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Tuesday round-up

The first day of the November sitting brought a flurry of activity, including orders from the October 28 Conference, two oral arguments, and a summary reversal of the Ninth Circuit.

 Almost every major news outlet reported on the Court’s decision not to review the Tenth Circuit’s decision holding that the placement of crosses along Utah highways in honor of state troopers killed in the line of duty is unconstitutional.  Justice Thomas dissented from the denial of certiorari in Utah Highway Patrol Assn. v. American Atheists, Inc. andDavenport v. American Atheists, Inc. Lyle Denniston of this blog discusses the denials and Justice Thomas’s dissent in detail; more coverage comes from the Associated Press, Salt Lake Tribune, Adam Liptak of the New York Times, Joan Biskupic of the USA Today, Bill Mears of CNN, Courthouse News Service, and Mark Walsh of Education Week’s The School Law Blog. 

 The Court also denied review in an Endangered Species Act case, Stewart & Jasper Orchards v. Salazar.  Lawrence Hurley of Greenwire and McClatchy have coverage, while the Associated Press (via the Washington Post) and the Hartford Courant report on the denial in Doninger v. Niehoff, in which a high school student sought review of the Second Circuit’s decision that school officials reasonably disciplined her for comments that she made on the Internet. 

Yesterday the Court summarily reversed the decision of the Ninth Circuit in Cavazos v. Smith, reinstating a California state court decision convicting a grandmother for shaking her seven-week-old grandson to death.  Lyle Denniston of this blog has coverage, as do Nina Totenberg of NPR and Courthouse News Service.  And discussing the decision at Balkinization, Jason Mazzone observes that the Court’s general approach to state court decisions “is to ignore all but the biggest errors.”

Yesterday the Court also heard oral argument in Lafler v. Cooper and Missouri v. Frye, two cases involving plea offers and the ineffective assistance of counsel. The Associated Press reports that the Court “seemed reluctant” to offer a second chance for plea bargaining after sentencing had taken place, while Nina Totenberg of NPR reports that the Justices “seemed a bit more conflicted” in Frye than in Lafler. Adam Liptak also has coverage of the arguments for the New York Times.


  • At the Atlantic, Andrew Cohen weighs in on the higher public profile adopted recently by retired Justice John Paul Stevens, writing that “it’s great that the man is speaking out and speaking up. He’s earned the right, first of all, and he also happens to be a natural and excellent legal analyst.” 
  • Adam Liptak of the New York Times discusses the argument that a lengthy stay on death row can itself amount to cruel and unusual punishment, including the views of Justices Breyer and Justice Thomas on that theory.

Recommended Citation: Nabiha Syed, Tuesday round-up, SCOTUSblog (Nov. 1, 2011, 9:52 AM),