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Blog Scan

Harriet Goes Back to Washington:  At Blog of Legal Times, Mike Scarcella reports that Harriet Miers is taking another shot at the Supreme Court.  Only this time, she wants to argue before the Supremes.  On May 22, 2009, former White House Counsel Miers filed a certiorari petition in a dispute about whether state and local governments have authority to tax natural gas held temporarily in storage in an interstate pipeline system.  Miers, now in private practice at Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell, filed the petition on behalf of Missouri Gas Energy to challenge taxes that officials in Wood County, Oklahoma levied on natural gas in an underground storage facility.  The company does not sell gas in Oklahoma, but the Oklahoma Supreme Court upheld the tax in an opinion last year.  The Supreme Court has called for a response from Woods County by September 3rd.  Ashby Jones also writes about Miers petition on Wall Street Journal's Law Blog.   

Oklahoma Considers Death Penalty for Repeat Sex Offenders:
  Doug Berman posts at Sentencing Law and Policy on an "Oklahoma legislator pushing the death penalty for a repeat sex offender."  According to a story from ABC's Tulsa affiliate, KTUL, Oklahoma State Representative Rex Duncan wants to create legislation would set the penalty for a first-time sex offender at life without parole. Prosecutors would be able to seek the death penalty for a second conviction.  A similar bill was passed in 2006, but was shot down by the Supreme Court.  Duncan believes the new bill is more specific and will be upheld.  Duncan's move comes after repeat a twice-convicted sex offender Marcus Berry was arrested for allegedly abducting a two-year-old girl from her front yard.  Police found Berry in his truck, with his pants down, with the partially dressed two-year-old girl.  He has previously been convicted for two acts of sex abuse, but had served less than 13 years of a 30-year sentence before being released.  Doug Berman's post wonders whether the Supreme Court's decision in Kennedy v. Louisiana would prevent Rex Duncan's proposed law.  As he reads it, Kennedy suggests the death penalty is always disproportionate for non-murder personal crimes, but, "other Eighth Amendment rulings clearly support the concept that a punishment which would be unconstitutional for a first offender might be permissible for a repeat offender."

Helpful Guide to Last Terms Criminal Supreme Court Opinions:  At CrimProf Blog, graduate fellow Peter Stockburger has compiled the reporter's syllabi from last term's U.S. Supreme Court criminal law and procedure opinions.  The syllabi give the facts and procedural history of each case and then discuss the Supreme Court's holdings.

What's Going On With Briscoe v. Virginia:  CrimProf Guest Blogger James J. Duane blogged about the "Extraordinary Mystery of Briscoe v. Virginia" yesterday.  Duane's post gives his thoughts behind why the Supreme Court voted to hear Briscoe so quickly after it had decided Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts. Duane believes that the four dissenters, Roberts, Alito, Kennedy and Breyer, voted to grant certiorari at a time when they all knew that Justice Souter was leaving. He speculates that their hope was that Briscoe would give them a chance to persuade Justice Sotomayor to reverse Melendez-Diaz.  When asked why the Melendez-Diaz majority did not put together a majority in favor of a summary disposition in Briscoe that would vacate and remand the decision of the lower court for reconsideration in light of Melendez-Diaz, Duane responds with less certainty.  His best guess is that Justice Souter "found himself in the middle of a surprisingly tense four-day standoff and perhaps even a four-four split between his colleagues, and decided that he would rather not supply the fifth vote to decide a matter that had become so contentious... [he] opted instead for the alternative of passing the buck to his replacement."  

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