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SCOTUS December Arguments

The U.S. Supreme Court announced its December oral argument calendar Friday. Several criminal and related cases are on the docket.

NY State Rifle & Pistol v. City of New York, No. 18-280 leads off on Monday, December 2, and will get the most press if it is not canceled. Subsequent changes in state and local law gun control laws provide substantial grounds to believe the case is moot.

McKinney v. Arizona, No. 18-1109 closes out the session on Wednesday, December 11. The case involves the Arizona practice of the Supreme Court reweighing the aggravating and mitigating circumstances itself rather than sending the case back to the trial court for a new sentencing hearing. Current Arizona law for new trials requires the jury to do the weighing as well as find the aggravating circumstance that makes the case eligible for the death penalty. The murderer and his friends have filed copious briefing to the effect that the state court must apply current law with only scant attention to whether current federal law (the only law SCOTUS has jurisdiction to review) requires the jury to do the weighing at all. In Ring v. Arizona, 536 U.S. 584, 597-598, n. 4 (2002), the question decided was unambiguously limited to the finding of the aggravating circumstance, not the weighing.
On Wednesday, December 4, in Banister v. Davis, No. 18-6943, the Court will ponder another effort to use the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to subvert the strong limitation on reopening habeas corpus cases that Congress enacted in 1996. This time Rule 59(e) is the vehicle for eroding finality.

On Monday, December 9, the Court hears a pair of cases involving the deportation of criminal aliens, Guerrero-Lasprilla v. Barr, No. 18-776, and Ovalles v. Barr, No. 18-1015. The issue involves tolling of a statutory deadline, an issue all too familiar to federal habeas corpus practitioners.

Holguin-Hernandez v. United States, No. 18-7739, Tuesday, December 10, asks whether a federal criminal defendant must object to his sentence after pronouncement in order to question the reasonableness of the sentence on appeal.

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