At 10 a.m. Wednesday, the final day of oral arguments this Term, the Supreme Court will hold a one-hour hearing on an Oklahoma death penalty case that could range widely over broad constitutional questions, or — in the alternative — focus very narrowly on one very specific execution method. Arguing for the three death-row inmates in the case of Glossip v. Gross will be Robin C. Konrad, a federal public defender from Phoenix. Representing Oklahoma will be its solicitor general, Patrick R. Wyrick, of Oklahoma City. Each will have thirty minutes of time.
In an era when botched executions of death-row inmates happen more often, raising new questions about capital punishment, the Supreme Court continues to rely upon a set of legal principles about lethal-drug protocols that have not been reexamined in seven years. The Justices have given themselves the opportunity to do so next week when they hear an Oklahoma case, but just how far they are prepared to go to reopen those principles probably will only be clear as the oral argument unfolds.
In one sense, the case of Glossip v. Gross is focused on the use of a single drug in a three-drug execution “cocktail” — a sedative, the first dose, that is supposed to put the inmate in a sufficiently deep state of unconsciousness that there will be no pain, or at least only tolerable pain, from injections of the other two drugs, which paralyze and then kill. But in another sense, the entire constitutional structure surrounding execution by lethal drugs could be at stake.
Continue reading »
The petition of the day is:
Issue: (1) Whether, in a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action brought by an individual alleging that a prior criminal conviction was obtained in violation of this Court's decision in Brady v. Maryland – requiring the prosecution to turn over potentially exculpatory evidence – the statute of limitations runs from the time the case is resolved via nolle prosequi or otherwise “in such manner that [proceedings] cannot be revived” – as the Fourth Circuit below concluded – or runs from the moment the plaintiff may bring the action under this Court’s decision in Heck v. Humphrey – as the Tenth Circuit has concluded and as the Sixth, Ninth, and Eleventh Circuits have suggested; and (2) whether the Fourth Circuit erred when it concluded, inconsistent with its own decisions and those of this Court, that individual police officers had an independent Brady duty to bring forward exculpatory evidence in 1988 and that this was clearly established so as to support a cause of action against the individual officers under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and negate a defense of qualified immunity.
Oyez has posted audio and transcripts of this week’s arguments.
The Court heard arguments this week in:
Few subjects are more timely than the use of excessive force by law enforcement officials, and the Supreme Court on Monday will consider an aspect of that issue: how to evaluate excessive force claims made by pretrial detainees.
Specifically, the Court will try to resolve a deep split among the federal appeals courts over whether a pretrial detainee may demonstrate unconstitutional excessive force by showing conduct that was objectively unreasonable or whether evidence of a subjective intent to harm the detainee is also required.
The importance of the case, Kingsley v. Hendrickson, may be lost in the shadow of the same-sex marriage dispute being argued the next day. Pretrial detention presents a set of fascinating analytical challenges for the courts, with both practical and theoretical ramifications that are important because by many estimates there are more than 450,000 individuals in pretrial detention in the United States on a typical day. While the overwhelming majority do not face issues of excessive force, complaints by detainees have arisen in almost all of the federal appeals courts. Continue reading »
John Elwood reviews Monday’s relisted cases.
Apart from the release of the Court’s order list, the big news Monday was the announcement of this year’s Pulitzer Prizes. And once again, we have been cheated of our rightful gold Pulitzer medallion and $10,000 in prize money. We figured we’d at least get some recognition for our poetry submissions, if not for explanatory reporting, public service, or even our editorial cartooning (what is with that pinkie, anyway?). As an aside, while ten Gs might make for a decent hip-hop starter kit, that kind of stumpy seems a little meager for the preeminent prize in American journalism. No wonder journalism seems about as appealing nowadays as, well, law. Continue reading »
On July 8, Laurence H. Tribe will deliver the Chautauqua Institution’s Robert H. Jackson Lecture on the Supreme Court. More information is available on the Institution’s website.
At its Conference on April 24, 2015, the Court will consider petitions seeking review of issues such as retaliation for speech and association protected by the First Amendment, the use of a firearm and handcuffs during an investigative stop, and the filing period for a constructive discharge claim under federal employment discrimination law.
This edition of “Petitions to watch” features petitions raising issues that Tom has determined to have a reasonable chance of being granted, although we post them here without consideration of whether they present appropriate vehicles in which to decide those issues. Our policy is to include and disclose all cases in which Goldstein & Russell, P.C., whose attorneys contribute to this blog in various capacities, represents either a party or an amicus in the case, with the exception of the rare cases in which Goldstein & Russell represents the respondent(s) but does not appear on the briefs in the case.
Continue reading »
The upcoming arguments in the challenges to state bans on same-sex marriage continue to dominate commentary on the Court. At Reuters, Lawrence Hurley reports that “[t]wenty-eight of the country’s biggest financial firms had made an unprecedented show of unity in support of gay marriage by urging the court to strike down state laws banning same-sex unions.” In The New Republic, Brianne Gorod cites last Term’s decision in Riley v. California, holding that police cannot search an arrestee’s cellphone without a search warrant, and argues that, although “Congress and state legislatures may be able to supplement the Constitution’s protections . . . they cannot scrap them.” At Talking Points Memo, Sahil Kapur profiles Washington attorney Paul Smith, describing him as the “lawyer who set the stage for nationwide marriage equality.” At Slate, Tom Donnelly discusses the Fourteenth Amendment and the significance of edits to the proposed amendment that “paved the way” for same-sex marriage.
At the Supreme Court Brief (subscription required), Marcia Coyle reports on an amicus brief supporting the states filed by a group of international law scholars. At Conjugality, Walter Schumm and Jason Carroll reprint portions of the amicus brief that they filed, in which they argue that same-sex marriages will lead to a decline in fertility. And at The Daily Signal, Gene Schaerr discusses two amicus briefs which argue that “the man-woman definition of marriage simply does not implicate gays’ and lesbians’ personal liberty.” Continue reading »
The petition of the day is:
Issue: Whether the use of a firearm and handcuffs during an investigative stop of an individual not suspected of any crime exceeds the bounds of a permissible Terry v. Ohio stop where their use is justified by officers' suspicions about a different individual.
Kingsley v. Hendrickson will be the Court’s next word on the law of excessive force. The case focuses on the relatively narrow question of what should happen when pre-trial detainees bring excessive-force claims against jail officers, but it’s impossible for the Court to answer that question without thinking about excessive force more broadly. In short, the issue before the Court is whether excessive-force claims brought by pre-trial detainees should be governed by the standard applicable to free people on the street, or instead by a standard like the one applicable to convicted criminals in prison.
Back in 2010, petitioner Michael Kingsley was arrested on a drug charge and detained in a Wisconsin jail pending trial. One day, a jail officer noticed that a piece of paper covered a light fixture in Kingsley’s cell, creating fire and visibility issues. Jail officers asked Kingsley to remove the paper and then to leave his cell, but Kingsley refused. This led the officers to handcuff Kingsley and forcibly remove him from his cell, ultimately placing him facedown on a concrete bunk in another room. At that point, the officers claim that Kingsley resisted their efforts to remove the handcuffs, prompting them to taser Kingsley for five seconds and possibly use other force as well.
Continue reading »