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Final orders: no grants

The Supreme Court issued its final orders for the 2005-2006 Term on Friday, showing no new cases granted for the fall Term. The Court has granted cases for argument next Term that will require 29 hours. That is eight fewer hours than the outlook at this time a year ago. The 29 hours will fill the October and November argument calendars, and most but not all of December.

Most of Friday’s orders, other than denials of review, were dispositions of cases that had been held pending rulings on argued cases — for example, the Court summarily affirmed by a 7-2 vote the claims in two of the additional cases testing the Texas congressional redistricting plan Henderson v. Perry, 04-10649, and Soechting v. Perry, 05-298) and summarily dismissed without dissent an appeal in a third (Lee v. Perry, 05-460).

The Court did tie up a loose end in the war-on-terrorism case of Salim Ahmed Hamdan: it denied a request for an original writ of habeas corpus (In re Hamdan, 05-790). Hamdan’s counsel had filed that plea, also seeking, in the alternative, an extraordinary writ, as a backup measure in case the Court might found that Congress had taken away jurisdiction to decide Hamdan’s granted petition (Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, 05-184). The lawyers filed the extra pleading on December 19, “in an abundance of caution,” as they put it in the papers, as Congress was getting ready to vote on the court-stripping bill, the Detainee Treatment Act. In its ruling in Hamdan’s favor on Thursday, the Court found that the Act as passed did not wipe out the Court’s jurisdiction. In denying habeas Friday, the Court noted that, again, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., did not participate.

Many of the cases remanded or denied on Friday had been held pending the Court’s rulings on Crawford v. Washington sequels on the Confrontation Clause and its ruling on retaliation claims under Title VII.

Probably the most significant of the denied cases on the Crawford issue was Texas v. Russeau (05-856). That case sought to raise two issues on which the lower courts are divided: what kind of business or official records are excluded as criminal evidence if not subject to cross-examination, and whether Crawford’s evidentiary restrictions apply to the punishment phase of a death penalty case. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled in the case of Gregory Russeau that his Confrontation Clause rights had been violated by the admission at his sentencing proceeding of jail incident reports and prison disciplinary reports. The state court found that the parts of those records that amounted to “solemn declarations made for the purpose of establishing some fact” were barred under Crawford. It overturned his death sentence and ordered a new sentencing proceeding.