retarded and therefore ineligible for the death penalty."
Pursuant to the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), Brumfield could secure relief only if the state court’s rejection of his claim was either “contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States,” or was “based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.” 28 U. S. C. §§2254(d)(1), (2)....

We do not deny that Brumfield’s crimes were terrible, causing untold pain for the victims and their families. But we are called upon today to resolve a different issue. There has already been one death that society rightly condemns. The question here is whether Brumfield cleared AEDPA’s procedural hurdles, and was thus entitled to a hearing to show that he so lacked the capacity for self-determination that it would violate the Eighth Amendment to permit the State to impose the “law’s most severe sentence,” Hall, 572 U. S., at ___ (slip op., at 7), and take his life as well.
2. Ohio v. Clark (PDF). This is a confrontation clause case with no dissenting opinions. Justice Alito writes the main opinion, and there's a concurring opinion written by Justice Scalia that is joined by Justices Thomas and Ginsburg. Everyone accepts what the trial court did: allow the hearsay evidence that was the statement a 3-year-old boy to his pre-school teacher that identified the defendent as responsible for the marks she saw on his body. From the main opinion:
The Sixth Amendment’s Confrontation Clause, which is binding on the States through the Fourteenth Amendment, provides: “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right . . . to be confronted with the witnesses against him.” In Ohio v. Roberts, 448 U. S. 56, 66 (1980), we interpreted the Clause to permit the admission of out-of-court statements by an unavailable witness, so long as the statements bore “adequate ‘indicia of reliability.’” Such indicia are present, we held, if “the evidence falls within a firmly rooted hearsay exception” or bears “particularized guarantees of trustworthiness.” Ibid.
From SCOTUSblog: "Lovers of Justice Scalia and/or the confrontation clause should DEFINITELY check out Scalia's concurrence in the judgment in Ohio v. Clark. It is some sharply worded stuff -- accuses Alito of "shoveling dirt" on the grave of the key precedents, and using intentionally confusing "dicta" to try to undermine the clause's protections." I'll be getting to all of that later.

3. Davis v. Ayala (PDF). 5-4. "Holding: Any federal constitutional error that may have occurred by excluding Ayala's attorney from part of the Batson hearing was harmless."

4. Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans (PDF). "Texas's specialty license plate design constitutes government speech, and thus Texas was entitled to refuse to issue plates featuring the proposed Confederate Veterans' design." 5-4, by Justice Breyer, with Justice Thomas joining the liberals. Justice Alito has a dissent, which is joined by the rest of the conservatives (Roberts, Scalia, and Kennedy.)

5. McFadden v. United States (PDF). "When a controlled substance is an analogue, §841(a)(1) requires the Government to establish that the defendant knew he was dealing with a substance regulated under the Controlled Substances Act or Analogue Act." McFadden was selling bath salts. The case is remanded to determine if the error was harmless (which it is if no rational jury would find that McFadden didn't know).

6. Reed v. Town of Gilbert (PDF). "The Sign Code’s provisions are content-based regulations of speech that do not survive strict scrutiny." Justice Thomas writes the main opinion. There are also 2 concurring opinions.


Hari said...

First sentence of the decision in Ohio v Clark:

"Darius Clark sent his girlfriend hundreds of miles away
to engage in prostitution and agreed to care for her two
young children while she was out of town."

What choice did this mother have? Her boyfriend "sent her away to engage in prostitution."

Thus the boyfriend is responsible not only for his own actions (in this case, harming one of the children) but also for the mother's actions of abandoning her children and going off to prostitute herself.

Just like men "getting" women drunk.

When women do irresponsible or wrong (even criminal), it is a man who is responsible for her actions.

Bay Area Guy said...

The Walker Texas license plate case seems absolutely trivial on many different fronts.

Lyle said...

Shocked at the Texas license plate ruling. The 1st amendment is a little smaller today. Sad.

mccullough said...

just tape it on your license plate

Fernandinande said...

"mentally retarded and therefore ineligible for the death penalty."

That's a relief.

MaxedOutMama said...

You don't often see Scalia and Ginsburg together, but today we did in Ohio v. Clark, so this is from both:
I write separately, however, to protest the Court’s shoveling of fresh dirt upon the Sixth Amendment right of confrontation so recently rescued from the grave in Crawford v. Washington, 541 U. S. 36 (2004). For several decades before that case, we had been allowing hearsay statements to be admitted against a criminal defendant if they bore “‘indicia of reliability.’ ” Ohio v. Roberts, 448 U. S. 56, 66 (1980). Prosecutors, past and present, love that flabby test. Crawford sought to bring our application of the Confrontation Clause back to its original meaning, which was to exclude unconfronted statements made by witnesses—i.e., statements that were testimonial.

It's a wonderful piece of writing, with the words "snide", "unabashedly", "hostility" and "aggravated" - altogether great stuff. One of those SC moments that shouldn't be missed.

Scott said...

In Reed v. Town of Gilbert, I get the idea that Breyer and Kagan are really, really uncomfortable that sign ordinances must be content neutral or face strict scrutiny. Their concurring opinions muddy the issue considerably. And Kagan's opinion doesn't have a lawyerly clarity to it compared to Thomas'; but I'll confess to not knowing what I'm talking about in that regard.

Scott said...

(Actually not "content neutral" but must not address content at all.)

Birches said...

About habeas relief and the question when a person is "mentally retarded and therefore ineligible for the death penalty."

The word banning SJWs are descending on SCOTUS as we speak....