June 26, 2018

Supreme Court Case Quick Updates

2017 Term (Oct. 2017 - Sept. 2018)

Currier v. Virginia, (5-4 Opinion by Justice Gorsuch, joined by Justices Roberts, Kennedy, Thomas and Alito in Parts I and II, and by Justices Roberts, Thomas and Alito in Part III, on June 22, 2018. Justice Kennedy filed an opinion concurring in part. Justice Ginsburg, joined by Justices Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan, filed a dissenting opinion.) 

Summary: The Court affirmed the Virginia Supreme Court. The Court held because Mr. Currier consented to a severance of the charges against him, his trial and conviction on a felon-in-possession charge, following an acquittal on charges of burglary and larceny, did not violate the Double Jeopardy Clause, which provides that no person may be tried more than once “for the same offence.” A defendant who consents to sequential trials for multiple, overlapping offenses loses double jeopardy protection. 

Decision is available here

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Carpenter v. United States, (5-4 Opinion by Chief Justice Roberts, joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Kagan and Sotomayor on June 22, 2018. Justice Kennedy, joined by Justices Thomas and Alito, filed a dissenting opinion. Justice Thomas filed a dissenting opinion. Justice Alito filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justice Thomas joined. Justice Gorsuch filed a dissenting opinion.) 

Summary: The Court reversed and remanded the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. The Court held the Government’s acquisition of Carpenter’s cell-site records was a Fourth Amendment search and required a warrant supported by probable cause. 

Decision is available here.

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Rosales-Mireles v. United States, (7-2 Opinion by Justice Sotomayor, joined by Justices Roberts, Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, Kagan and Gorsuch on June 18, 2018.  Justice Thomas, joined by Justice Alito, filed a dissenting opinion.)

Summary: The Court reversed and remanded the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.  The Court held that a miscalculation of a Federal Guidelines sentencing range that has been determined to be plain error and to affect a defendant’s substantial rights calls for a court of appeals to exercise its discretion under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 52(b) to vacate the defendant’s sentence in the ordinary case.

Decision is available at https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/17pdf/16-9493_e0fi.pdf

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Chavez-Meza v. United States, (5-3 Opinion by Justice Breyer, joined by Justices Roberts, Thomas, Ginsburg, and Alito on June 18, 2018.  Justice Kennedy, joined by Justices Kagan and Sotomayor, filed a dissenting opinion.  Justice Gorsuch took no part in consideration or decision of the case.)

Summary: The Court affirmed the Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.  The Court held that the record in this case demonstrates that the judge had a reasoned basis for his decision, and therefore the judge’s explanation for reducing, under 18 U. S. C. §3582(c)(2), Adaucto Chavez-Meza’s sentence to the middle rather than the bottom of the amended Federal Guidelines range was adequate.

Decision is available at https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/17pdf/17-5639_8m59.pdf

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Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach, Florida, (8-1 Opinion by Justice Kennedy, joined by Justices Roberts, Ginsburg, Breyer, Alito, Kagan, Sotomayor and Gorsuch on June 18, 2018.  Justice Thomas filed a dissenting opinion.)

Summary: The Court vacated and remanded the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.  The Court held that a finding of probable cause for Fane Lozman’s arrest for disrupting a city council meeting does not bar Mr. Lozman’s First Amendment claim of retaliatory arrest under the circumstances of this case.

Decision is available at https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/17pdf/17-21_p8k0.pdf

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Koons v. United States, (9-0 Opinion by Justice Alito on June 4, 2018.)

Summary: The Court affirmed the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. The Court held that defendants who are subject to mandatory minimum sentences and received lower sentences because they assisted the government are not eligible for reductions if the sentencing guidelines range is later lowered. The defendants do not qualify for sentence reductions under 18 U.S.C. §3582(c)(2) because their sentences were not “based on” their lowered Guidelines ranges but, instead, were “based on” their mandatory minimums and on their substantial assistance to the Government.

Decision is available at https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/17pdf/17-5716_jhek.pdf

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Hughes v. United States, (6-3 Opinion by Justice Kennedy, joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, Kagan and Gorsuch on June 4, 2018. Justice Sotomayor filed a concurring opinion. Chief Justice Roberts, joined by Justices Thomas and Alito, filed a dissenting opinion.)

Summary: The Court reversed and remanded the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. The Court held that a defendant who pleads guilty in a negotiated plea can benefit from later changes in the sentencing guidelines if the district court relied on the guideline range in imposing the sentence or accepting the plea agreement. A defendant may seek relief under 18 U.S.C. §3582(c)(2) if he entered a plea agreement under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(c)(1)(C) (Type-C agreement), which permits the defendant and the Government to “agree that a specific sentence or sentencing range is the appropriate disposition of the case,” and “binds the court [to the agreed-upon sentence] once [it] accepts the plea agreement.”

Decision is available at https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/17pdf/17-155_2bo2.pdf 

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Collins v. Virginia, (8-1 Opinion by Justice Sotomayor on May 29, 2018, joined by Justices Roberts, Kennedy, Breyer, Kagan, Ginsburg and Gorsuch.  Concurring opinion by Justice Thomas.  Dissenting opinion by Justice Alito.)   

Summary: The Court reversed and remanded the decision by the Supreme Court of Virginia.  The Court held that the automobile exception to the Fourth Amendment does not permit the warrantless entry of a home or its curtilage – “the area ‘immediately surrounding and associated with the home’” – in order to search a vehicle therein.

Decision is available at: https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/17pdf/16-1027_7lio.pdf

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Lagos v. United States, (9-0 Opinion by Justice Breyer on May 29, 2018)   

Summary: The Court reversed and remanded the decision by Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.  The provision of the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act of 1996 that requires certain convicted defendants to reimburse the victim for “expenses incurred during participation in the investigation or prosecution of the offense or attendance at proceedings related to the offense,” 18 U. S. C. §3663A(b)(4) does not include private investigations and civil or bankruptcy proceedings.  The words “investigation” and “proceedings” in the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act refer to government investigations and criminal proceedings.

Decision is available at: https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/17pdf/16-1519_o7jp.pdf

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McCoy v. Louisiana, (6-3 Opinion by Justice Ginsburg on May 14, 2018, joined by Justices Roberts, Kennedy, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan. Dissenting opinion by Justice Alito, joined by Justices Thomas and Gorsuch.)

Summary: The Court reversed remanded the decision by the State of Louisiana. The Court held that the Sixth Amendment guarantees a defendant the right to choose the objective of his defense and to insist that his counsel refrain from admitting guilt, even when counsel’s experienced-based view is that confessing guilt offers the defendant the best chance to avoid the death penalty. The client’s autonomy, not his counsel’s competence, is the issue.

Decision is available at: https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/17pdf/16-8255_i4ek.pdf   

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Murphy v. NCAA, (6-3 Opinion by Justice Alito on May 14, 2018, joined by Justices Roberts, Kennedy, Thomas, Kagan, and Gorsuch, and joined in part by Justice Breyer. Justice Thomas filed a concurring opinion. Justice Breyer filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part. Justice Ginsburg filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Justice Sotomayor, and joined in part by Justice Breyer.)

Summary: The Court reversed the decision of the Third Circuit. The Court held that provisions of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act that prohibit state authorization and licensing of sports gambling schemes violate the anti-commandering rule of the Tenth Amendment, and no other PASPA provisions are severable from the provisions at issue. States can legalize sports betting.

Decision is available at https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/17pdf/16-476_dbfi.pdf 

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Dahda v. U.S., (8-0 Opinion by Justice Breyer on May 14, 2018. Justice Gorsuch took no part in the case.)

Summary: The Court affirmed the decision of the Tenth Circuit. The Court held wiretap orders authorized by a judge for the federal district of Kansas in the government’s investigation of a suspected Kansas drug distribution ring were not facially insufficient, since they were not lacking any information that the wiretap statute required them to include and since the challenged language authorizing interception outside the court’s territorial jurisdiction was surplus.

Decision is available at: https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/17pdf/17-43_m648.pdf

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Sessions v. Dimaya, (Opinion by Justice Kagan on April 17, 2018.  Justice Kagan delivered the opinion of the court with respect to Parts I, III, IV-B, and V, in which Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Gorsuch joined, and an opinion with respects to Parts II and IV-A, in which Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor joined. Justice Gorsuch filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment. Chief Justice Roberts filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justices Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito joined. Justice Thomas filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justices Kennedy and Alito joined as to Parts I-C-2, II-A-1, and II-B.)

Summary: The Court affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.  The Court held that 18 U. S. C. §16(b), which defines “violent felony” for purposes of the Immigration and Nationality Act’s removal provisions, is unconstitutionally vague under the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.

Decision is available at https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/17pdf/15-1498_1b8e.pdf

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Wilson v. Sellers, (6-3 Opinion by Justice Breyer on April 17, 2018.  Justice Gorsuch filed a dissenting opinion in which Justices Thomas and Alito joined.)

Summary: The Court reversed and remanded the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.  The Court held that “a federal habeas court reviewing an unexplained state-court decision on the merits should ‘look through’ that decision to the last related state-court decision that provides a relevant rationale and presume that the unexplained decision adopted the same reasoning.

The State may rebut the presumption by showing that the unexplained decision most likely relied on different grounds than the reasoned decision below.”

Decision is available at https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/17pdf/16-6855_c18e.pdf

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United States v. Microsoft, (Per Curiam on April 17, 2018)

Summary: The Court held the case to be moot in light of the recently passed CLOUD Act.  It invalidated the 2nd Circuit’s ruling and sent the case back to the court of appeals with instructions to vacate the district court’s rulings against Microsoft and to direct the district court to dismiss the case.

Decision is available at https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/17pdf/17-2_1824.pdf

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Ayestas v. Davis, (9-0 Opinion by Justice Alito on March 21, 2018. Justice Sotomayor filed a concurring opinion in which Justice Ginsburg joined.)

Summary: The Court vacated and remanded the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The Court held that the District Court’s denial of petitioner’s request for funding for “reasonably necessary” services of experts, investigators, etc., to develop his claim that both his trial and state habeas counsel were ineffective was a judicial decision subject to appellate review under the standard jurisdictional provisions; the Fifth Circuit did not apply the correct legal standard in affirming the denial of that request.

Decision is available here

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Marinello v. United States, (7-2 Opinion by Justice Breyer on March 21, 2018. Justice Thomas filed a dissenting opinion in which Justice Alito joined.)

Summary: The Court reversed and remanded the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. The Court held that to convict a defendant under 26 U. S. C. §7212(a)—which forbids “corruptly or by force or threats of force . . . obstruct[ing] or imped[ing], or endeavor[ing] to obstruct or impede, the due administration of [the Internal Revenue Code]”—the Government must prove the defendant was aware of a pending tax-related proceeding, such as a particular investigation or audit, or could reasonably foresee that such a proceeding would commence.

Decision is available here

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Class v. United States, (6-3 Opinion by Justice Breyer on February 21, 2018.  Justice Alito filed a dissenting opinion which Justices Kennedy and Thomas joined.)

Summary: The Court reversed and remanded the DC Court of Appeals.  The Court held that a guilty plea, by itself, does not bar a federal criminal defendant from challenging the constitutionality of his statute of conviction on direct appeal.

Decision is available at https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/17pdf/16-424_g2bh.pdf

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District of Columbia v. Wesby, (Opinion by Justice Thomas on January 22, 2018. Concurring opinion in part and in judgment by Justice Sotomayor. Concurring opinion in judgment by Justice Ginsburg.)


Summary: The Court reversed and remanded the decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The Court held that based on the “totality of the circumstances” (the condition of the house and the behavior of the partygoers), District police officers had probable cause to arrest partygoers for trespassing. Additionally, the officers were entitled to qualified immunity because their conduct was not clearly established as unlawful at the time of arrest.

Decision is available here.