Relist Watch

By on Jan 30, 2015 at 11:42 am

John Elwood reviews Monday’s relisted cases.

The newspapers were right: snow was general all over New England this week … though, perhaps not as general as some meteorologists had feared. In any event, we hope those of you who found yourselves with an undeserved mid-week snow day made judicious use of your extra time – by catching up on “back issues” of “Relist Watch”!

We begin, in customary fashion, with old news – which this week comes in three flavors: “good,” “not so good,” and “meh.” In the good-news category, the phonetically challenging OBB Personenverkehr AG v. Sachs, 13-1067 which, after performing a cert.-stage hat-trick – earning a rescheduling, a CVSG, and a relist – achieves the further distinction of winning a grant (over the Solicitor General’s recommendation to deny, no less). The petition, filed by state-owned rail company of the Republic of Austria (or, more fitting given the case caption, die Republik Österreich), asks whether agency under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act is determined according to the factors set forth in First National City Bank v. Banco Para el Comercio Exterior de Cuba or standard agency law; and whether a tort claim for personal injuries suffered in connection with travel by personenverkehr (literally, “person transportation” or “passenger transportation”) outside of the United States is “based upon” the act occurring outside of the United States or the sale of the ticket in the United States for travel outside of the country. A hearty glückwünsche to our Austrian friends!

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Friday round-up

By on Jan 30, 2015 at 6:47 am

Another merits case seems likely to drop off the Court’s docket.  As Lyle Denniston reported yesterday for this blog, George Toca – who had asked the Court to consider whether its 2012 decision limiting life-without-parole sentences for juveniles convicted of murder applies retroactively – was released yesterday from a Louisiana prison.  At Crime and Consequences, Kent Scheidegger agrees that vacating Toca’s conviction for second-degree murder was “a proper disposition.  Toca’s sentence would have been unduly harsh even if he were an adult at the time of the crime.”   Continue reading »

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Petition of the day

By on Jan 29, 2015 at 10:09 pm

The petition of the day is:

14-276

Issue: (1) Whether the Fifth Circuit erred in holding that a capital habeas petitioner may not obtain funding under 18 U.S.C. § 3599(f) to investigate and develop a claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel if the claim has been procedurally defaulted, regardless of whether the petitioner can establish cause for the default under Martinez v. Ryan, at least where the petitioner has not already demonstrated the merits of the claim; and (2) whether, in a capital habeas case where the petitioner has had no opportunity or funding to investigate or develop his procedurally defaulted ineffective-assistance claim, a federal court may deny relief and deny a certificate of appealability based on a premature determination that the claim lacks merit.

UPDATE: After a twenty-seven minute procedure, Robert Ladd was pronounced dead at 7:02 p.m. Central time.

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The Supreme Court on Thursday evening cleared the way for Texas to execute death-row inmate Robert Charles Ladd, a new indication that the Justices will leave states with wide leeway to carry out the death penalty.  With no noted dissents, the Court turned down two pleas for delay of Ladd’s execution, here and here.

The first of those pleas was a challenge to Ladd’s execution on the claim that he is mentally handicapped, and the second was a challenge to the lethal-drug protocol that Texas uses for executions.  Those are the two kinds of claims that have become common in last-minute attempts to spare condemned inmates.

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(UPDATED 6:11 p.m.) George Toca has now been released, his lawyers said in a statement.

A Louisiana prison inmate whose life sentence is under review by the Supreme Court was on the verge of being released on Thursday, according to news accounts in New Orleans.  George Toca, convicted of second-degree murder nearly thirty years ago when he was seventeen years old and sentenced to life in prison without parole, was involved in a new plea bargain, those news stories said.

On December 12, the Supreme Court granted review of Toca’s case, to decide whether he could benefit from a 2012 decision limiting life-without-parole sentences for juveniles who are convicted of murder committed while still a minor.  With his murder conviction and sentence now apparently being vacated, that case could lose its legal significance for the Justices.

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Rendered Perspective Clarence Thomas Center Chapel (Hillary Johnson, SCAD student)

Rendered Perspective
Clarence Thomas Center Chapel (Hillary Johnson, SCAD student)

The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) has recently completed its restoration of the Clarence Thomas Center for Historic Preservation at SCAD. Justice Thomas, a Savannah native, received his elementary education from the nuns who occupied the building when it was still a convent. Thomas also served as an altar boy in the building, which was constructed in 1908. A short video about the Center, narrated by SCAD President Paula Wallace, is available here.

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Thursday round-up

By on Jan 29, 2015 at 10:27 am

Yesterday the Court granted Oklahoma’s request to delay the executions of three death-row inmates; the Court had agreed to take on those inmates’ challenge to the state’s lethal-injection protocol last Friday.  Lyle Denniston covered the order and its scope for this blog; other coverage comes from Jess Bravin of The Wall Street Journal.

There is more coverage of and commentary on King v. Burwell, in which the Court will consider whether tax subsidies are available for individuals who purchase their health insurance on an exchange established by the federal government.  In The Washington Post, Robert Barnes reports on the focus on the views of Senator Ben Nelson, the now-retired Democrat from Nebraska who, during the debate over the Affordable Care Act, “insisted that states take the lead in establishing the exchanges” where individuals could purchase health insurance.  Elsewhere in The Washington Post, Greg Sargent writes that “[s]everal state officials who were directly involved at the highest levels in early deliberations over setting up state exchanges — all of them Republicans or appointees of GOP governors — have told me that at no point in the decision-making process during the key time-frame was the possible loss of subsidies even considered as a factor.” King and the same-sex marriage cases are the topic of the Room for Debate feature of The New York Times, which looks at whether the real-life consequences of the Court’s decisions should factor into the Justices’ decision making.  And in the National Journal, Sam Baker reports that “[h]ealth insurance companies and hospitals mounted an aggressive defense of Obamacare’s insurance subsidies Wednesday, warning the Supreme Court that eliminating the payments would be ‘grossly inequitable’ to millions of Americans.” Continue reading »

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Petition of the day

By on Jan 28, 2015 at 10:15 pm

The petition of the day is:

14-363

Issue: Whether the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, which forbids age-based discrimination against state and local government employees, precludes those employees from bringing a section 1983 action to redress age discrimination that violates the Equal Protection Clause.

Oklahoma executions put off

By on Jan 28, 2015 at 2:58 pm

Without a noted dissent, the Supreme Court on Wednesday afternoon delayed the scheduled execution of three Oklahoma death-row inmates, whose case the Justices will hear in late April.  The executions were put on hold, but only so far as the state would use a specific drug in the procedure — the sedative midazolam.

Although the order blocked the execution until a final ruling is issued in that case, the fact that the order was specific in forbidding the state temporarily from using only one specific drug left Oklahoma with the option of trying to develop a new lethal-drug protocol that could free it to resume executions.

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Screen Shot 2015-01-28 at 10.20.31 AMIt looks like 2015 might be the year of books on the Justices, mainly the female members of the Supreme Court.

Cambridge University Press has just released a book on Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. That book, edited by Scott Dodson, has contributions by journalists, scholars, judges, and practicing lawyers, including Tom Goldstein, Lani Guinier, Robert A. Katzmann, Herma Hill Kay, Dahlia Lithwick, Reva Siegel, Nina Totenberg and Joan Williams, among others.

Linda Hirshman (a retired professor of philosophy and law) likewise has a forthcoming book, one on Justices Ginsburg and Sandra Day O’Connor.

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