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6-3 Decisions in Criminal Cases

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Here is an interesting little tidbit for SCOTUS-watchers.  The high court decided four criminal or crime-related cases this week.  In all four, six Justices joined the majority opinion in full, ruling for the law enforcement side, and three Justices dissented all or in part.  However, the lineup varied.  Of the four Justices mostly dissenting in these cases, we see different ones joining the majority in individual cases.

In all four cases, Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito are in the majority.  In all four, Justice Ginsburg dissents, at least in part.  Then the vote varies:

Howes v. Fields:  Justice Kagan joins the majority on the Miranda merits question.  (The decision was unanimous on the AEDPA deference question.)

Kawashima v. Holder:  Justice Sotomayor joins the majority on the interpretation of Congress's badly written definition of "aggravated felony" for deportation purposes.

Wetzel v. Lambert:  Justice Sotomayor joins the majority on deference to the state court holding supported by more than one independent ground.

Messerschmidt v. Millender:  Justice Breyer joins the majority in full on a search warrant shielding officers from civil liability for a search.  (Justice Kagan concurred in part and dissented in part.)

These are all relatively minor cases, as Supreme Court precedents go.  The fact that they are all 6-3 or better is encouraging, though.  Nothing is hanging by a one-vote thread.

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With respect to Wetzel, I'd bet there are 9 votes for the general proposition that if a state decision is supported by one legally sufficient ground, then it would survive habeas scrutiny governed by AEDPA. I think that the dissenters in Wetzel are worked up about the Court's intervention with respect to an allegedly weak case of guilt.

Nice to get some of the libs on record.

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