Archive for the ‘Criminal Procedure’ Category

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WHAT HAPPENED:  Defendant, who is a legal immigrant, was charged with burglaries, which warranted mandatory removal under the Federal Immigration State as a “violent felony”.

WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT:  The defendant did not contest the underlying charges, but more whether or not the “violent felony” language, which includes any “felony that is likely to result in violence to persons or property”, was unconstitutionally vague.  Under the Due Process clause, criminal statutes can be invalidated if they do not give citizens fair notice of what is being punished, which came up two years ago in a case, Johnson v. U.S..  In Johnson, the Court held that the term “violent felony” was vague as it applied to the Armed Career Criminals Act, so the question here is whether the same applies to the Immigration Act.

WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS:  Should the Lower Court’s decision invalidating the Act hold, the procedure for removing violent felons would need to be re-written to either (a) articulate what a violent felony is more specifically, or (b) just make all felonies grounds for removal.  Since Congress doesn’t like MORE work on the table and panicking about dangerous immigrants is all the rage these days, my guess is that Supreme Court isn’t in a hurry to be on the front page of FOX NEWS for the next year.

ROOT FOR SESSIONS IF: You’re scared of violent immigrants.

ROOT FOR DIMAYA IF:  you are more interested in fostering conservative panic more that you are afraid of violent immigrants.

PREDICTION:  Sessions 6-3

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WHAT HAPPENED: Defendant is this case is probably the least-lucky person on Earth.  Defendant is charged with a sex crime for being slightly over 18 years old and having sex with someone who is a three year age difference.  This is a crime in the State of California, but it is legal in a strong majority of States.    After being convicted, Defendant moves to Michigan, where Defendant’s conduct would not have been a State crime.  Unfortunately, removal proceedings are brought against him, and even though he would not have been subject to removal in California, the same rules do not apply in Michigan.

WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPRME COURT:  In an effort to make this generally unfair case more legal, Defendant is arguing that the immigration board’s ruling in favor of removal should be overturned, since Defendant’s crime should not subject him to removal as a “sex abuse” crime.  The State argues that even if this case is unfair, the immigration board’s ruling should stand since agencies are entitled to deference enforcing their own rules.

WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS:  One of the hot-button talking points of Trump’s new appointment is the possibility that the Court will overrule the Chevron doctrine, which is the above-referenced policy that agencies should be given deference for enforcing their own rules.  Presumably, this is the kind of case where you could make an argument that the unreasonableness of the doctrine is on display, since the different State rules and precedent have created a generally unfair proposition.  Unfortunately for this Defendant, the Conservative push for overruling agency authority is probably not going to come in a case involving immigration and sex crimes.

ROOT FOR ESQUIVEL-QUINTANA IF: you want to overrule Chevron, and don’t care about the underlying facts in what will likely be a landmark decision going forward.

ROOT FOR SESSIONS IF:  you want to overrule Chevron, but you’d rather wait until it’s an EPA decision that prevents a company owned by your right friend Doug from polluting a river.

PREDICTION:  SESSIONS 7-2

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WHAT HAPPENED: Appellant was convicted of a criminal offense and filed an appeal.  Subsequent to that filing, the Court imposed $4,500.00 in fines.  Appellant did not amend their Notice of Appeal, but assumed that the original notice would have encapsulated all issues present in the case.  The government argues that the notice had to be amended to include the monetary penalties.

WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT:  Stop me if you’ve heard this before in these case reviews.  A very strict application of the rules favors the government, but a very strict application of the rules would require you to bury your head in the sand and ignore the many ways that the rules are unfair and stupid.  Although the Appellant here did not follow the rules, it also does not hurt the government at all to allow the notice to include all applicable issues.

WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS – The worst part about the law is the way that Court rules set arbitrary deadlines and then strictly apply those deadlines independent of reason or mercy.  If Appellant wins, the system would make it easier for criminal defendants with either overwhelmed or bad lawyers on their side to appeal all aspects of their case, but that result is mostly likely going to make bad lawyers lazier.  Once again, the question here is whether it worth the Court’s time and energy to find a way to bend the rules, or if it is easier to let this defendant’s judgment stand to keep the rules clear and unassailable.

ROOT FOR MANRIQUE IF: you are a bad and/or overwhelmed lawyer.

ROOT FOR COLORADO IF: you are Government lawyer who likes having less work based on technicalities.

PREDICTION:  U.S. 8-0

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WHAT HAPPENED: Appellant was convicted of selling meth in order to pay off treatment of cancer because apparently selling meth is lucrative.  Appellant was accused of being in a conspiracy with a former student of his with clever catch-phrases with a relative of his who kept all the money they made.  After getting caught, Appellant murdered his brother in law, went into hiding, and returned only to exact revenge on a collection of side characters and murder a warehouse full of Neo-Nazi’s was hit with a $75,0000.00 restitution order that he could not afford, because he never received any of the money that was earned in the conspiracy.

WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT:  Joint and several liability is a legal doctrine that states if more than one person is liable for a monetary amount, than each of those people are liable for the amount owed in full.   In other words, if three people are liable for $100K, then each of them could be liable for the full amount, and it does not have to be split in thirds.  Appellant here argues that it is unfair to be joint and severally liable for the restitution order because he did not actually receive the money he is liable for.  The background of the law is that conspiracy defendants are always joint and severally liable, but a weird case out of D.C. has cast doubt on whether that applies universally or if there are exceptions.

WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS – It is unlikely that the Court is going to strike down all joint and several liability, but more likely that the Court is going to clarify the weird D.C. Court case stated above.  That case in question dealt with millions of dollars in a vast drug dealing conspiracy, so it is both factually and legally distinguishable from the present issue.  Also, the government has argued that removing joint and several liability would make recouping conspiracy funds impossible, since people could just say “I don’t have it”, and give that money to someone else.  For those reasons, should the defendant win somehow, it is more likely to be on a factual nuance in this case, rather than a substantial change in the law.

ROOT FOR HONEYCUTT IF: you feel this case is pretty lame as far as Breaking Bad fan-fiction goes.

ROOT FOR U.S. IF: you know you can’t get blood from a stone, but still like to give it a squeeze.

PREDICTION:  U.S. 8-0

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WHAT HAPPENED: The Appellants were convicted of criminal charges and paid fines.  Appellants subsequently won their appeal and their convictions were overturned.  Appellant asked for their fees back, but Colorado said they had to go to civil court and prove their innocence by clear and convincing evidence to get their money back.

Wait…..

(reads facts again)

HAHAHA that’s so stupid.  OK sure let’s do this.

WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT:  Colorado argues that once the fines are paid into the Court system, the money becomes the ownership of the State and that it’s the Defendant’s burden to prove that they can get it back.

(reads appellate brief again)

HAHAHAHA seriously Colorado maybe it’s time to ban weed again.

WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS – Ok, seriously this time.  You could argue that this case represents the Court stepping on State’s rights because if Colorado wants to have a stupid rule about keeping your fines, they should be allowed to do whatever they want.  That being said, this clearly violates procedural due process, probably violates substantive due process, and could colorably be classified as a government taking without due process.  Luckily we don’t have anyone from Colorado joining significant parts of the Federal judiciary with life tenure anytime soon.

(reads news)

HAHAHAHAHAHA, never change Colorado.

ROOT FOR NELSON IF: you’re not the one person whose salary is paid by defendants who are motivated enough to appeal their criminal convictions, but not motivated enough to file for the fees returned.

ROOT FOR COLORADO IF: you are Colorado

PREDICTION:  Nelson 6-2 (Alito/Thomas special).

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WHAT HAPPENED: Appellant is an indigent defendant who was convicted of first degree murder.  Appellant sought medical expert to assist with his sentencing and was provided with an expert by the State.  Following some kind of calamity involving timing and delivering the report, Appellant was sentenced to death (by electrocution because this was in 1984).

WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT:  In the 1970s, the Supreme Court (by way of Thurgood Marshall) held that indigent defendants were entitled to medical experts to assist with the insanity defense.  The Court held that the cost to the State was nominal compared to the benefit it would provide in ensuring that justice was served.  This case takes that holding one step further, and asks that not only does the State have to provide a medical expert, but also has to provide someone who is completely independent from the State as to reduce bias.

WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS – This is either (1) a dollars and cents issue, or (2) another way that the Court could create more ways that people on death row can overturn their sentences.  One on hand, hiring an independent expert would cost more, but once again you would have to wonder how much it would really be in light of the purpose behind providing the expert.  If you also believe that experts are mostly just mercenaries who say whatever they are paid to say, the benefit here is pretty high.  On the other hand, a ruling in favor of the Defendant is a pretty far stretch from the original Court’s holding, and finding that an independent expert has been required since 1984 would open the door for past death row inmates to contest their sentences, which would in turn bring more old death row cases before the Court, which would in turn make Clarence Thomas freak out.

ROOT FOR MCWILLIAMS IF: you want to see Clarence Thomas freak out.

ROOT FOR DUNN IF: you think poor Clarence Thomas has been through enough.

PREDICTION:  Dunn 6-2

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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.

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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”.

PREDICTION:  Lee 6-2

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