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Wednesday round-up

Yesterday was the second day of the November sitting, and the Court heard arguments in two cases.  (Links to the transcripts from both arguments can be found here.)  In Rehberg v. Paulk, the Court is considering whether a government official who acts as a complaining witness by presenting perjured testimony against an innocent person is entitled to absolute immunity from suit.  Mark Sherman for the Associated Press (via the Chicago Tribune) provides coverage of the oral argument, which Sentencing Law & Policy and Nina Totenberg of NPR previewed.  

The Court also heard arguments yesterday in Minneci v. Pollard.  At issue in the case is whether federal inmates may sue employees of a private prison company for constitutional violations.  Coming out of the oral argument, several observers – including Lyle Denniston of this blog, Jesse J. Holland of the Associated Press, Michael Doyle of McClatchy Newspapers (via the Kansas City Star), and Mike Sacks of the Huffington Post – agreed that the Court was unlikely to allow inmates to bring their suits in federal courts.   And in an op-ed at the New York Times blog The Loyal Opposition, Andrew Rosenthal urges the Court to allow such suits, arguing that otherwise the government will be able “to contract away prisoners’ constitutional rights—and contract away its own responsibility to protect individuals imprisoned under the law.”

On Monday the Court issued a summary reversal in Cavazos v. Smith, reinstating a California state decision convicting a grandmother for shaking her seven-week-old grandson to death.  In addition to the stories and posts included in yesterday’s round-up, coverage also comes from Debra Cassens Weiss of the ABA Journal, Carol Williams of the Los Angeles Times, Warren Richey of the Christian Science Monitor, Bill Mears of CNN, Dan Rivoli of the International Business Times, and Bob Egelko of the San Francisco Chronicle.  (Thanks to Howard Bashman for the last link.)  Andrew Rosenthal also discusses the case at the New York Times blog The Loyal Opposition.

Coverage of Monday’s argument in Lafler v. Cooper, in which the Court is considering what relief (if any) is available when a defendant rejects a plea offer based on bad advice from his lawyer, also continues.  In the Los Angeles Times, David Savage reports that the Court “showed little enthusiasm . . . for reopening the cases of criminal defendants who lost out on good plea deals based on bad advice or bungling by their lawyers,” an observation echoed by Mike Sacks at the Huffington Post and Robert Barnes at the Washington Post.  At Crime and Consequences, Bill Otis contends that there is only a “least bad” remedy in such situations and argues that because “the pre-trial defense lawyer was the problem, he’s the one who should pay the price.  He should be disbarred.”

Finally, Joan Biskupic of the USA Today previews next week’s argument in United States v. Jones, describing the case as a “potentially groundbreaking” one in which the Court will decide “whether constant surveillance is such an intrusion on people’s lives that police need a warrant before attaching a GPS device to a person’s car.”  Dan Rivoli at the International Business Times provides additional coverage, as does Erwin Chemerinsky, who speculates at the ABA Journal that the Court’s decision in Jones “could have enormous importance, not just in the jurisprudence of the Fourth Amendment, but in the role of the government in all of our lives.”


  • At Sentencing Law and Policy, Douglas Berman responds to Adam Liptak’s recent story (covered in yesterday’s round-up) on the constitutionality of lengthy stays on death row.
  • MSNBC’s Technolog reports on the Court’s denial of certiorari 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.
  • At this blog, John Elwood reviews the cases that were relisted or held after Monday’s order list, while Lyle Denniston reports that the Court has asked theUniversity ofTexas to respond to the recent petition challenging its race-based admissions policy.
  • Jessica Robinson at NPR previews Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency, describing the case as one in which “[a] fight over less than an acre of land in a remote part of the Northwest could alter the way the government enforces environmental regulations.”
  • In a USA Today op-ed, retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and former Florida Governor Bob Graham argue that “[f]or the sake of our democracy and our economy, it is time for America to reinvest in civics.”
  • The Los Angeles Times editorial board responds to recent criticism of the federal judiciary, including the Supreme Court, by some Republican presidential candidates.  The board argues that although “[t]he courts do play an influential role in the American political system,” “that doesn’t make the Supreme Court ‘nine oligarchs in robes.’”


Recommended Citation: Conor McEvily, Wednesday round-up, SCOTUSblog (Nov. 2, 2011, 10:26 AM),