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January 11, 2021 Cert Alert

Supreme Court Cases of Interest

Anthony J. Franze

With the death of the iconic Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the first Monday in October started the Supreme Court’s 2020–21 term under a dark cloud. And as this column went to print, the Senate, after contentious hearings and a partisan vote, had just confirmed Amy Coney Barrett as the 103rd associate justice of the Supreme Court. While the Court’s criminal law cases will likely be overshadowed by the addition of a new justice—and what that means for the term’s health care and other marquee cases—the Court will consider several important issues in the criminal sphere.

There are yet no decisions this term, but the Court’s docket is chock-full of criminal cases of interest. From defining the boundaries to what constitutes a “seizure” and “exigent circumstances” under the Fourth Amendment, to determining the circumstances under which juveniles can be sentenced to life without parole, to deciding whether the Mueller Report is shielded by grand jury secrecy, the term promises some notable, if not high-profile, additions to the Court’s criminal law jurisprudence.


October Sitting

Military Justice—Statute of Limitations

United States v. Briggs, No. 19-108, and United States v. Collins, No. 19-184
Argued: October 13, 2020

Question Presented:

Whether the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces erred in concluding—contrary to its own longstanding precedent—that the Uniform Code of Military Justice allows prosecution of a rape that occurred between 1986 and 2006 only if it was discovered and charged within five years.

Immigration—Removal Proceedings

Pereida v. Barr, No. 19-438
Argued: October 14, 2020

Question Presented:

Whether a criminal conviction bars a noncitizen from applying for relief from removal when the record of conviction is merely ambiguous as to whether it corresponds to an offense listed in the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Fourth Amendment—Search and Seizure

Torres v. Madrid, No. 19-292
Argued: October 14, 2020

Question Presented:

Whether an unsuccessful attempt to detain a suspect by use of physical force is a “seizure” within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, as the Eighth, Ninth, and Eleventh Circuits and the New Mexico Supreme Court hold, or whether the physical force must be successful in detaining a suspect to constitute a “seizure,” as the Tenth Circuit and the D.C. Court of Appeals hold.

November Sitting

Crimes and Offenses—Armed Career Criminal Act

Borden v. United States, No. 19-5410
Argued: November 3, 2020

Question Presented:

Whether the “use of force” clause in the Armed Career Criminal Act, 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(2)(B)(i), encompasses crimes with a mens rea of mere recklessness.

Eighth Amendment—Juvenile Sentencing

Jones v. Mississippi, No. 18-1259
Argued: November 3, 2020

Question Presented:

Whether the Eighth Amendment requires the sentencing authority to make a finding that a juvenile is permanently incorrigible before imposing a sentence of life without parole.

December Sitting

Computer Fraud and Abuse Act

Van Buren v. United States, No. 19-783
Argued: November 30, 2020

Question Presented:

Whether a person who is authorized to access information on a computer for certain purposes violates Section 1030(a)(2) of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act if he accesses the same information for an improper purpose.

Retroactive Effect of Unanimous Jury Ruling

Edwards v. Vannoy, No. 19-5807
Argued: November 30, 2020

Question Presented:

Whether the Supreme Court’s decision in Ramos v. Louisiana, 590 U. S. ___ (2020), applies retroactively to cases on federal collateral review.

Disclosure of Grand Jury Materials in Mueller Report

Department of Justice v. House Committee on the Judiciary, No. 19-1328
Argued: December 2, 2020

Question Presented:

Whether an impeachment trial before a legislative body is a “judicial proceeding” under Rule 6(e)(3)(E)(i) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.

Cases Not Yet Set for Argument

Fourth Amendment—Exigent Circumstances

Lange v. California, No. 20-18
Argued: TBD

Question Presented:

Does pursuit of a person who a police officer has probable cause to believe has committed a misdemeanor categorically qualify as an exigent circumstance sufficient to allow the officer to enter a home without a warrant?

By the Spring edition of this column, there will be decisions and possibly new criminal law cases on the docket. Until then, stay well—and here’s to the end of 2020.

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Anthony J. Franze


Anthony J. Franze is a lawyer in the Appellate & Supreme Court practice at Arnold & Porter, a regular commentator on the high court and appellate law, and a critically acclaimed novelist.