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California Prison Case and the Supreme Court:  At PrawfsBlawg, Jonathan Simon, a Boalt Hall Law Professor, comments that the California inmate case, Plata v. Schwarzenegger, is likely to end up in the Supreme Court "sooner or later."  Referencing the Sacramento Bee's October 9th story on the inmates request to hold Governor Schwarzenegger in contempt, Simon focuses his post on some of the "legal flash points" that will spark interest if the case reaches the Supreme Court.  But the case is already there: Schwarzenegger v. Plata, No. 09-416.

Supreme Court Case Discussing Strickland in Deportation Context:  At SCOTUSblog, Anna Christensen previews tomorrow's Supreme Court argument in Padilla v. Kentucky, a case that will address whether a criminal defendant's guilty plea can be set aside because his defense counsel affirmatively misadvised him with regard to the deportation consequences of the plea.  In her post, Christensen goes through the parties' briefs, and discusses the United States amicus' position that misadvice with regard to immigration consequences can be ineffective assistance of counsel, so long it satisfies both the performance and prejudice prongs of Strickland (Padilla can't do this because evidence of guilt is overwhelming).  This position is contrary to the Kentucky Supreme Court's position that Strickland did not apply because Padilla's deportation constituted only a "collateral consequence" of his guilty plea.  Kentucky's brief supports this decision, and argues that after Brady v. United States and Boykin v. Alabama, trial courts have a duty only to ensure a defendant's understanding of the "direct" consequences of his guilty plea.  SCOTUSblog is likely to post transcripts of the oral arguments tomorrow.

Reconsidering Deference to Favor Uniform Rule of Law:  At Sentencing Law and Policy, Doug Berman posts the abstract of Marquette Law Professor Michael O'Hear's SSRN article, Appellate Review of Sentences: Reconsidering Deference.  According to the abstract, O'Hear believes it is "unfortunate" that appellate courts defer to the"sentencing competence of trial judges."  O'Hear writes this type of deference could hinder advancements in "uniformity and other rule-of-law values that are threatened by broad trial-court discretion."  Instead of relying on a sentencing judge's knowledge of the case and the procedure, O'Hear proposes "a sliding-scale approach to deference that strengthens the appellate role, but also accommodates localization values in the cases in which they are most salient."

Accuracy of Forensic Psychiatric Evaluators: 
CrimProf Blog editors have posted on Douglas Mossman, MD's finding that "psychiatrists who evaluated mental competence from case files of 156 criminal defendants performed at a strikingly high level of accuracy."  According to the study's press release, the results of Dr. Mossman's study show that, on average, in "29 out of every 30 cases, the psychiatrists could distinguish competent defendants from incompetent defendants."  In reference to the results of his study, Quantifying the Accuracy of Forensic Examiners in the Absence of a "Gold Standard," Mossman is quoted as saying,"[t]hese results help us see how courtroom experts can be quite accurate in distinguishing competence from incompetence, but still reach different conclusions.  It's a matter of where experts draw the line on the issue of competence."  Mossman advocates adoption of a statistical techniques that "make it possible to estimate diagnostic accuracy without gold standards." 

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