Archive for the ‘case summaries’ Category


WHAT HAPPENED:  Appellee is a non-citizen who was detained pursuant to a criminal matter in the United States.  Although all U.S. citizens are given the right to bail during a pending criminal matter, non-citizens are not.  Appellee is a good example of this inequity, as Appellee was held for three years without a bail hearing on charges of drug possession and joy-riding, which is a crime white teenagers may not even spend a night in prison over.  Appellee has filed a class action lawsuit with other non-citizens who have been detained unfairly asking for the Court to grant non-citizens a bail hearing when detention exceeds six months.

WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT:  The background on a non-citizen’s right to bail is somewhat murky, as there is case law favoring a right to bail hearings, and case law that denies the right entirely.  To make matters worse, neither case is directly on point, as the primary case law can mostly be limited to the specific facts of each case.  For example, a case that granted a non-citizen a bail hearing only did so because that person’s home country did not want the person returned, so without some kind of hearing, the defendant was going to be detained forever.  So on one end, this case serves to clarify existing law.  On the other hand, Appellee is asking for a pretty big right from the Court, where most immigration rights are reserved to Congress.  Therefore, another big issue is whether this Court believes it is within their rights to take action on something that may be outside their authority.

WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS –  If you’ll indulge me, here’s a short anecdote about baseball that may give this case more context.  Shortly after September 11th, the New York Yankees were playing in their fourth straight World Series.  Although most people hate the Yankees, it was hard not to root for them considering all the city had gone through, and it was almost serendipitous that they got this far so soon after that tragic event.  To make it even better, they were playing dipshit expansion team, the Arizona Diamondbacks, whose dumb name and ugly uniforms made them likely footnotes to this Disney story of an ending.  And yet, despite all those good vibes, the Diamondbacks won and it was ten years before the Yankees made the World Series again, thus ruining the story and showing that sometimes things operate in a vacuum and have no actual connection.  To that end, you may have heard about a certain Executive Order that bans a certain religion from a certain World superpower, and while it would be easy to make some kind of connection between this case and that case, there is no connection between these cases.  For one, even if Rodriguez wins, non-citizens only get the right to bail, which may in turn just end up being the right to get denied bail.  If Jennings wins, there is nothing indicating a broader approval of the Executive Order, since they rely on entirely different grounds.  So while I think there could be a propensity to read between the lines on this, I think this operates in its own world entirely.

ROOT FOR JENNINGS IF:  oh hell, you know who you are.

ROOT FOR RODRIGUEZ IF:  you would rather the judiciary make unconstitutional moves about immigration instead of it just being the president.

PREDICTION:  Jennings 5-3.


WHAT HAPPENED:  Appellant is a pastel-clad, humid municipality populated by hot women and Pitbull (or so I’m told). Appellee is a commercial full of less-aggressively good-looking suburbanites in their late twenties who are far too relaxed and self-aggrandizing during the process of buying a house (I watch too much TV).  The basis of Appellant’s claim is that Appellee caused gave predatory loans (OK) to minority homeowners (probably true) which caused the housing crisis (wait, what) and ruined Miami (arguable).

WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT:  Even if we assume that all of the propositions in that last sentence are true, there are three big technical issues Appellant has to get by to bring this claim.  First, the Court has to determine whether or not Miami has standing to bring this claim under the Fair Housing Act, because even though Miami asserts elements of racial discrimination, it is not quite the focus of the claim like other lawsuits under the Fair Housing Act.  Second, the Court has to determine whether or not proximate cause is proven, meaning whether or not a bank giving bad loans could somehow be traced to the complete collapse of the housing market.  Third, the Court has to determine whether or not Miami can prove damages that are not just “infinity dollars”.

WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS –  By way of background, wild cases like this are not entirely uncommon in the legal profession.  Whether it is by the government or private parties, creative lawsuits can often move the law forward and bring about institutional or social change that the Court is commonly known for.  For example, Roe v. Wade was a fairly wild shot in the dark when it happened, and that is probably the most famous case of the last century.  That being said (and this gets forgotten about often), most of these cases lose.  This is a rough comparison, but the success of these cases are probably at the same rate of being on American Idol, where some contestants have perfect pitch and look like Carrie Underwood, and others are tone-deaf weirdos who somehow did not have a friend throw their body in front of the idea of auditioning in front of a live televised audience.  Following this analogy to its naturally ridiculous conclusion, this is the kind of case where Randy Jackson would say “Gee, I don’t know, dog.  I just don’t’ think it’s your time”, and then the lawsuit sadly goes back to the lobby and has to tell its disappointed family members that no, we are not going to Hollywood.

ROOT FOR CITY OF MIAMI IF:  you’re down with creditors getting taken down a peg, even if the implications of said peg are completely unknown.

ROOT FOR WELLS FARGO IF:  you didn’t own a house in the late 2000s.

PREDICTION:  Wells Fargo 6-2


WHAT HAPPENED:  Defendant was a foreign resident in the United States when he was arrested for possession of drugs.  Defendant’s attorney informed Defendant that if he pled guilty, he would not be deported.  Defendant pled guilty and was immediately deported.  Defendant argues his attorney’s mistake should grant him a new trial.

WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT:  Ineffective Assistance of Counsel is a claim rooted in the 5th and 6th Amendments which grants a Defendant a new trial when it is proven that the attorney who represented the defendant did an objectively bad job, and that the attorney’s job affected the outcome.  In this case, it is fairly clear a mistake occurred; however, there was such overwhelming evidence against the Defendant that the lower court found that the attorney’s error did not make a difference.  The Court here must decide whether or not the gravity of the error is more important than the effect it had on the outcome of the case.

WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS –  While the Court is often hesitant to grant IAC claims (as they require that the Court start the criminal trial from the beginning), the Court is very attentive when a person pleads guilty, waiving all rights to a fair trial, on mistaken grounds.  It is for those reasons that this case may get special attention because of the timing of the mistake and implications of a guilty plea.  It is hard to say whether or not this case will generally expand the rights of IAC claims during trial; however, it may give greater protection to defendants who plead guilty and find that anytime the attorney’s mistake induces a Defendant to plead guilty, the defendant automatically gets a new trial without consideration of how the case could have gone.

ROOT FOR LEE IF:  you read this post and thought “that sucks”.

ROOT FOR U.S. IF:  you read this post and thought “who cares”.


Overton v. U.S.

Posted: February 3, 2017 by beguide in case summaries, Criminal Procedure, Due Process, White Skull

a_002WHAT HAPPENED:  Defendant was convicted of murder in 1985, after being accused of assaulting a middle-aged woman who was coming back from shopping.  Defendant is appealing his conviction on grounds that the prosecutors failed to disclose material impeachment and exculpatory evidence during the original trial.  The evidence included evidence that contradicted the State’s argument that the assault was carried out by a large group of assailants, as opposed to just a few assailants.

WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT:  In Brady v. Maryland, the Supreme Court held that the prosecutor must disclose material information that could lead to an acquittal to the defendant prior to trial.  This responsibility is founded in the Due Process Clause of the Constitution and is rooted in fairness, since the State often receives more information than the Defendant and has a duty to society to share information that may indicate that the charges are unfounded.  In order to satisfy that burden, the defendant must show that the evidence was material, in that it the evidence would have changed the outcome had it been shared.  The nuance in this case is that standard that the Court must apply when determining whether evidence is “material” or not, as the Court held that the Defendant could only win if he could prove that the suppressed evidence “would have led the jury to doubt virtually everything” about the government’s case.  That instructions seems high without context, but it does speak to the high level of scrutiny the Court places on these types of arguments.

WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS – This case is less interesting (from a legal standpoint) than its 2017 Brady case counterpart, Turner v. U.S..  In Turner, the Defendant is asking to move the law forward and develop the materiality test to consider a wider scope of evidence.  Here, the Court is really just asking whether or not this Court applied the correct standard of review on appeal, which is less sexy than Turner, but this defendant probably has a better chance to win on more narrow grounds.  That being said, Brady cases are difficult to win due to their implications, so even though this defendant may have a better chance, that doesn’t mean he has a great chance.

ROOT FOR OVERTON IF:  your idea of a good time is considering the impact of pattern form jury instructions.

ROOT FOR U.S. IF:  you think this case would be a lot more interesting if it got the Ira Glass treatment.

PREDICTION:  U.S. wins 5-3

Turner v. U.S.

Posted: February 3, 2017 by beguide in case summaries, Criminal Procedure, White Skull

a_002WHAT HAPPENED:  Defendant was convicted of robbery, kidnapping and murder in 1984.  Defendant is appealing his conviction on grounds that the prosecutors failed to disclose material impeachment and exculpatory evidence during the original trial.  The evidence included eye-witness testimony and witness recantations that were more relevant to the case as time passed.

WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT:  In Brady v. Maryland, the Supreme Court held that the prosecutor must disclose material information that could lead to an acquittal to the defendant prior to trial.  This responsibility is founded in the Due Process Clause of the Constitution and is rooted in fairness, since the State often receives more information than the Defendant and has a duty to society to share information that may indicate that the charges are unfounded.  In order to satisfy that burden, the defendant must show that the evidence was material, in that it the evidence would have changed the outcome had it been shared.  The nuance in this case is that evidence Defendant argues should have been shared (i.e. witness recantations, eye witness testimony, impeachment evidence) only became material after the trial was concluded.  In other words, the evidence would not have met the standard when the trial was held, but twenty years later, the evidence looks like it may have changed things.

WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS – Brady material is strikes a weird balance because on one hand you can certainly argue that the State should just give over the whole file and not be bothered with these kinds of motions twenty years later.  On the other hand, Judges don’t like to re-visit murder convictions unless there is a compelling reason to do so, and evidence that could have influenced things would more likely than not open up too many cases that should remain closed.  In this case, the evidence reads a lot like the SERIAL podcast, where the evidence is arguable at best and your view of how it would affect the trial depends on your biases in the criminal justice system.  While this certainly could exonerate an innocent person, creating a higher burden on the State to second guess the release of Brady material based on things that happen in the future is an impossible standard to meet in the present scope of a murder trial.

ROOT FOR TURNER IF:  you think Adnan is innocent and are still following his appeal.

ROOT FOR U.S. IF:  you think that the SERIAL podcast jumped the shark somewhere around episode 5, and you’ve moved on to bigger and better podcasts.

PREDICTION:  U.S. wins 7-1


WHAT HAPPENED:  Shaw was charged with allegedly attempting to defraud the following people: his roommate’s father, Wells Fargo, and Paypal.  Out of those three, only the father and Paypal lost anything out of pocket, as Wells Fargo was made whole by Paypal and the father did not qualify for reimbursement.  The specific charge in question for this case required that the Government prove that Shaw must have “intended to defraud a bank or financial institution”.  Shaw was found guilty and this is the appeal of the jury instructions used during his trial.

WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT:  Shaw argues that the Government has to prove that he intended to defraud Wells Fargo specifically, and Government argues that they only had to prove that Shaw intended to defraud someone.  Although the statute requires that the government prove that Shaw “intended to defraud a bank”, the question is how much is the jury allowed to infer regarding Shaw’s intent, since one could generally assume that Shaw knew Wells Fargo would be affected, but in the same token, Wells Fargo was not harmed nor specifically targeted.

WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS – Literally, the only thing at issue here the interpretation of the bank fraud statute.  On one hand, looser standards for the Government gives the government more power to prevent bank fraud, but on the other hand, Shaw’s attorneys argued that the Government may have charged the Shaw with the wrong statute; and therefore, this is just a big clean-up mission on behalf of the government.  This is not to say that Shaw didn’t do anything illegal, just that he can’t be found guilty of this specific statute.  Either way, YOU are probably not affected by this case.

ROOT FOR SHAW IF:  You are fan of the little guy (who embezzles money from loved ones).

ROOT FOR U.S. IF:  You are a fan of effective justice (that maybe screwed up on this one).

PREDICTION:  6-2 for U.S.


WHAT HAPPENED:  After a census came back showing racial disparity in Virginia voting districts, the Virginia Electoral Board instituted a policy that required a required percentage of minority population in certain areas.  As is the case whenever someone tries to do something like this, people filed suit under the Equal Protection Clause under the always-popular argument that the Constitution protects white people against attempts to prevent discrimination.

WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT:  In essence, this is quintessential Supreme Court, as it brings the complicated tests from the Affirmative Action into the historically mismanaged realm of election redistricting.  This is kind of like when networks try to “cross-over” popular televisions shows, but instead of having the doctors of ER date Rachel and Monica from FRIENDS, this more like the episode of ALF where thousands of Virginia citizens because disenfranchised with the electoral process.  More accurately, this case determines whether the mechanics of drawing districts to accomplish a certain goal is OK when it prevents discrimination even though it’s not OK when it’s gerrymandering.

WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS:  (Sigh) I mean, does it even matter anymore?  On paper, this should be the perfect case for the Supreme Court to dive into, as it deals with racial disparity and voting, but it’s hard to see how anyone has the attention for this after the election.  This case would have made infinitely more sense last term, but who knows whether six months later people will still be as invested.  That’s all dancing around the fact that this feels like a classic 4-4 push that gets negated when another conservative justice is on the bench.  For now, this could help resolve some issues regarding district disparities, but it’s still pound-for-pound less interesting than McCrory v. Harris.

ROOT FOR BETHUNE-HILL IF- “This week on CSI:LA, Chris O’Donnell and Ice Cube need a particular set of skills to solve this week’s crime, so they turn to Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory!”

ROOT FOR VI BOARD OF ELECTORS IF – fairer voting practices is an issue you’ve read about, posted about, commented on, or got in a fight with someone about on social media.

PREDICTION – 4-4 push.


WHAT HAPPENED:  Salman was convicted of insider trading based on stock tips he received from someone in a close familial relationship.   Salman was not the person who was providing the information but was instead the receiver of information, affectionately known as a “tippee”.

WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT: Presently, the standard for being a “tippee” is very low, as the State only has to prove a relationship between the parties, as opposed to an actual tangible benefit to the insider. Salman argues that the standard should be higher, in that the State should be required to prove an objective, pecuniary benefit to the insider to warrant charges to the receiver of the information.

WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS: This is me being cynical, but hear me out. Every now and again, lawyers like to take shots at changing the law in the favor of the industry they represent.  Criminal law has certain areas where the law is constantly challenged and developed because the people who get charged with those crimes have the money to hire lawyers who can make esoteric arguments that may help their clients and others similarly situated.  It is for this reason that DUI law has a ton of nuance, whereas sex crimes do not.  My guess is that Salman is a test case for criminal lawyers who represent white collar criminals to help shape the law more in their favor.  Broadly speaking, raising the standard for classifying someone as a “tippee” would prevent the government from over-charging people for white collar crime, absent more direct evidence of fraud.  Not totally sure that’s a place where the government or the Court needs to be scaling back the law, but what do I know.

ROOT FOR SALMAN IF:  You want to make it harder for rich people who manipulate the system to go to jail.

ROOT FOR U.S.  IF:  You want it to be easy for rich people who manipulate the system to go to jail.  In other words, who did you root for in the primaries?

PREDICTION:  8-0 in favor of U.S.


WHAT HAPPENED:  A Virginia School District made a rule that infringed upon a transgender student’s ability to choose which bathroom to use.  The student filed suit and lost at the original level.  The Federal Government (by way of the Dept. of Education) stepped in and stated that this action violated Title IX, which was the basis for the Fourth Circuit’s reversal of the lower decision in favor of the student.  In other words, the student is currently winning based on the opinion by the Department of Education.

WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT:  For one, it’s not the reason you think it is.  While there are certainly Equal Protection issues, Substantive Due Process issues, and general Constitutional concerns, this issue comes down to agency law; and specifically whether the Department of Education had the authority to issue an opinion based on Title IX, and whether the Fourth Circuit should have followed that opinion.

WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS:  For one, it’s not as significant as you might think.  While a ruling in favor of G.G. would give more power to trans students in an educational setting, there are probably very little ramifications outside of this specific context.  The issue in this case is limited to the value of the Department of Education’s opinion, so affirming that opinion would likely just benefit this student.  Similarly, a ruling against G.G. would likely just state that the grounds for the decision were wrong and that the Court has to review the findings again fresh.  To whatever extent this makes you feel better, a ruling against G.G. is not the end of the world, as the Court could still rule in favor of the student, just on different grounds.   Ultimately, the ramifications of this ruling are very limited to the problem at hand, even though the circumstances are a hot button issue.

ROOT FOR GLOUCHESTER COUNTY IF: (and only if) if you do not agree with the Department of Education’s interpretation of Title IX and the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals’ reliance on that opinion.

ROOT FOR G.G. IF: (and only if) you do agree with the Department of Education’s interpretation of Title IX and the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals’ reliance on that opinion.

PREDICTION:  4-4 push.

For every case on the podcast and in the Fantasy League, we will provide a brief summary of what to know and what to worry about.
WHAT HAPPENED: When you are a criminal defendant facing drug charges, your defenses to those charges often rank:
(1) contesting a search under the 4th Amendment
(2) disproving possession with factual evidence
(3) hoping for a mistake in the crime lab.
(Whatever last place is) alleging the police framed you and planted drugs on you.

This is not to say this never happens, but the defense itself is a Hail Mary before the Court and the Jury, as it is hard to prove and harder to believe. Within that context, consider the plight of Mr. Manuel, the plaintiff in this action. Manuel successfully alleged and proved that police officers arrested him for drugs, even though they knew he was only in possession of health supplements. Accordingly, Manuel is suing the City of Joliet for damages stemming from that arrest.

WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT:  This gets a little technical, but the basis of Manuel’s civil claim is a tort known as Malicious Prosecution.  Because of the nuances of Manuel’s criminal case, Manuel was barred from bringing the most common form of a Malicious Prosecution claim due to the Statute of Limitations. Instead, Manuel wants to bring a rarer Malicious Prosecution action which is pursuant to the 4th Amendment, because that claim has a longer Statute of Limitations.  Although many jurisdictions allow this type of claim, Manuel’s does not.

WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS: Let’s cover the more specific one first. While Manuel’s jurisdiction does not recognize this claim, all other jurisdictions do; so this is not out in left field. Plus, allowing this claim would presumably only extend then Statute of Limitations in a reasonable way, so it’s hard to see harm if SCOTUS wants to make a uniform rule for all federal jurisdictions. That being said, there’s also no harm in allowing different jurisdictions to set their own rules, and it’s hard to see a legal basis for the Court to decide that this issue warrants uniformity.  On a broader end, the entire judicial branch’s inability to ensure that police are held civilly and/or criminally liable for both willful and negligent actions has been a running subplot of 2016. This case won’t change any of those previous cases and nor will it open the door for immediate police accountability, but it’s a small step in the right direction.

ROOT FOR Manuel if you believe the facts of this case warrant the Court taking action away from individual jurisdictions.

ROOT FOR City of Joliet if you believe that jurisdictional sovereignty is worth letting cases like this pass without remedy.

PREDICTION – 6-2 in favor of the City.