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Supreme Court Orders List

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The US Supreme Court has released its orders list from Friday's conference. Once again, the capital cases of Belmontes from California and Van Hook from Ohio, previously noted here, are not on it. They will likely be relisted for a fifth consideration at a future conference. David Savage has this story on Belmontes in the LA Times, written before release of today's orders list.

The Court declined the request of the evenly divided en banc Fifth Circuit to clarify a statute of limitations question in a 60s-era civil rights case, United States v. Seale. Under the Lindbergh Law in effect at the time of the crime, kidnapping in certain circumstances was a federal capital offense, and there was no statute of limitations (and still is not) on capital offenses. A later amendment removed the death penalty. Did that amendment impose the regular statute of limitations by implication, or do alleged perpetrators of crimes committed when they were capital remain subject to prosecution for life?

Justice Stevens, joined by Justice Scalia, thinks the Court should have taken the Fifth's certified question. Even though they will get another crack at it if Seale's other claims on appeal are rejected, answering the question now would facilitate other such prosecutions going forward if the Court says it's okay or avoid the cost of trial and ultimate reversal if the Court says it is not. Unstated but lurking in the background is the fact that people who were in their prime in 1964 are now elderly and may escape prosecution through the ultimate loophole if their cases are delayed much longer.

One criminal case was sent back for reconsideration under last term's Melendez-Diaz case on confrontation of witnesses. The Court accepted three civil cases.

The Court asked for the views of the Solicitor General in four cases, two of which are prisoner cases involving damages suits under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. SCOTUSblog has the details here. Howe and Russell represent the prisoners.

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