Recently in U.S. Supreme Court Category

No Word From the Long Conference

| No Comments
The expected orders list the day after the "long conference" didn't come today, as it has in prior years. SCOTUSblog has this editor's note at the top of their home page:

In previous years, the Court released orders the morning after the Court's "Long Conference." It has not done so this year. Beginning last Term, the Court consistently considered petitions at least two times before granting certiorari. To the extent that practice continues -- and there is no affirmative evidence the Court intends to drop it -- we would not expect orders granting certiorari today.

The Long Conference

| No Comments
The U.S. Supreme Court justices are meeting today to consider the stack of petitions built up over the summer.  These are petitions from people who have appealed their cases to the second-highest level of courts and now want the Supreme Court to review them.  There are so many such petitions that the high court can only take about 1% of them.

The Cert Pool has the conference list.  There are over 1800 cases on it.  That's why it's called the "long conference."
In May I noted the Georgia Supreme Court's well-written, well-reasoned opinion on Georgia murderer Warren Lee Hill's challenge to the state law providing confidentiality to the suppliers of the drugs used for lethal injection.

As expected, Hill has filed a certiorari petition in the U.S. Supreme Court, seeking review of this decision.  The case is Hill v. Owens, No. 14-6033.
Tony Mauro has this article at National Law Journal (registration required) on the reorganization of the Supreme Court Clerk's office, previously noted here.

Jordan "Danny" Bickell will serve in the new position of deputy clerk for practice and procedure, which will carry out some of the functions of the chief deputy. Those includes "the preparation of weekly conference lists, taking action on extensions of time to respond to petitions for writs of certiorari, and service as the primary point of contact for members of the Court's bar with respect to questions of practice and procedure," according to the announcement.

Bickell's new title also means a temporary vacancy in the position of staff attorney for emergency applications--known informally as the "death clerk," the court's liaison with state officials and defense lawyers in the final hours before scheduled executions. Bickell held that position and will continue to perform those duties until the vacancy is filled.
Let's hope they fill the vacancy soon.  That job is too important and too difficult to be an "additional duty" rather than the person's main job.

Summer SCOTUS Orders

| No Comments
Today the U.S. Supreme Court issued the last of its three summer orders lists.  As expected, it was routine stuff.

The "long conference," at which the Court considers the big stack of petitions that have built up over the summer, is set for Monday, September 29.  We can expect an orders list with the petitions granted the next day.  A long orders list of petitions denied will follow on the official opening day of the term, the First Monday in October, which is the 6th.

The Cert Pool has the list.  It's 1566 cases.  They aren't kidding about "long."
UC Irvine Law Dean Erwin Chemerinksy has this op-ed in the NYT, titled "How the Supreme Court Protects Bad Cops." 

Chemerinsky is upset about the doctrine of qualified immunity in civil suits against police officers for excessive force.  Okay.  Although I generally support it, at times I have had some qualms about some aspects and applications of that doctrine myself.  But just looks at what he says to support this argument.

Ryan v. Hurles Returns to SCOTUS

| No Comments
Arizona's attempt to reinstate the death sentence of murderer Richard Hurles is back in the U.S. Supreme Court.  The prior petition was "relisted" an astonishing 22 times before the Ninth Circuit withdrew its opinion and issued a new one, causing the state to withdraw its petition.  The case was noted many times on this blog, including this post and this post, and it was a "regular" in John Elwood's "Relist Watch" at SCOTUSblog.

The new petition is number 14-191.

SCOTUS Clerk's Office Restructuring

| No Comments
Chris Vasil is retiring as Chief Deputy Clerk of the U.S. Supreme Court on September 1.  He will be missed.  The Court has announced a restructuring, described in this announcement and copied after the break.

Woodall Bearing Fruit

| 1 Comment
In the U.S. Supreme Court's last term, CJLF accomplished one of its long-standing objectives regarding Congress's landmark 1996 reform of federal habeas corpus.  On questions of law, including "mixed questions" of law and fact, a lower federal court can effectively overturn a decision of a state court only if the state court decision is either (1) contrary to U.S. Supreme Court precedent, or (2) an "unreasonable application" of U.S. Supreme Court precedent.  That second phrase is supposed to refer to application of existing rules to the particular facts of the case, not making up new rules by plowing new legal ground.  We got the Supreme Court to clarify that, and put the brakes on lower federal courts, last April in White v. Woodall, discussed in this post.

Friday we saw the effect of Woodall in keeping a Nevada murderer in prison where he belongs.  The opinion comes from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, not friendly territory for law enforcement, written by Judge A. Wallace Tashima, not one of our best friends.
Today the U.S. Supreme Court issued one of its midsummer orders lists.  These are usually just routine administrative orders, but occasionally you get something interesting. 

In today's orders list, we find this gem from Ballard v. Pennsylvania, No. 13-9364:  "The letters of June 2, July 8, July 14, and July 16, 2014, received in this case, are referred to the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania for any investigation or action it finds appropriate."  Hmmm.  What's that about?

This is a capital case.  Ballard is a so-called "volunteer," a death-sentenced inmate who doesn't want his sentenced reversed or even delayed.  Marc Bookman of the Atlantic Center for Capital Representation, claiming to be Ballard's lawyer, filed a certiorari petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the decision of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirming the judgment.  Ballard himself had a thing or two to say about that.

SCOTUS Denies Stay to Worthington

| No Comments
The US Supreme Court has denied stays of execution for Missouri murderer Michael Worthington.  In one case he was seeking review of the Missouri Supreme Court decision.  In the other, he asked for a stay pending a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.   Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan dissented from the denial of stay in the latter case.

Update:  Missourinet reports, "5 grams of pentobarbital were administered at 12:01 a.m.  He appeared to quit talking to his family by 12:02 and appeared to quit breathing at 12:03.  The Department of Corrections places the time of death at 12:11."

That's how it's done.  Pentobarbital is quick, effective, and painless.  Congress should outlaw the manufacturer's restrictions on resale as a restraint of trade.
Ryan v. Wood, 14A82 (today):

The application to vacate the judgment of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit granting a conditional preliminary injunction, presented to Justice Kennedy and by him referred to the Court, is granted. The district judge did not abuse his discretion in denying Wood's motion for a preliminary injunction. The judgment of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversing the district court and granting a conditional preliminary injunction is vacated.
No dissent is noted.  That does not necessarily mean the decision is unanimous, but any Justice voting against the order, if any, did not feel strongly enough about it to have it noted.

The Court denied Wood's motion for stay and petition for certiorari in the parallel case seeking review of the Arizona Supreme Court's decision.

Wood's execution is set for 10:00 a.m. Mountain Standard Time tomorrow.  Arizona doesn't go in for that biannual clock-fiddling nonsense.  That's 10:00 a.m. PDT and 1:00 p.m. EDT.

Update (Wednesday, 7/23):  Yesterday the Ninth Circuit rejected an attempt by Wood to reopen his case via Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b).  This morning the U.S. Supreme Court denied a stay of execution and writ of certiorari in that case.  No dissent is noted.

Update 2:  Now the Arizona Supreme Court has issued a stay, according to this AP story 1:41 p.m. EDT 7/23.

Update 3:  The 2:48 EDT update of the AP story (same link) says Arizona Supreme lifted the stay an hour later.  "The appeal focused on arguments that Wood received inadequate legal representation at his sentencing, along with a challenge about the secrecy of the lethal injection drugs."

Arizona Moves to Vacate Wood Stay

| No Comments
The State of Arizona has filed in the U.S. Supreme Court an application to vacate the stay of execution of murderer Joseph Wood, noted yesterday.  The case is Ryan v. Wood, 14A82.

The Ninth Circuit has a very helpful collection of the pleadings in this case.  The Supreme Court papers are in green.  The administrative folks at the Ninth really do an excellent job.  Now if we could only do something about the substance of the opinions . . .

Lest we forget what this case is about:
From the Federalist Society:

The Supreme Court issued a number of notable opinions in the area of criminal law during the recently concluded term. Members of the Federalist Society's Criminal Law & Procedure Practice Group Executive Committee offered their analysis on recent developments in the Supreme Court's criminal law jurisprudence and fielded questions from a call-in audience.

    • Dean Mazzone, Chief of the Enterprise and Major Crimes Division, Massachusetts Attorney General's Office

    • Kent S. Scheidegger, Legal Director and General Counsel, Criminal Justice Legal Foundation
Today's News Scan notes the stay of execution granted by a divided panel of the Ninth Circuit to Arizona murderer Joseph Wood so he can litigate his supposed First Amendment right to information about the source of Arizona's execution drugs.  The Ninth swiftly denied rehearing en banc with a dissent joined by 11 of the courts active judges.  The split was largely but not entirely on party-of-appointment lines, with Clinton appointee Richard Tallman and Obama appointee John Owens joining the dissent and Bush appointee Richard Clifton not joining it.

I have no doubt this case is headed for the Supreme Court.  It might be there already.

Monthly Archives