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No New SCOTUS Cases

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The US Supreme Court's orders list today does not include any new cases taken up for full briefing and argument.  No action on the Maples case.

Update:  Ala. AG tells us Maples is relisted for Friday's conference.

Maples' supplemental brief is here.

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This brief is an exercise in sophistry. First off, the idea that Maples finds himself in his predicament (i.e., having lost his chance for habeas) is due to no fault of his own is jarringly divorced from reality. That the lawyers are talking about his attorneys' missteps doesn't justify such patent grandstanding, given, of course, the fact that he's in the pickle he's in because he decided to commit capital murder. Another silly point: the reference to the fact that Alabama has a high per capita death row population--not sure how that passes the "so what" test. Additionally, the description of this case as "horrific" is simply over the top. The word "horrific" describes Maples' crimes, not the state courts' enforcement of deadlines. Moreover, the idea that the enforcement of a deadline, after notice to an attorney, somehow calls into question the legitimacy of the capital punishment system is simply true-believer nonsense, unfit for a Supreme Court brief.

The brief's main idea, i.e., that Walker, if anything, pushes in Maples' favor, is fanciful. The way the brief gets there is to distort Walker and the facts of this case. The brief makes much of the fact that the court clerk got a return to sender notice from the Postal Service. But that ignores the obvious fact that local counsel received the notice and did nothing--intellectual honesty would dictate that counsel acknowledge that their argument presumes that (a) the court clerk is to figure out which attorneys on a distribution list are the really important ones and (b) that a division of labor between attorneys is somehow binding on a court of law. The statement that the Alabama courts' actions are flatly contrary to Jones v. Flowers is laughable as well. Besides the obvious fact that one attorney did get the notice, which in itself makes Jones distinguishable, another problem is that it is difficult for a party to argue that a court clerk errs when it provides notice pursuant to instructions given by that party, another fact which distinguishes Jones v. Flowers.

As for Walker, well, the idea that the decision was "narrow" is simply wrong. But more to the point, although Walker may not have dealt with the precise issue in Maples, it certainly represents a strong headwind for Maples. The idea that Walker pushes towards cert. (or "reinforces" the case for cert. here) is a figment of lawyerly imagination. The Alabama court sent notice as per the instructions of the litigant, and it is not disputed that one of the attorneys got the notice and, for whatever reason, decided not to call his out-of-state colleagues (I wonder what the backstory was there.). And then, when the state courts enforce a waiver rule, Walker is supposed to help?

One part of the brief is actually right on the money: "This Court has emphasized that the GVR mechanism permits the Court to account for the 'equities of the case,' Lawrence v. Chater, 516 U.S. 163, 167-68 (1996) (per curiam), a factor that weighs heavily in favor of action here." That a capital murderer who blew a deadline can talk about "equities" with a straight face is more of an indictment of the Supreme Court than the lawyers. Of all litigants, a capital murderer, who has had a full round of appeals, is the least deserving of equitable intervention by a court. But, of course, "death is different", so we'll play act like capital murderers are deserving of more, not less, succor from courts. Unfortunately for Maples, at least not yet, Alabama courts, in enforcing its waiver rules, isn't bound by that silly slogan.

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