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Court dismisses granted criminal case

The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed a criminal case it had heard just last Wednesday, saying it should not have granted review — that is, the case had been “improvidently granted.” The case is Bell v. Kelly (07-1223), involving a split in lower courts on the degree of deference that federal habeas courts must give to a state court finding.  As is customary when the Court takes such action, it gave no explanation.

The Court granted review of no new cases.

Among the issues the Court declined to hear:

** A plea to reconsider a 23-year-old decision, Wainwright v. Witt, laying down the constitutional standard on when a juror who expresses opposition to the death penalty may be barred from serving on a capital case jury. (Campbell v. Louisiana, 08-399)

** An appeal seeking clarification of the duty of state and local governments to provide jail or prison inmates a chance for physical exercise, and to offer disabled inmates equal access to beknefits or programs. (Orange County v. Pierce, et al., 08-195)

** A test of the constitutionality of a state ban on all payments to those who circulate nominating of ballot measures petitions on the basis of the number of signatures they gather. (Ohio v. Citizens for Tax Reform, et al., 08-151)

** A plea for the Court to spell out a standard for lower courts to follow on limiting the right to sue for someone who has filed scores of lawsuits. (Molski, et al., v. Evergreen Dynasty Corp., et al., 08-38)

Even though the Court last Friday had agreed to rule on a key issue over re-trial of criminal charges in a case growing out of the Enron Corp. scandal, on Monday it denied review of one of the appeals that had raised that issue.  Three former executives of an Enron subsidiary, Enron Broadband Services had been convicted of some of the charges against them, but the jury could not agree on other charges against each one.  The Fifth Circuit Court allowed re-trial on the charges on which the jury could not agree, and each of the individuals filed a separate appeal to the Supreme Court.

The Court agreed to hear the case of former EBS vice president F. Scott Yeager (08-67), but refused on Monday to hear — or keep on hold — the separate appeal by EBS’ former co-chief executive officer, Rex Shelby (08-58). The Court, as is customary, did not explain its differing treatment of Shelby, but the U.S. Solicitor General had argued that the Circuit Court had not applied the same analysis to the re-trial in Shelby’s case as it did in Yeager’s.  The Court on Monday took no action on the third of the EBS officer’s appeals, that of Joseph Hirko (08-40).  That case presumably will be disposed of on the basis of the coming ruling regarding Yeager.

The Court is now in recess until it holds a private Conference on Tuesday, Nov. 25.

Cases: Bell v. Kelly