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Recap of OT2006 Criminal Cases

From Professor Rory Little at UC Hastings College of the Law:

I recently produced these Summaries of the Supreme Court’s Term, Criminal Cases, for the ABA’s Annual Meeting panel of the same name. (Note: Readers should feel free to reproduce the summaries, with attribution.) I do this panel every year for the Criminal Justice Section. We had some great panelists: U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White (who is handling the BALCO steroids contempt case); white-collar defense attorney Cristina Arguedas; well-known habeas and appellate litigator Dennis Riordan, and former federal prosecutor Haywood Gilliam of Bingham McCutcheon. The detailed “Summaries” of the 32 decisions I counted as “criminal law or related” present the facts and legal background of each case, as well as an account of every separate opinion issued by the Justices in each case. A list of cases in which cert. has been granted for the coming Term, and a chart of “Who Wrote What” showing the authors of all the various separate opinions, appear at the end of the Summaries.

A very brief overview: In sheer number, the habeas/capital cases dominated the Court’s criminal docket this past Term. In addition, Apprendi fallout continues (see Cunningham and Rita); and the Fourth Amendment provided, as always, entertaining (see Rettele and Scott v. Harris with the first-ever decision with a video weblink appendix) and nuanced (see Brendlin) facts. And a little-noticed decision in a Bivens/extortion lawsuit (Wilkie v. Robbins) might be said to provide the most interesting theoretical issues to chew on: why CAN the federal government engage in a lengthy campaign of harrassment, using some unlawful as well as lawful tactics, to pressure a land-owner to grant an easement, and not run afoul of federal constitutional or statutory provisions? Justice Souter explains his answer; Justice Ginsburg was unconvinced and cites Marbury v. Madison in support.