Rory Little has this summary
at SCOTUSblog of the criminal and related cases for the coming Supreme Court term. What I found most interesting, though, is what is not there. Not a single case of a state prisoner challenging his conviction or sentence in federal court has been scheduled for oral argument next term.
The full list of cases taken up for the next term so far is here
. Not a single "CFH" on the list. There are two "CSH" cases, where the Supreme Court has taken a habeas corpus (or equivalent) case directly from the state courts. There are four "CSY" cases, straight criminal appeals from state courts. (Two of these arise from the same case, and a third presents a common question with the two. CJLF has filed a single brief
in all three.) There are three "CFY" cases, federal criminal appeals.
Federal habeas for state prisoners lies at the crossroads of federalism, criminal law, and protection of individual rights, and that intersection has been the site of many collisions. It has occupied a disproportionate amount of the Supreme Court's docket for many years. Maybe not this year.
There are, of course, many more cases to be added. Daniels
, discussed in this post
by Ian Sonego, is a federal-prisoner habeas case that is highly likely to be added to the docket.
In addition to argued cases, there are summary dispositions, and chastising federal courts that just can't stand the fact that Congress took them down a peg in 1996 will doubtless be among those. Even so, this could be the lightest term for state-prisoner federal habeas in some time.
As Rory notes, the reason for the Supreme Court to take criminal and habeas cases directly from the state courts is to get straight to the underlying issue without dealing with the limitations placed on the federal habeas remedy by Congress or the Supreme Court itself. Perhaps the Court believes that the major questions of habeas procedure and limitations have largely been addressed and wishes to devote more attention to the underlying criminal law and procedure questions.