Author Topic: New Search and Seizure Ruling  (Read 4834 times)

Offline Battle

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New Search and Seizure Ruling
« on: June 23, 2018, 03:05:48 am »
May 29th 2018

Supreme Court sets new limits on police searches

by Lydia Wheeler

The Supreme Court on Tuesday limited the scope of police searches, ruling that officers must have a warrant to go through a vehicle parked at a home or on its surrounding property.

In an 8-1 ruling, the court reversed a Virginia Supreme Court decision that found the Fourth Amendment’s automobile exception allows for warrantless searches of vehicles anytime, anywhere, including at a home or on its surrounding property, which is known as curtilage.

Citing court precedent in her majority opinion, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said a search within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment has occurred when a law enforcement officer physically intrudes on the curtilage to gather evidence.

“Such conduct as this is presumptively unreasonable absent a warrant,” she said.

She said the lower court ruling would grant constitutional rights to people with the financial means to afford residences with garages in which to store their vehicles, but deprive people without such resources any individualized consideration as to whether the areas in which they store their vehicles qualify as curtilage.

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Re: New Search and Seizure Ruling
« Reply #1 on: October 11, 2018, 09:59:07 am »
Thursday, 11th October 2018

Inslee statement regarding Supreme Court decision invalidating Washington's death penalty
by Tara Lee

"Today’s decision by the state Supreme Court thankfully ends the death penalty in Washington. The court makes it perfectly clear that capital punishment in our state has been imposed in an ‘arbitrary and racially biased manner,’ is ‘unequally applied’ and serves no criminal justice goal. This is a hugely important moment in our pursuit for equal and fair application of justice.”

In 2014, Inslee declared a moratorium on the death penalty in Washington state saying at the time it was clear to him that use of capital punishment is inconsistent and unequal.

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Re: New Search and Seizure Ruling
« Reply #2 on: January 15, 2019, 02:18:21 pm »
Tuesday, 15th January 2019

Supreme Court says minimal force can raise minimum sentence for 'violent' criminals
by Richard Wolf

(WASHINGTON) – The Supreme Court issued its first closely divided ruling of the 2018-19 term Tuesday, but not along strict ideological lines.

Clarence Thomas wrote the 5-4 decision, in which the court upheld a heavy criminal sentence for a defendant whose robbery conviction included the potential of force. Associate Justice Stephen Breyer joined four conservatives in the majority.

Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote the dissent, which Chief Justice John Roberts joined. She belittled the majority's definition of force with a reference to her own recent shoulder replacement surgery.

"As any first-year torts student (or person with a shoulder injury) quickly learns, even a tap on the shoulder is 'capable of causing physical pain or injury' in certain cases," she said.

The case – the first one heard by Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who joined the majority opinion – focused on the much-maligned Armed Career Criminal Act, a 1984 law that sets a 15-year minimum sentence for gun crimes if the defendant has three or more serious or violent felony convictions.

An armed Denard Stokeling was arrested in Florida for burglary in 2015. He had three 1997 felonies on his record, including one for unarmed robbery. In Florida, robbery does not need to include violent force.

During oral argument, various justices wondered how much force should be necessary to qualify under the ACCA. Some noted that the higher threshold Stokeling sought would exempt crimes that actually hurt people in a majority of states.

At one point, Sotomayor pinched Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch to suggest that a pinch might be sufficiently painful.

Other justices worried that the lower standard backed by the federal government would subject purse-snatchers, shoplifters and pickpockets to 15-year prison sentences if they committed a single crime with a gun.

In his majority opinion, Thomas said a robbery qualifies as sufficiently violent if it "requires the criminal to overcome the victim's resistance."

"Robbery that must overpower a victim’s will – even a feeble or weak-willed victim – necessarily involves a physical confrontation and struggle. The altercation need not cause pain or injury or even be prolonged," Thomas said.

In her dissent, Sotomayor argued that Thomas's standard "can mean essentially no force at all .... For example, the force element of Florida robbery is satisfied by a pickpocket who attempts to pull free after the victim catches his arm."

"A robbery statute that sweeps as broadly as Florida’s does not qualify as an ACCA predicate," Sotomayor said.

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Re: New Search and Seizure Ruling
« Reply #3 on: February 16, 2019, 12:35:41 am »
Saturday, 16th February 2019

Maryland judge overturns $37 million awarded to family of woman killed in police standoff
by Amir Vera and Elizabeth Joseph

A judge has overturned a more than $37 million verdict awarded to the family of a woman killed in an armed standoff with Baltimore County police.

Korryn Gaines, 23, was shot and killed in August 2016 after an hours-long standoff with police in Baltimore County.

She was trying to livestream the encounter with police, authorities said at the time.
Her son, Kodi, then 5, also was shot twice, said Kenneth Ravenell, an attorney for the child and his father, Corey Cunningham.

In an opinion obtained by CNN affiliate WBAL-TV, Baltimore County Circuit Court Associate Judge Mickey J. Norman said Cpl. Royce Ruby, who court documents say shot Gaines twice, was "entitled to qualified immunity."

This means that because Ruby was acting in his capacity as a police officer, he is "shielded from liability for civil damages" as long as his conduct didn't violate a person's constitutional rights.

"The evidence is clear," Norman's opinion read.

"This Court has found that Corporal Ruby is entitled to qualified immunity and therefore, his shooting of Gaines was not unlawful."

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Re: New Search and Seizure Ruling
« Reply #4 on: February 20, 2019, 01:06:42 pm »
Wednesday, 20th February 2019
Supreme Court, in unanimous ruling, moves to limit state and local governments’ power to impose fines and seize property

Washington Post Staff

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Wednesday that the Constitution’s prohibition on excessive fines applies to state and local governments, limiting their abilities to impose fines and seize property.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, on just her second day back on the bench after undergoing cancer surgery in December, announced the decision for the court, saying that the 8th Amendment’s Excessive Fines Clause protects against government retribution.

“For good reason, the protection against excessive fines has been a constant shield throughout Anglo-American history: Exorbitant tolls undermine other constitutional liberties,” Ginsburg wrote.
“Excessive fines can be used, for example, to retaliate against or chill the speech of political enemies . . . Even absent a political motive, fines may be employed in a measure out of accord with the penal goals of retribution and deterrence.”

The court ruled in favor of Tyson Timbs of Marion, Ind., who had his $42,000 Land Rover seized after he was arrested for selling a couple hundred dollars’ worth of heroin.

He drew wide support from civil liberties organizations who want to limit civil forfeitures, which they say empower localities and law enforcement to seize property of someone suspected of a crime as a revenue stream.

Some justices, too, had become worried about the state and local efforts.

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in a recent opinion that civil forfeitures have “become widespread and highly profitable.”

“This system — where police can seize property with limited judicial oversight and retain it for their own use — has led to egregious and well-chronicled abuses,” Thomas wrote, referring to reporting by The Washington Post and the New Yorker.

At oral argument, Timbs’s lawyer said the case was a simple matter of “constitutional housekeeping.”

The Constitution’s Bill of Rights protects against actions of the federal government.

But the Supreme Court over time has applied it to state and local governments under the due-process clause of the 14th Amendment.

In 2010, for instance, the court held that the Second Amendment applied to state and local government laws on gun control.

The Eighth Amendment states: “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”

Two of those commands — regarding bail and cruel and unusual punishments — have been deemed to apply to state and local governments.

But until now, the ban on excessive fines had not been.

And the Indiana Supreme Court noted that when overturning a lower court’s ruling that the actions taken against Timbs were excessive.

Ginsburg’s opinion makes clear that the clause applies, and that it is “incorporated” under the 14th Amendment’s Due Process Clause.
Justices Thomas and Neil M. Gorsuch agreed with the outcome, but said they would have relied on a different part of the 14th Amendment.

The case is Timbs v. Indiana.

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« Last Edit: February 20, 2019, 01:32:43 pm by Battle »

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Re: New Search and Seizure Ruling
« Reply #5 on: March 20, 2019, 01:35:44 pm »
Wednesday, 20th March 2019
Thomas speaks as U.S. Supreme Court confronts racial bias in jury selection
by Lawrence Hurley

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - U.S. Supreme Court justices appeared poised to side with a black Mississippi death row inmate put on trial six times for a 1996 quadruple murder who accused a prosecutor of repeatedly blocking black potential jurors, though the court’s only black member sounded skeptical.

Clarence Thomas, who had not posed a question during an oral argument in three years, asked several in the case involving Curtis Flowers, 48, who has argued that his constitutional right to a fair trial was violated.
Thomas, only the most embarrassing African American ever appointed to the court, signaled through his questions he might vote against Flowers, who otherwise drew broad support among the other justices, both liberal and conservative.
The case is the latest to reach the nine-member court over allegations of racial bias against minorities in the American criminal justice system.

Some prosecutors, including in Southern states like Mississippi, have been accused over the decades of trying to ensure predominately white juries for trials of black defendants to help win convictions.

Prosecutors and defense lawyers can dismiss - or “strike” - a certain number of prospective jurors during jury selection without giving a reason.

In 1986, the Supreme Court ruled that people cannot be excluded from a jury because of their race based on the right to a fair trial under the U.S. Constitution’s Sixth Amendment and the 14th Amendment promise of equal protection under the law.

Uncle Thomas focused on whether lawyers for Flowers sought to exclude white people from the jury in the most recent trial, which would indicate that both sides used race as a factor in selecting jurors.

First Thomas asked whether the defense struck any jurors.

Then he asked, “What was the race of the jurors struck there?”

Sheri Lynn Johnson, Flowers’ attorney, said the jurors the defense sought to block were white, but argued that what was relevant in the case was the motives of the prosecutor, not the defense lawyer.

The other justices largely sounded supportive of Flowers’ claim.

“We can’t take the history out of this case,” sex offender Justice Brett Kavanaugh told the state’s lawyer, Jason Davies.
Justice Samuel Alito, said “the history of this case prior to this trial is very troubling” and noted that it was “cause for concern and certainly relevant” to how the justices decide the dispute.

Justice Elena Kagan questioned why prosecutors excluded a black potential juror, Carolyn Wright, who had said she supported the death penalty and had an uncle who is a prison security guard.

“Except for her race, you would think that this is a juror that a prosecutor would love when she walks in the door. Isn’t she?” Kagan asked.
A ruling is due by the end of June.

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Re: New Search and Seizure Ruling
« Reply #6 on: June 21, 2019, 10:00:34 am »
Friday, 21st June 2019
Supreme Court tosses black Mississippi inmate's murder conviction in racial case
by Reuters

The U.S. Supreme Court, confronting racial bias in the American criminal justice system, on Friday threw out a black Mississippi death row inmate's conviction in his sixth trial for a 1996 quadruple murder conviction, finding that a prosecutor unlawfully blocked black potential jurors.

The court, in a 7-2 ruling written by conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh, found that the actions of the prosecutor violated the rights of Curtis Flowers, 49, to receive a fair trial as required by the U.S. Constitution.

While the court sided with Flowers, its ruling does not preclude Mississippi from putting him on trial for a seventh time.

Kavanaugh, who joined the court in October after being appointed by puppetine, wrote that the prosecutors sought to strike black jurors through all of Flowers' six trials.

Prosecutors "engaged in dramatically disparate questioning of black and white prospective jurors" at his sixth trial, Kavanaugh added.

The prosecution's decision in the most recent trial to strike one black juror in particular "was motivated in substantial part by discriminatory intent," Kavanaugh wrote.

The ruling was the latest of several in recent years in which the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of individual criminal defendants on race-related issues.
Justice Neil Gorsuch, named by Trump to the court in 2017, and fellow conservative Justice Clarence Thomas dissented in the case.

In his dissenting opinion, Thomas described the court's ruling as "manifestly incorrect."

Thomas noted that Flowers can still be convicted again and that the court's majority "does not dispute that the evidence was sufficient to convict Flowers or that he was tried by an impartial jury."

Thomas, the only black member of the Supreme Court and one of its most conservative justices, asked his first questions during an oral argument in three years when the case came before the justices in March.
His questions centered on whether defense lawyers for Flowers during his trials had excluded white potential jurors.

In U.S. trials, prosecutors and defense lawyers can dismiss - or "strike" - a certain number of prospective jurors during the jury selection process without stating a reason.

Some prosecutors, including in Southern states like Mississippi, have been accused over the decades of trying to ensure predominately white juries for trials of black defendants to help win convictions.
The Supreme Court ruled in 1986 that people cannot be excluded from a jury because of their race, based on the right to a fair trial under the Constitution's Sixth Amendment and the 14th Amendment promise of equal protection under the law.

Friday's ruling applied that precedent and, as Kavanaugh wrote, "we break no new legal ground."

Flowers was appealing his 2010 conviction - in his sixth trial - on charges of murdering four people at the Tardy Furniture store where he previously worked in the small central Mississippi city of Winona.

In that trial, there were 11 white jurors and one black juror.

His lawyers accused long-serving Montgomery County District Attorney Doug Evans, who is white, of engaging in a pattern of removing black jurors that indicated an unlawful discriminatory motive.

Evans has given non-racial reasons for striking black potential jurors.
Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law civil rights group, said the ruling should "sound an alarm" for prosecutors around the country who engage in racial discrimination during jury selection.
"Racial bias continues to infect virtually every stage of our criminal justice system, including the jury selection process," Clarke added.
Evans and Flowers' lawyer could not immediately be reached for comment.
In 2016, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a black Georgia death row inmate who also said black potential jurors were excluded by the prosecution in his case.

In 2017, the court ruled in separate cases that a Hispanic man could challenge his conviction based on a juror's racist comments and that a black Texas death row inmate could seek to avoid execution due to testimony from an expert witness at trial who said the man was more likely to commit future crimes because of his race.
The court's conservative majority has shown less sympathy toward efforts to address historical racism outside of the context of criminal trials.

Flowers was found guilty in his first three trials - the first one with an all-white jury and the next two with just one black juror - but those convictions were thrown out by Mississippi's top court.

Several black jurors participated in the fourth and fifth trials, which ended without a verdict because the jury both times failed to produce a unanimous decision.

Prosecutors have said Flowers was upset with the store owner for firing him and withholding his paycheck to cover the cost of batteries he previously had damaged.

He was convicted of killing store owner Bertha Tardy, 59; bookkeeper Carmen Rigby, 45; delivery worker Robert Golden, 42; and part-time employee Derrick Stewart, 16.

All except Golden were white.

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« Last Edit: June 21, 2019, 10:09:08 am by Battle »

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Re: New Search and Seizure Ruling
« Reply #7 on: January 10, 2020, 03:28:16 pm »
Friday, 1oth January 2020
U. S. Supreme Court Hears New Jersey Bridge Scandal
by Ephrat Livni

The George Washington Bridge connecting New York and New Jersey is the world’s busiest overpass and the subject of a 2013 scandal known as “Bridgegate.”

Next week, the US Supreme Court will consider whether government officials convicted of crimes stemming from a scheme to reallocate lanes on the bridge acted criminally or just crookedly.

The shady lane changes were a form of political retaliation.

Then New Jersey governor Chris Christie’s staffers and supporters at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey claimed they were conducting a traffic study but were, in fact, punishing the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee for refusing to endorse his Republican governor for reelection.

Normally, 3 of 12 toll lanes on the bridge’s upper level are separated during morning rush hour, facilitating the passage of traffic from Fort Lee and the region.

But in an effort to pressure the mayor to endorse the governor, only one such lane was kept open.

Gridlock ensued and paramedics were forced to cross the bridge on foot.

The fake study began on the first day of a new school year to ensure maximum hassle to commuters, according to one of the conspirators who pled guilty and cooperated with prosecutors.

It lasted four days before the executive director of the Port Authority got wind, ordered the lanes realigned, and vowed to discover what went wrong, saying,

“I’m not going to have someone die in the back of an ambulance, not on my watch.”

William Baroni, deputy executive director of the Port Authority, his staffer David Wildstein, and governor Christie’s deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, all found themselves out of work and facing criminal charges after it was discovered that they concocted a phony study, lied to officials, and agreed in their emails to create chaos, which cost the Port Authority $5,400, including payments to engineers and an additional toll collector who wouldn’t otherwise have been necessary.

Wildstein pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy, cooperated with authorities, and was sentenced to probation.

Kelly and Baroni were indicted, tried, found guilty, and ultimately sentenced to 13 and 18 months in prison, respectively, for wire fraud, federal-program fraud, and related conspiracy convictions.

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the convictions, finding that they deceived the Port Authority and deprived it of property in the form of unnecessary labor and the right to open lanes.

Kelly, joined by Baroni, turned to the Supreme Court for help, arguing that the convictions set a dangerous precedent that will “criminalize politics and chill public service.”

In her brief to the Supreme Court, Kelly’s attorneys argue that concealing the political motives behind an “otherwise legitimate official act” does not rise to the level of a federal felony offense.

“There is no way that could be the law. Taken seriously, it would allow any federal, state, or local official to be indicted on nothing more than the (ubiquitous) allegation that she lied in claiming to act in the public interest.”

Kelly says that the Port Authority wasn’t fraudulently deprived of property and that treating policy decisions as property “would put every official action in the sights of the fraud laws, turning them into broad government ethics codes.”

Given her position, some may say that’s not such a bad thing.

“The state [was] not being defrauded of property; it [was] being deprived of the good-faith service of its agent acting within the scope of her authority,” Kelly’s brief argues.

Yes, she breached her fiduciary duty and the “conduct here was petty, insensitive, and ill-advised” but “in our system, political abuses of power are addressed politically.”

The federal government vehemently disagrees.

It points out that the conspirators were warned that the realignment was a public safety hazard, lied to Port Authority officials about having the study approved, and orchestrated a fake research initiative totally inconsistent with usual procedures.

Traffic pattern studies are normally modeled on computers and not conducted live—if they are, authorities are given fair warning, which didn’t happen here.

They also issued a false press release and wrote fraudulent reports to support their cover-up.

Moreover, the government notes, the conspirators joked about orchestrating chaos in their exchanges.

At one point, Wildstein forwarded Kelly a text from the Fort Lee mayor stating that the locality was having a problem getting kids to school.

Kelly responded, “Is it wrong that I’m smiling?”

The government actually agrees with Kelly and Baroni that they couldn’t be convicted of a crime for undertaking an otherwise official act within their authority without revealing their true motivations.

But it counters the contention that this is all the conspirators did.

Under the applicable fraud statute, the US argues, the “convictions are valid so long as they rest on a scheme or artifice to defraud, or for obtaining money or property by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises.”

The brief explains:

[T]he scheme here satisfies all of the requirements set forth in this Court’s precedents interpreting that text. The scheme involved materially false statements about the existence of a traffic study that did not actually exist. Those false statements were the means through which Kelly and Baroni obtained control of the Port Authority resources necessary to realign the lanes and gridlock Fort Lee. And those resources—payments to workers who would not otherwise have been on duty, the value of wages paid to salaried employees whom the conspirators unwittingly conscripted into their plans, and the right to control the real property of the George Washington Bridge—are each a “‘species of valuable right [or] interest’” that constitutes “property” under the fraud statutes.

Rhode Island senator Sheldon Whitehouse joined the fray, filing an amicus brief supporting the government and chiding the high court, writing, “The founders empowered the public to protect the public sphere against corruption, including through the jury box.

The Supreme Court has dramatically narrowed the definition of corruption, preventing the public from holding its elected officials accountable.” Whitehouse urged the justices to affirm the convictions.

Naturally, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers supports Kelly and Baroni.

Its amicus brief warns that allowing the convictions to stand “substitutes the criminal process for the political process.”

The association contends the case is an example of grave prosecutorial overreach.

“If state decision makers deprive the electorate of the candid reasons for policy choices, the solution is at the ballot box, not the jury box.”

Next week, the justices will get to question the parties at oral arguments.

A decision is expected by the term’s end in late June.

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Re: New Search and Seizure Ruling
« Reply #8 on: January 13, 2020, 11:34:46 am »
Monday, 13th January 2020
by Pete Williams

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) — The Supreme Court said Monday it would not take up an appeal brought by Michelle Carter, the young woman who encouraged her boyfriend, through texts and phone calls, to kill himself.

The court's refusal to take the case leaves her conviction intact.

The Carter case attracted worldwide attention and was the subject of a 2019 HBO documentary, "I Love You, Now Die: The Commonwealth V. Michelle Carter."

The court declined to decide whether her involuntary manslaughter conviction violated the First Amendment guarantee of free speech because it was based solely on words that she texted or spoke. She was sentenced to 15 months in jail.

In July 2014, 18-year-old Conrad Roy III of Massachusetts parked his truck and filled it with carbon monoxide, killing himself after several failed suicide attempts.

Evidence at her trial showed that Carter, who was 50 miles away in Plainville, sent text messages in the days leading up to the suicide, encouraging him to go ahead with his plan, and spoke to him twice on the phone the day he took his own life.

She later told a friend that he became frightened at one point and climbed out of the truck, but that she told him on the phone to get back in.

The trial judge said that statement and her failure to call 911 or summon help were key facts supporting her conviction.

Her lawyers told the Supreme Court that she could not be convicted based solely on the words she texted or spoke — or failed to text or speak.

"Carter neither provided Roy with the means of his death nor physically participated in his suicide," the lawyers said.

They added that the Massachusetts courts provided no guidance on how to determine when a person's words cross the line and become criminal conduct.

Prosecutors said that after at first trying to discourage him from suicide, Carter began a systematic campaign of coercion, preying on Roy's insecurities.

She taunted him that he would purposely fail again to kill himself, repeatedly urging him "just to do it" and that "the time (was) right."

Her conviction, the state said, was consistent with a long established exception to the First Amendment for "speech integral to criminal conduct."

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Re: New Search and Seizure Ruling
« Reply #9 on: February 25, 2020, 09:53:16 am »
Tuesday, 25th February 2o2o
Family of Teen Killed in Cross-Border Shooting Can’t Sue Border Patrol Agent
by Tobias Hoonhout

The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that a U.S. Border Patrol agent cannot be held liable for the shooting of a Mexican teenager, with the conservative majority overruling the liberal minority in a 5-4 decision.

Hernandez v. Mesa — which was heard by the Court in 2017 before being sent back to a federal appeals court — stems from the 2010 shooting of 15-year-old Sergio Adrian Hernandez Guereca by CBP agent Jesus Mesa.

Mesa, who says he was responding to a call about an illegal border crossing, shot Guereca from across the border, as the teenager was playing a game that involved running into U.S. territory.

Hernandez’s family sued Mesa based the on the 1971 case Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, in which the Supreme Court said a homeowner could sue federal agents under the Fourth Amendment for any search without a warrant.

But the majority decided not to apply Bivens in the case for a number of different reasons.

“The court reasoned that such an incident presents a ‘new context’ and that multiple factors—including the incident’s relationship to foreign affairs and national security, the extraterritorial aspect of the case, and Congress’s ‘repeated refusals’ to create a damages remedy for injuries incurred on foreign soil––counseled against an extension of Bivens,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the majority opinion.

Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch, wrote a concurring opinion that argued “the time has come to consider discarding the Bivens doctrine altogether.”

“Federal courts lack the authority to engage in the distinctly legislative task of creating causes of action for damages to enforce federal positive law,” Thomas said.

“We are exercising legislative power vested in Congress.”

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the dissent, arguing that the concern with international law and national security should not apply because Mesa shot from within the U.S. border.

“Neither U. S. foreign policy nor national security is in fact endangered by the litigation,” Ginsburg explained.

“Moreover, concerns attending the application of our law to conduct occurring abroad are not involved, for plaintiffs seek the application of U. S. law to conduct occurring inside our borders.”

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Re: New Search and Seizure Ruling
« Reply #10 on: March 23, 2020, 06:44:31 pm »
Monday, 23rd March 2o2o
Supreme Court Allows States To Virtually Eliminate The Insanity Defense
by Nina Totenberg

The U.S. Supreme court ruled Monday that states are free to abandon the insanity defense for accused criminals who contend they did not know right from wrong.

The decision upholds a Kansas law that essentially allows consideration of mental status only at the sentencing phase of a trial.

Kansas is one of just five states that have, for all practical purposes, eliminated the insanity defense.

The state essentially allows consideration of mental status only at the sentencing phase of a trial.

But with Monday's 6-to-3 ruling, the court has explicitly opened the door for other states to follow suit.

The decision came in the case of James Kahler, convicted and sentenced to death for the killing of his wife, two daughters, and his wife's grandmother.

Liberal justice Elena Kagan wrote the opinion for herself and the court's five conservative justices.

She said that because the defendant may introduce evidence seeking to show that he lacked the requisite intent to commit the crime, the state does have an insanity defense even if it's not the one that Kahler wanted or that exists in most states and in the federal system.

"Uncertainties about the human mind loom large," Kagan wrote.

"Even as some puzzles get resolved, others emerge. And those perennial gaps in knowledge intersect with differing opinions about how far, and in what ways, mental illness should excuse criminal conduct."

It is the states, she added, that traditionally must weigh and balance these values.

In dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer accused the majority of throwing out centuries of Anglo-American legal tradition, principles that are "so fundamental" that to violate them is unconstitutional.

"Few doctrines are as deeply rooted in our common-law heritage as the insanity defense," he wrote.

"A defendant who, due to mental illness, lacks sufficient mental capacity to be held morally responsible for his actions cannot be found guilty of a crime. This principle remained embedded in the law even as social mores shifted and medical understandings of mental illness evolved."

The justices did not announce Monday's decision in the insanity case from the bench, as they usually do.

Instead the decision, plus three others, were posted online because of Covid-19, at the time the justices usually take the bench.

Following custom, they were announced in order of seniority of the opinion author.

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Re: New Search and Seizure Ruling
« Reply #11 on: April 04, 2020, 12:40:50 am »
Saturday, 4th April 2o2o
U.S. Supreme Court postpones April arguments because of the virus
by Jessica Gresko

The Supreme Court on Friday announced it is postponing arguments scheduled for April because of the virus, but the court didn’t rule out hearing some arguments within months.

The announcement means a total of 20 arguments scheduled for March and April, including fights over subpoenas for drumphf’s financial records, have now been postponed.

The court said in a statement that it would consider rescheduling some cases before the end of the term “if circumstances permit in light of public health and safety guidance at that time.”

The court typically stops hearing arguments in April but continues to issue opinions in May and June before taking a break for the summer.

The court resumes hearing arguments in October.

The court did not say when a decision would be made about which cases might be rescheduled or exactly when they might be heard.

“The Court will consider a range of scheduling options and other alternatives if arguments cannot be held in the Courtroom before the end of the Term,” the statement said.

That seemed to leave open the possibility the court could hear arguments via audio or video link, the first time that would happen.

The court’s announcement follows drumphf’s decision to extend social distancing guidelines through the end of April, which included the two-week span in which the court was to hear arguments.

The decision to postpone additional arguments does not affect high-profile cases about LGBT rights, protections for young immigrants, abortion and guns that were argued during the fall and winter, and await resolution.

The high court previously announced it would postpone 11 arguments that would have been heard over the past two weeks.

The nine arguments the justices postponed Friday included cases about whether presidential electors must support the popular vote winner in their states or can choose someone else.

In another postponed case, the justices are to decide whether to allow the drumphf administration to enforce rules that let more employers deny insurance coverage for contraceptives to women.

A lower court ruling had blocked the administration from enforcing the rules.

Responding to the virus has meant changes for the usually tradition-bound court.

The court building itself has been closed to the public since mid-March.

The justices have still been meeting for private discussions of cases, including a meeting Friday, though that meeting has been by phone rather than in person.

And for the last two weeks the court has posted new opinions online, but the justices haven’t taken the bench to issue them in a public session, their usual practice.
Six of the nine justices are in the group considered higher risk of getting sick from the virus since they are age 65 and older.

For most people, the new virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough.

And the vast majority of people recover.

Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathleen Arberg said Friday that all the justices are healthy.

Ginsburg, for her part, has continued to work out at the court.

“At Justice Ginsburg’s request, the Court has set aside the limited private space next to its health facility for Justice Ginsburg to exercise. Her doctors share her view that the training sessions are essential to her well-being,” Arberg said in a statement earlier this week, adding that that the space was being used exclusively by the justice, who works out with her longtime personal trainer.

The court had postponed arguments before this year but not in more than a century.

In 1918, when the court still met inside the Capitol, arguments were postponed for a month because of the flu pandemic.

In the nation’s early years, in August 1793 and August 1798, adjustments were made because of yellow fever outbreaks, the court has said.

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Re: New Search and Seizure Ruling
« Reply #12 on: April 20, 2020, 10:48:21 am »
Monday, 20th April 2o2o
U.S. Supreme Court Rules That Jury Verdicts Must Be Unanimous
by Lawrence Hurley

The Supreme Court on Monday ruled that the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of trial by jury requires a unanimous verdict in serious crimes, handing a victory to a Louisiana man convicted of a 2014 murder in New Orleans.

The court's 6-3 ruling means that Evangelisto Ramos, who was convicted on a 10-2 vote of the 2014 murder of Trinece Fedison, whose body was found in a trash can, will likely get a new trial.

Only two of the 50 states, Louisiana and Oregon, have allowed for non-unanimous verdicts.

Louisiana updated its law to prohibit non-unanimous verdicts starting last year but that change does not apply retroactively.

Ramos was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

A statement by Legal Defense Fund

Today, the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of the plaintiff in Ramos v. Louisiana, establishing that the Sixth Amendment’s guarantee of a unanimous jury verdict applies to the states through the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), which filed an amicus brief in this case in June 2019, applauds the Court’s decision.

“Unanimous juries are a critical protection against injustice in criminal jury trials. They ensure that all jurors have a voice and a meaningful vote in the deliberative process,” said LDF President and Director-Counsel Sherrilyn Ifill.

“The reality of historical and ongoing racial discrimination makes unanimous juries particularly essential to the legitimacy of trials in the American justice system. The Supreme Court’s decision today marks a step forward in the long road to ensuring an unbiased jury system, which is essential for protecting our democracy.”

While most states require jury unanimity as a matter of state law, Louisiana (up until 2018) and Oregon permit convictions by non-unanimous juries in most cases.

Louisiana’s non-unanimous jury rule was one of a number of provisions adopted by the Louisiana Constitutional Convention of 1898 for the specific purpose of entrenching white supremacy in the State.

The Convention’s drafters reasoned that allowing convictions by non-unanimous juries would limit the influence of any Black citizens who were able to overcome discriminatory barriers and serve on a jury.

Research shows that this provision has had discriminatory impacts.

For example, Black jurors in Louisiana are 2.5 times more likely to be in dissent on non-unanimous jury convictions than their white counterparts.

LDF’s amicus brief highlighted the recent experiences of two African-American jurors who voted to acquit a defendant in a racially-charged case without persuasive evidence, but were overruled by the remaining jurors, all of whom were white.

“An effective and fairly functioning jury is critical to our democracy. Louisiana’s rule that allowed for non-unanimous juries was adopted for a racially discriminatory purpose in 1898, and it continued to discriminate against Black defendants and Black jurors until it was repealed in 2018,” said Kristen A. Johnson, Assistant Counsel at LDF.

“By holding that the Sixth Amendment unanimity rule applies to state jury trials, the Court has ensured the integrity of our juries and thereby our democracy.”

LDF has worked to combat racism in our justice system, including juror discrimination and the disproportionate and targeted arrests and convictions of members of communities of color, for decades.

In 1985, LDF argued before the United States Supreme Court in Batson v. Kentucky, a case which established that the exclusion of jurors based solely on their race is a violation of the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments.

The case created a new legal standard and opportunity to challenge racial discrimination in jury selection.

Until both Black defendants and Black jurors are afforded equal protection under the law, LDF will continue to hold courts accountable for allowing racial bias into judicial proceedings.

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Re: New Search and Seizure Ruling
« Reply #13 on: April 26, 2020, 10:00:59 pm »
Thursday, 23rd April 2o2o
The Supreme Court Is Split on How to Talk About Race
by Leah Litman

In a deeply fractured opinion, the Supreme Court held on Monday that states must rely on unanimous juries to obtain criminal convictions.

(Oregon and Louisiana had previously allowed non-unanimous juries to convict individuals.)

The opinion reveals different divisions among the justices, including about when to adhere to the court’s prior opinions.

But perhaps the most revealing division was about how and when to talk about racial bias in law.

The non-unanimous jury rule at the core of Ramos v. Louisiana has transparently racist origins, which Justice Neil Gorsuch detailed in the majority opinion, joined in most respects by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Brett Kavanaugh.

Louisiana’s rule was adopted at an 1898 constitutional conviction together with a package of other reforms with the shared purpose of excluding black Americans from the United States political system: a poll tax, a literacy and property ownership test for voting, and a grandfather clause that exempted many white residents from the requirements.

One committee chairman explained that the purpose of the convention was to “establish the supremacy of the white race.”

As Sotomayor wrote separately to underscore, the non-unanimous jury rules have a “sordid history”: “the legacy of racism that generated Louisiana’s and Oregon’s laws.”

Kavanaugh echoed this claim in his own separate writing:

“The convention approved non-unanimous juries as one pillar of a comprehensive and brutal program of racist Jim Crow measures against African-Americans.”

This language acknowledging this history outraged the dissenters—Justice Samuel Alito, Chief Justice John Roberts, and Justice Elena Kagan.

Alito’s dissent claimed that the talk of racism was getting in the way of pure legal reasoning.

“Too much public discourse today is sullied by ad hominem rhetoric, that is, attempts to discredit an argument not by proving that it is unsound but by attacking the character or motives of the argument’s proponents. The majority regrettably succumbs to this trend.”

The dissent maintained that “all the talk about the Klan, etc., is entirely out of place” and failed to “set an example of rational and civil discourse instead of contributing to the worst current trends.”

For the dissenters, the act of pointing out the rule’s unmistakable racist origins—of accusing the state of being racist—was worse than the sordid, racist history itself.

This is not the first appearance of this division between justices who are willing to grapple with race and racist history and those who are not.

The justices have been divided on this issue in important voting rights cases as well as in criminal procedure.

Take, for example, Shelby County v. Holder, where a conservative majority of the court invalidated a provision of the Voting Rights Act that required certain states (mostly in the South) with particularly grotesque histories of racial discrimination to pre-clear changes to their voting laws with the federal government.

With no discussion of the violent and extraordinary measures that states deployed to prevent black Americans from voting, the conservative majority referred to that past with this sanitized language:

“The conditions that originally justified these measures no longer characterize voting in the covered jurisdictions” today.

“Nearly 50 years later, things have changed dramatically,” Roberts wrote.

The dissent, by contrast, engaged with the racist history, and acknowledged it as racist history, to explain why the act should be kept intact.

The “blight of racial discrimination in voting,” Ginsburg’s dissent argued, proved hard to stamp out:

“Early attempts to cope with this vile infection resembled battling the Hydra. Whenever one form of voting discrimination was identified and prohibited, others sprang up in its place.”

Acknowledging racism and racist history is not just symbolically important.

The history is, after all, a part of our past; failing to grapple with it omits important context to legal disputes.

Oftentimes, the history will be legally significant: Under modern constitutional doctrine, a statute with a racially discriminatory purpose will violate the equal protection clause even though the same statute, if enacted for a nondiscriminatory purpose, would be perfectly constitutional.

So excavating the history and purpose behind a state law is part of constitutional analysis.
Context and history can also shed light on current disputes:

In Shelby County, the history of violent and extensive disenfranchisement of racial minorities helped to explain the significance of modern laws that disproportionately burden racial minorities.

It was why, Ginsburg memorably explained, invalidating the pre-clearance regime was “like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.”

In Ramos, the historical origins of the non-unanimous jury provided important context to the operation of the rule today.

For a variety of reasons, juries tend to underrepresent racial minorities.

The non-unanimous jury rule effectively deprives minority jury members of a say in the verdict in criminal cases when the criminal justice system produces grave racial disparities.

Often, the division over race falls along ideological lines:

The more liberal justices have tended to be more comfortable with acknowledging the reality of racism, while the conservative justices would prefer to abstract a case away from the facts.

But the division in Ramos did not pan out this way:

The two newest conservative justices, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, each wrote opinions explicitly calling the origins of the non-unanimous jury rule racist.

And the two conservative justices appointed by the last Republican president wrote or joined an opinion expressing discomfort with their new colleagues’ tone and language.

(They were even joined by one of their progressive colleagues, Kagan.)
There is no easy way to confront race and racism in the law.

But that cannot mean the solution is to avoid talking about race at all.

Perhaps Ramos signals that a new majority of the court is occasionally willing to acknowledge portions of America’s racist history.

Perhaps someday a majority of the court will be willing to do so in voting rights cases and across the board.

« Last Edit: April 27, 2020, 10:49:50 am by Battle »

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Re: New Search and Seizure Ruling
« Reply #14 on: April 27, 2020, 08:01:23 am »
Monday, 27th April 2o2o
Supreme Court rules for insurers over $12 billion Obamacare claims

by Lawrence Hurley

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ruled in favor of health insurers seeking $12 billion from the federal government under a program set up by the Obamacare law aimed at encouraging them to offer medical coverage to previously uninsured Americans.

The 8-1 ruling authored by Justice Sonia Sotomayor paves the way for a significant one-time cash infusion for major companies such as Humana Inc, Anthem Inc and Centene Corp.

The justices reversed a lower court's ruling that Congress had suspended the government's obligation to make such payments.

The insurers had said that the lower court ruling, if allowed to stand, would have let the government pull a "bait-and-switch" and withhold money the companies were promised.

Moda Health Plan Inc and other insurers that sued to try to compel the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to make the payments have said the government was supposed to help them recover from early losses they suffered after the 2010 passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) under Democratic former President Barack Obama.

The law, dubbed Obamacare, has enabled millions of Americans who previously had no medical coverage to obtain insurance, including those with pre-existing medical conditions.

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