Details on today’s order list: Summary reversal in Ryan v. Schad
on Jun 24, 2013 at 4:03 pm
In a per curiam opinion at the bottom of its order list, the Court today summarily reversed the Ninth Circuit’s decision in Ryan v. Schad, a capital case. The decision clears the way for the execution of Edward Schad, who was convicted of first-degree murder in 1985. As our friend John Elwood noted, this case has “a long pedigree,” including a prior trip to the Supreme Court, which vacated the Ninth Circuit’s previous decision in Schad’s favorand remanded the case. On remand, Schad lost, and when he petitioned for Supreme Court review, it was denied.
Ordinarily, once a petition for certiorari is denied, a court of appeals must issue its mandate, i.e., an order making its judgment final and effective, “immediately.” But Schad requested that the Ninth Circuit stay its mandate pending the outcome of a different Ninth Circuit case. The Ninth Circuit denied that motion, but instead of issuing its mandate (and thus allowing the execution to go forward), it construed Schad’s motion as a motion to reconsider its denial of a prior motion to vacate and remand the case. And it decided that there might be something to that motion. On that basis, the court remanded the case to the district court for further fact-finding.
Arizona requested rehearing en banc, but the full Ninth Circuit refused to grant it (although eight judges dissented from that order). Arizona then petitioned for certiorari, and the Supreme Court held that the Ninth Circuit had abused its discretion in refusing to issue its mandate. The Court reasoned that barring exceptional circumstances, a court of appeals must issue its mandate immediately upon the denial of the petition for certiorari. It concluded that there were no such exceptional circumstances here, and so the Ninth Circuit had erred. The Court thus vacated the stay of execution, and remanded the case “with instructions to issue the mandate immediately and without any further proceedings.”