John Elwood reviews Monday’s relisted and held cases.
Happy Belated Earth Day, everybody! I don’t know how you marked the occasion, but I got a little carried away with organic gin at a tree-planting and wound up buying so many super-efficient LED light bulbs and locally made artisanal bulbs I couldn’t even cart them all home in my GMC Denali – which, a bit ironically, runs on baby seals I have delivered by air freight. But anyhoo, even the Court got into the act, releasing yesterday’s order list using a new low-impact PDF that uses twenty-two percent fewer electrons than a conventional PDF.* So without any more contrived yammerings, let’s see what news it brought on the relist and hold front.
We begin, as always, by examining the fate of our previous relist. Advocates for New York’s entirely just system of rent regulation and its uniformly deserving beneficiaries took a break from writing earnest emails to snarky bloggers so they could mark the Court’s decision to deny cert. in last week’s lone relist, Harmon v. Kimmel, 11-496, without opinion. The case challenged New York’s rent control system as an unconstitutional uncompensated taking. While I expected the Court to deny cert., I was a bit surprised that after calling for a response and relisting, there was no dissent from denial of cert.
It’s slim pickin’s again this week with only one new relist. A federal district court granted habeas relief to the petitioner in Montgomery v. Robinson, Warden, 11-8360, a capital habeas case, based on his Brady challenge alleging the prosecution wrongly withheld a pretrial police report with information damaging to its theory of the case. An en banc Sixth Circuit reversed, holding, eleven to five, that the Ohio Court of Appeals did not unreasonably apply clearly established Supreme Court precedent. In his petition, Montgomery also claims the trial court erred by not striking a juror whom he believes was mentally incompetent and prejudiced against him, who evidently stated that she had a vision in which the defendant’s mitigation expert appeared to her as Satan while she was undergoing electroshock treatment in 1964. It looks to me like the Court has relisted the case to give the Justices time to digest the record, which arrived in mid-April, about a week after the Court called for it. (In a related vein, the Court called for the record Thursday in another capital habeas case that was scheduled for the Friday Conference, Garcia v. California, 11-8371, involving allegations that a victim-impact videotape was unfairly prejudicial; the Court eventually will relist that case when it has had time to review the record, which arrived Monday.)
To go along with our one relist we have one hold, also from the Sixth Circuit: Brown v. Bobby, Warden, 11-807, appears to be on hold for Johnson v. Williams (formerly known as Cavazos v. Williams), 11-465. Both cases concern whether a habeas petitioner’s claim has been “adjudicated on the merits” for purposes of 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d) where the state court denied relief in an explained decision but did not expressly acknowledge a federal-law basis for the claim. (Regular readers probably noted the absence of the usual plethora of holds for Dorsey v. United States, 11-5683, and Hill v. United States, 11-5721, but according to our earlier postulate, the Dorsey/Hill floodgates are only reliably loosed when the Court has more than three holds in a given week.)
Mercifully, that is all for this week. The Justices will be in Conference again this Friday, which just happens to be Arbor Day, so join me back here next week as we attempt to reduce our carbon footprint by recycling old jokes.
Thanks to Eric White for compiling and drafting this update.
*In the interests of complete accuracy, I should note that I just now made this up.
Montgomery v. Robinson, Warden (relisted after the 4/13 Conference)
Issue(s): (1) Whether the en banc Sixth Circuit correctly held that the Ohio courts did not unreasonably apply Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), by concluding that a withheld police report was not material to either Montgomery’s guilt or punishment; and (2) whether the Sixth Circuit properly concluded that the Ohio courts did not unreasonably apply clearly established federal law by rejecting Montgomery’s claim that the trial court abused its discretion by failing to question or remove a juror who said she had seen defendant’s mitigation expert appearing as Satan in a dream while she was undergoing shock treatment.
Certiorari stage documents