Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Supreme Court updates

Playing “catch-up” again, we’ve come across three cases before the Supreme Court we feel important.

The first is Setser v. United States, which was heard on Nov.30th. -- the Court here considering whether a federal judge may impose a sentence and direct that it be served consecutively to, or concurrently with, a term of imprisonment that is expected to be – but has not yet been – imposed in a state court for a state crime.

ScotusBlog recapped Petitioner Monroe Setser’s “having been on probation for a state drug crime when he was arrested for possessing (more) methamphetamine. That drug possession violated both federal and Texas state law. He was tried first for the federal offense and was convicted. The federal judge imposing the sentence knew that Setser was likely to receive a state sentence for the same conduct, and was also likely to have his probation revoked. The judge accordingly directed that the federal sentence would be served consecutively to any sentence imposed as a result of the probation revocation, but concurrently with any state sentence imposed for the drug possession. The question before the Court was whether the judge had the power to issue such a directive…”

The 5th. Circuit’s appeal opinion is here; Setser's petition for certiorari here; and the Brief in Opposition here. ScotusBlog posts an argument transcript here.

Martel v. Clair and Williams v. Illinois were heard by the Court yesterday – Martel being the topic of yesterday’s posting. Transcript to that case may be read here.

Williams v. Illinois, ScotusBlog referred to last Monday as “the next in the line of cases involving the Court’s more defendant-friendly interpretation of the Confrontation Clause. The question being whether the Confrontation Clause is violated if an expert testifies about the results of testing conducted by a non-testifying third party, if the report itself is not introduced at trial.

“Here, an expert testified about the results of a DNA test conducted by an analyst, but the DNA test was not admitted. The
Supreme Court of Illinois held that there was no constitutional violation, but the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari to resolve a conflict in the lower courts over the Confrontation Clause’s application in these circumstances.”

Williams’ petition for certiorari, and Illinois’ response in opposition are
here & here. That transcript is here.

A bit akin to Martel, ScotusBlog yesterday made note of the petition for Alabama v. Lane, 11-627, as “raising one or more questions that have a reasonable chance of being granted” and of future interest. The issue here is “Whether a criminal defendant, to whom the Sixth Amendment grants no right to choose which lawyer a court will appoint to represent him in the first instance, nevertheless has a Sixth Amendment right to choose continued representation by that appointed lawyer, such that a court's erroneous replacement of that lawyer is structural error requiring automatic reversal, even when substitute counsel provides effective representation and the defendant is not otherwise prejudiced.”

Alabama’s petition for certiorari

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