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Supreme Court Case Quick Updates

Current Term Quick Updates: 2023 Term (Oct. 2023 - Sept. 2024)

United States v. Rahimi (8-1, Opinion by Chief Justice Roberts on June 21, 2024.  Justice Sotomayor filed a concurring opinion, in which Justice Kagan joined.  Justices Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, Barrett and Jackson also filed concurring opinions. Justice Thomas filed a dissenting opinion)

Summary: The Court reversed and remanded the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Court held that when an individual has been found by a court to pose a threat to the physical safety of others, temporarily disarming that individual does not violate the Second Amendment. The Court clarified that U.S.C. § 922(g)(8) is therefore constitutional.

Decision is available here: 22-915 United States v. Rahimi (06/21/2024) (supremecourt.gov)

Smith v. Arizona (9-0, Opinion by Justice Kagan on June 21, 2024.  Justice Sotomayor filed a concurring opinion, in which Justice Kagan joined. Justices Thomas and Gorsuch filed opinions concurring in part. Justice Alito filed an opinion concurring in the judgement, in which Chief Justice Roberts joined)

Summary: The Court vacated and remanded the Arizona Court of Appeals. The Court held that when an expert’s testimony includes the testimonial statements of a non-testifying analyst, and such statements will only support the expert’s testimony if true, then such statements will come into evidence if true.

Decision is available here: 22-899 Smith v. Arizona (06/21/2024) (supremecourt.gov)

Erlinger v. United States (6-3, Opinion by Justice Gorsuch on June 21, 2024. Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Thomas joined. Justice Kavanaugh filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justice Alito joined and in which Justice Jackson joined in all except Part III. Justice Jackson also filed an dissenting opinion)

Summary: The Court vacated and remanded the Seventh Court of Appeals. The Court held that in order to prevent Fifth and Sixth Amendments violations when imposing an enhanced sentence under the Armed Career Criminal Act, certain requirements must be met. These requirements include a unanimous jury verdict and proof beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant’s prior offenses were committed on separate occasions.

Decision is available here: 23-370 Erlinger v. United States (06/21/2024) (supremecourt.gov)

Gonzalez v. Trevino (Per Curiam Opinion by the Court on June 20, 2024.  Justice Alito filed a concurring opinion.  Justice Kavanaugh filed a concurring opinion. Justice Jackson filed a concurring opinion in which Justice Sotomayor joined.)

Summary: The Court remanded the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Court held that the Fifth Circuit erred when it required petitioner to provide specific comparator evidence in support of her retaliatory arrest claim.  The Court held that plaintiffs do not need to provide virtually identical comparators in order to be exempted from the absence of probable requirement established by Nieves v. Bartlett.

Decision is available here: 22-1025 Gonzalez v. Trevino (06/20/2024) (supremecourt.gov)

Diaz v. United States (6-3, Opinion by Justice Thomas on June 20, 2024.  Justice Jackson filed a concurring opinion.  Justice Gorsuch filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justices Kagan and Sotomayor joined.)

Summary: The Court affirmed the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Court held that expert testimony stating that “most people” in a group have a certain mental state cannot be considered an expert opinion about the actual defendant and that such testimony does not therefore violate Federal Rule of Evidence 704(b).

Decision is available here: 23-14 Diaz v. United States (06/20/2024) (supremecourt.gov)

Chiaverini v. City of Napoleon, Ohio (6-3, Opinion by Justice Kagan on June 20, 2024.  Justice Thomas filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justice Alito joined. Justice Gorsuch also filed a dissenting opinion)

Summary: The Court remanded the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Court held that when a criminal defendant faces multiple charges, the presence of probable cause for one of the charges does not bar that defendant from later making a Fourth Amendment malicious-prosecution claim in regards to the other charges.

Decision is available here: 23-50 Chiaverini v. City of Napoleon (06/20/24) (supremecourt.gov)

Garland v. Cargill (6-3, Opinion by Justice Thomas on June 14, 2024.  Justice Alito filed a concurring opinion.  Justice Sotomayor filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justices Kagan and Jackson joined.)

Summary: The Court affirmed the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Court held that when it enacted §5845(b), Congress had intended to define machineguns as guns which could fire more than one shot “automatically….by a single function of the trigger”. The definition of ‘machinegun’ therefore turns upon the question of single trigger function and not upon the question of rate of fire. The Court held that under this definition, semiautomatic rifles with a bump stock cannot be considered machineguns. The Court also held that §5845(b) covers a large array of firearms and therefore is not rendered ineffective simply because the Court rules the code section does not cover semiautomatic rifles with bump stocks.

Decision is available here: 22-976 Garland v. Cargill (06/14/2024) (supremecourt.gov)

Thornell v. Jones (6-3, Opinion by Justice Alito on May 30, 2024.  Justice Sotomayor filed a dissenting opinion in which Justices Kagan joined.  Justice Jackson also filed a dissenting opinion.

Summary: The Court reversed and remanded the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Court held that the Eighth Circuit had erred in granting Habeas relief on Jones’s ineffective assistance of counsel claim. The Court held that when a capital defendant asserts that counsel failed to present mitigating evidence, courts must consider whether that mitigating evidence would have led to the defendant avoiding the death penalty.

Decision is available here:

22-982 Thornell v. Jones (05/30/2024) (supremecourt.gov)

Pulsifer v. United States (6-3, Opinion by Justice Kagan on March 15, 2024.  Justice Gorsuch filed a concurring opinion in which Justices Sotomayor and Jackson joined.)

Summary: The Court affirmed the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Court held that a criminal defendant facing a mandatory minimum sentence is only eligible for relief under  18 U.S.C. § 3553(f)(1) only if the defendant satisfies each of the provision’s three conditions.

Decision is available here: 22-340 Pulsifer v. United States (03/15/2024) (supremecourt.gov)

McElrath v. Georgia (9-0, Opinion by Justice Jackson on Feb.21, 2024.  Justice Alito filed a concurring opinion.)

Summary: The Court reversed and remanded the Georgia Supreme Court. The Court held that a jury’s finding of not guilty by reason of insanity constitutes an acquittal for purposes of double jeopardy, notwithstanding inconsistencies with the jury’s other verdicts on the same case.

Decision is available here: https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/23pdf/22-721_kjfl.pdf

Annual Review of the Supreme Court's Criminal Cases 

Summaries of all Opinions (including Concurrences and Dissents), in argued and non-argument cases and Orders; certiorari grants for the upcoming Term; a chart of “Who Wrote What;” and a brief Overview of the Term, regarding all Criminal Law and related cases before the U.S. Supreme Court (with clickable links to the cases).

Prepared by: Professor Rory K. Little, UC Hastings College of the Law