John Elwood reviews Monday’s relisted and held cases.
Since our last update, spring appears to have sprung. The unseasonably warm weather brings with it cadaveresque legs protruding from rumpled shorts (but enough about me), legions of fanny-pack-sporting tourists, and — apparently — a modicum of growth in the number of relists. See if you can spot the pattern here: zero relists March 2, one relist March 8, and two this week. If present trends continue, by this time next year, the Court will be relisting dozens of cases every week.
First the old business: back in December, we said that Tibbals v. Carter, 11-218, was “almost certainly being held for the Solicitor General’s invited (amicus) brief in Ryan v. Gonzales, 10-930.” During the intervening months, the Solicitor General filed his brief recommending denial. On Monday, the Court confirmed the link between the cases, granting cert. in both. Tibbals and Gonzales are capital cases raising the question whether death row inmates have a right to be competent at the time of federal habeas proceedings and whether they can stay federal habeas proceedings while they are incompetent to assist counsel. More on those cases can be found here.
Monday’s orders yielded one new relist. No, the world’s best-known former Florida Secretary of State hasn’t gotten an extension on her fifteen minutes: that’s Clayton Harris, not Katherine, in Florida v. Harris, 11-817, which concerns whether an alert by a certified narcotics-detection dog is itself enough to establish probable cause for a vehicle search. Over a lone dissent, the Florida Supreme Court (which, I’m compelled to note, wags sometimes call SCOFLA) held that a dog alert alone was insufficient absent additional information about the degree of the dog’s training and an assessment by the trial court of the dog’s reliability. Meanwhile, Smith v. Fields, 11-561, is back for its second relist. As noted last week, that case, which involves an Eighth Amendment and Equal Protection Clause challenge to a Wisconsin state law prohibiting hormonal therapy or sex-change surgery for prison inmates, is likely getting a close look.
There are seven new holds. Unsurprisingly, cases on hold for the Fair Sentencing Act duo Dorsey v. United States, 11-5683, and Hill v. United States, 11-5721, constitute this week’s mathematical mode. Jaimes v. United States, 11-883; Brito v. United States, 11-8476; Douglas v. United States, 11-8551; and Foster v. United States, 11-8675, join something like a bazillion other cases in waiting for an answer on the retroactivity of amendments reducing the differential between crack- and powder-cocaine sentences. Castillo v. Smith, 11-7756, appears to be a hold for yet another duo of cases, Miller v. Alabama, 10-9646, and Jackson v. Arkansas, 10-9647, involving the constitutionality of sentencing a juvenile offender to life without parole for a homicide offense (Smith was fifteen; Miller and Jackson, whose cases were argued today, were both fourteen).
On the civil side, Sebelius v. Southern Ute Indian Tribe, 11-762, appears to be a hold for Salazar v. Ramah Navajo Chapter, 11-551. Both cases raise the question whether a federal agency is required to pay all the contract-support costs incurred by tribal contractors under the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act, 25 U.S.C. § 450 et seq., where the agency says there is not enough money left in its annual appropriate to pay. Finally, unlike the high school prom, Monday’s order list gives tax nerds a reason to get excited: UTAM Ltd. v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, 11-747, appears to be yet another hold for United States v. Home Concrete & Supply, 11-139, which raises the now-familiar issue whether an understatement of gross income attributable to an overstatement of basis in sold property is an “omi[ssion] from gross income” that can trigger an extended six-year assessment period.
That’s all for now. We’ll be back next week with more strained humor and marginally illuminating observations. Until then, get yourself a nice dark set of shades in case I break out the shorts again.
Thanks to Eric White for compiling and drafting this update.
Florida v. Harris (relisted after the 3/16 Conference)
Issue(s): Whether an alert by a well-trained narcotics detection dog certified to detect illegal contraband is insufficient to establish probable cause for the search of a vehicle.
Certiorari stage documents
Smith v. Fields (relisted after the 3/2 and 3/16 Conferences)
Issue(s): (1) Whether the Seventh Circuit erred by upholding an injunction against a state law prohibiting the use of public funds to finance sexual reassignment surgery for inmates; and (2) whether the Eighth Amendment requires state prisons to treat gender identity disorder with hormone therapy to make an inmate look more like the opposite gender.
Certiorari stage documents