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Tuesday round-up

In chambers until November, the Justices have left no shortage of topics for discussion during their absence. Much of this discussion has focused on yesterday’s grant of certiorari in Ashcroft v. al-Kidd (10-98), which considers whether former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft faces liability for the alleged use of the federal “material witness” statute as pretext for preventatively detaining terrorism suspects.  Abdullah al-Kidd, as Bloomberg reports, challenges what he sees as a “gross abuse of the government’s narrow power” under material witness law. Obama Administration lawyers have appealed on Ashcroft’s behalf, the Los Angeles Times reports, arguing that imposing such liability on top officials would “severely damage law enforcement.” Agence France-Presse and CBSNews provide brief summaries of the facts in the case. Joan Biskupic of USA Today details the history of the case at greater length, as do the Washington Post, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, and the Christian Science Monitor. In the WSJ Law Blog, Ashby Jones predicts an outcome favorable for Ashcroft. And both the New York Times and Lyle Denniston of this blog further detail the claims at issue in al-Kidd.

Justice Sotomayor’s lone dissent from the denial of certiorari in Pitre v. Cain – in which a pro se Louisiana inmate claims that prison officials forced him to do hard labor as punishment for refusing his HIV medication — also garnered attention in the blogosphere. Orin Kerr at the Volokh Conspiracy looks at the “rather remarkable” dissent in more depth, while Sentencing Law & Policy Blog highlights a notable snippet. Courthouse News Service provides a brief overview.

Other denials also generated attention. The Associated Press reports on the denial of the petition for certiorari in Simmons v. Galvin, which addressed whether the Voting Rights Act applies to state felon disenfranchisement laws. The Associated Press also covers the Court’s cert. denial in Hall v. Thaler, in which a Texas death row inmate argued that his mental impairment should prevent his execution. Maya Jackson Randall of Dow Jones Newswires (via NASDAQ) covers the Court’s refusal to review Bank of New York Mellon Corp. v. Grede, which considered the authority of a trustee appointed by a bankruptcy court to pursue creditor claims against a third party.

Commenters weighed in on cases already set for the Term, including one heard last week and one yet to be scheduled for argument. With regard to Skinner v. Switzer, the editorial board of The New York Times argues that “testing evidence should not be left to a strategic decision; it should be standard in a serious criminal investigation.” At issue in Skinner is whether a convicted prisoner must file a habeas petition or a civil rights suit to seek access to biological evidence for DNA testing. (Edward C. Dawson, counsel for the respondent, participated in an argument day podcast for this site, available here.) And elsewhere in the Times, Adam Liptak explores what he calls the “case of the poisoned paramour” – also known as Bond v. United States – and the implications of a criminal defendant arguing that her conviction under federal statute is inconsistent with the Tenth Amendment.

Finally, as part of the lasting legacy of Citizens United v. FEC, Matt Gouras of the Associated Press (via Salon) reviews a Montana judge’s overturning of a centuries-old ban on corporate spending in elections. The Missoulian tracks the development in-depth, as do Jess Bravin of the WSJ Law Blog, Jay Bookman in an opinion piece for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and KXLH-Helena.


  • C-SPAN’s “Q & A” provides the transcript of Brian Lamb’s interview of Justice Breyer. (Thanks to Howard Bashman of How Appealing for the link.)
  • Kenneth Jost of Jost on Justice mulls over the Supreme Court’s approach to prosecutorial misconduct.
  • The New York Times reports that Justice Sotomayor screened “12 Angry Men” at the Fordham Law Film Festival on Sunday; she told an audience that the movie “sold [her] that [she] was on the right path.” Gothamist links to a relevant clip of the film.
  • At Appellate Daily, Michelle Olsen wonders why anyone would expect Justice Kagan to join the decisions of Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor : “Why should she?  The three female justices are not a coven or group of junior high girls, where [when] one needs to visit the restroom, all go along.”

Recommended Citation: Nabiha Syed, Tuesday round-up, SCOTUSblog (Oct. 19, 2010, 10:11 AM),