September 01, 2018

2018 Fall SCOTUS Spotlight

Supreme Court of the United States

Supreme Court of the United States

Here’s a look at the 2018 Fall Term of the Supreme Court of the United States.

Mount Lemmon Fire District v. Guido: Age Discrimination, Employment (10/1/18)

Facts: John Guido and Dennis Ranking filed an age discrimination lawsuit after being terminated from Mount Lemmon Fire District, a state political subdivision. The Fire District argues that the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) does not apply because they employ fewer than 20 people. Guido and Ranking argue that the 20 employee requirement does not apply to state political subdivisions.

Issue: Whether, under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the same 20-employee minimum that applies to private employers also applies to political subdivisions of a state, as the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the 6th, 7th, 8th and 10th Circuits have held, or whether the ADEA applies instead to all state political subdivisions of any size, as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit held in this case.

Gundy v. U.S: Criminal Procedure (10/2/18)

Facts: Herman Avery Gundy was convicted of violating the Sex Offender Registration Notification Act (SORNA) for failing to register as a sex offender after traveling under federal custody from Pennsylvania to New York. Gundy appealed his conviction arguing that his case predated SORNA, therefore violating the nondelegation doctrine.

Issue: Whether the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act’s delegation of authority to the attorney general to issue regulations under 42 U.S.C. § 16913 violates the nondelegation doctrine.

Madison v. Alabama: Eighth Amendment, Capital Punishment (10/2/18)

Facts: Vernan Madison received the death penalty for the 1985 murder of an Alabama police officer. While awaiting his sentence, Madison experienced several strokes, now exhibits several signs of brain damage, and no longer remembers the crime that he committed.

Issue: 1) Does the Eighth Amendment and the Court’s jurisprudence prohibit a state from executing a prisoner whose mental disability leaves him with no memory of the commission of the capital offense? 2) Does the Eighth Amendment prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment preclude a state from executing a prisoner who suffers from severe cognitive dysfunction such that he cannot remember the crime for which he was convicted or understand the circumstances of his scheduled execution?

Stokeling v. U.S.: Criminal Justice (10/9/18)

Facts: Denard Stokeling argues that his previous robbery convictions do not qualify as “violent felonies” under the Armed Career Criminals Act because they did not require a violent use of force.

Issue: Is a state robbery offense that includes “as an element” the common law requirement of overcoming “victim resistance” categorically a “violent felony” under the Armed Career Criminal Act, 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(2)(b)(i), when that offense has been specifically interpreted by state appellate courts to require only slight force to overcome resistance?

U.S. v. Sims and U.S. v. Stitt: Criminal Justice (10/9/18)

Facts: In two consolidated cases, Jason Sims and Victor Stitt were convicted of possession of a firearm as convicted felons and sentenced under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) due to prior burglary convictions. At issue is whether the elements of the state crimes the defendants were convicted are “the same as, or narrower than, those of the general offense.” If they are broader than those of the general offense, then they cannot serve as ACCA predicate offenses.

Issue: Whether burglary of a nonpermanent or mobile structure that is adapted or used for overnight accommodation can qualify as “burglary” under the Armed Career Criminal Act of 1984, 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(2)(B)(ii).

Nielsen v. Preap: Immigrant’s Rights, Criminal Justice, Detention (10/10/18)

Facts: Three lawful permanent residents filed a class action for habeas relief in California when immigration officers detained them under 8 U.S.C. § 1226(c) without a bond hearing years after being released from serving criminal sentences. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit, agreeing with the First Circuit and rejecting reasoning followed in four other circuits, held that the immigration detention at issue under § 1226(c) must take place promptly upon the noncitizen’s release from criminal custody.

Issue: Whether a criminal alien becomes exempt from mandatory detention under 8 U.S.C. § 1226(c) if, after the alien is released from criminal custody, the Department of Homeland Security does not take him into immigration custody immediately.

Washington State Dept. of Licensing v. Cougar Den Inc.: Indigenous Rights (10/30/18)

Facts: Cougar Den is a Yakama-owned fuel company which imports fuel from Oregon to Washington on public highways without paying taxes or holding a license. In 2013, the Washington State Department of Licensing requested Cougar Den pay $3.6 million for unpaid taxes and license fees. Cougar Den argues that they are not required to pay the bill because of the Article III of the Yakama Nation Treaty of 1855 that gives it the “right to travel upon all public highways.”

Issue: Whether the Yakama Treaty of 1855 creates a right for tribal members to avoid state taxes on off-reservation commercial activities that make use of public highways.

Garza v. Idaho: Sixth Amendment, Criminal Procedure (10/30/18)

Facts: Gilberto Garza entered into Alford plea agreements for drug charges that require him to waive his right to appeal. Both pleas were accepted by the district court, but four months after his sentence, Garza filed a petition for post-conviction relief stating his attorney did not file notices of appeal. The Idaho Supreme Court held that an automatic “presumption of prejudice” was not required, contrary to the majority of federal circuit courts.

Issue: Whether the “presumption of prejudice” recognized in Roe v. Flores-Ortega applies when a criminal defendant instructs his trial counsel to file a notice of appeal but trial counsel decides not to do so because the defendant’s plea agreement included an appeal waiver.

Bucklew v. Precythe: Eighth Amendment, Capital Punishment (11/6/18)

Facts: After being convicted of murder, kidnapping, and rape, Russel Bucklew was sentenced to capital punishment. Because Bucklew suffers from a medical condition that would cause serious harm and intolerable pain with the use of lethal injection during execution, the courts are deciding whether his sentence violates the Eighth Amendment of cruel and unusual punishment.

Issues: 1) Does the Eighth Amendment require an inmate with a unique and severe medical condition to prove an adequate alternative method of execution when raising an as-applied challenge to the state-authorized method of execution? 2) What evidence is required for a court to determine whether an inmate’s proposed alternative method of execution significantly reduces the risk of severe pain as compared to the state’s method? 3) May a court evaluating an as-applied challenge to a state’s method of execution assume that medical personnel on the execution team are competent to manage the inmate’s condition? 4) Did the petitioner meet his burden in proposing an alternative execution method under Glossip v. Gross?

Herrera v. Wyoming: Indigenous Rights (Date TBD)

Facts: Clayvin Herrera, member of the Crow Tribe of Indians, was convicted of two misdemeanors for hunting without a license on the Crow Reservation in Wyoming during closed season. Herrera appealed, arguing that the Laramie Treaty of 1868 gave his tribe the right to hunt off the reservation, and that the treaty was still valid and thus preempted state law.

Issue: Whether Wyoming's admission to the Union or the establishment of the Bighorn National Forest abrogated the Crow Tribe of Indians’ 1868 federal treaty right to hunt on the “unoccupied lands of the United States,” thereby permitting the present-day criminal conviction of a Crow member who engaged in subsistence hunting for his family.

Timbs v. Indiana: Eighth Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment (Date TBD)

Facts: Over the past few decades, there has been an unparalleled increase in fines and forfeitures by the U.S. state and local government. In Timbs v. Indiana, the State of Indiana sought to forfeit the vehicle of Tyson Timbs after his conviction of drug offenses. The state’s lower courts found that the seizure violated the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of excessive fines, but the Indiana Supreme Court reversed on grounds that the U.S. Supreme Court has not explicitly ruled whether the eight amendment applies against the states. NOTE: The Section submitted an amicus brief in this case.

Issue: Whether the Eighth Amendment’s excessive fines clause is incorporated against the states under the Fourteenth Amendment.

Nieves v. Bartlett: First Amendment, Probable Cause, Criminal Justice (Date TBD)

Facts: After his arrest for disorderly conduct and harassment, Russell Bartlett sued two Alaskan Troopers for false arrest, excessive force, malicious prosecution and retaliatory arrest, all of which were disposed of on summary judgment. The Ninth Circuit reversed on the basis of retaliatory arrest, and has since held that a plaintiff can bring a retaliatory arrest claim even if the arresting officers had probable cause.

Issue: Whether probable cause defeats a First Amendment retaliatory-arrest claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.