Posts Tagged ‘Fantasy Supreme Court League’

WHAT HAPPENED:  Defendant was convicted of skipping a sentencing hearing, but sentencing was deferred to a later date.  That “later date” was 14 months after his initial guilty plea.

WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT:  Good question!!  Although the system tries to get your sentencing together sooner rather than later, the classic “speedy trial” rights that you hear about in the Constitution don’t apply to the time period between conviction and sentencing.  This case asks whether the Court is going to apply Speedy Trial principles to sentencing (probably not), or create a Due Process requirement that requires a time limit between conviction and sentencing (also unlikely).

WHAT IS THE RULING:  This case is not yet decided.

WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS:  This brings up an interesting issue of what the harm is in this matter.  For one, unlike your right to speedy trial, there is far less prejudice in a delay before sentencing, so the ramifications in either direction seem fairly irrelevant.  This also ignores the fact that most people want as much time before sentencing as possible so they can get their affairs in order before going to prison, so this defendant looking for quicker sentencing could be the legal equivalent of reminding the teacher to give you homework.

ROOT FOR BETTERMAN IF:  You don’t like waiting for things, even long, indeterminate stretches of incarceration.

ROOT FOR MONTANA IF:  Good things come to those who wait.  Except for defendant’s who await sentencing, who are going to prison.

WHAT HAPPENED:  Two years ago, the Supreme Court ruled in Hobby Lobby v. Burwell that the contraceptive mandate could not compel religious institutions to provide birth control to their employees.  “Fine” said the government, “You don’t have to provide birth control, and instead you just have to fill out these two forms and we’ll take care of it for you”.

WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT:  “NO!” replied the host of religious institutions who were not satiated by the Supreme Court’s favorable ruling in Hobby Lobby.  “Two forms, as nominal as it may seem, constitutes an affirmative act in favor of providing birth control and that is a sin.”  And that is where we stand now, in that the Court must determine whether two forms is an acceptable burden to place on a company that is denying medical care to their employees, or if two forms is a condemnation to hell-fire and brimstone.

WHAT IS THE RULING:  Thankfully, this case is not yet decided.

RAMIFICATIONS:  Everything and nothing.  Everything if the idea that a hypothetical employee of the Catholic Church cannot get birth control serves as the opening of Pandora’s Box toward overruling Roe v. Wade and diminishing Women’s Rights.  Nothing if you are neither person described in the above referenced sentence.

ROOT FOR ZUBIK IF:  To you, the idea of hell isn’t ridiculous.

ROOT FOR BURWELL IF:  You would like to end more sequels to this never-ending horror movie of a Supreme Court case, which by the way, was what I was going for with the picture above of Dennis Hopper fighting Leatherface in Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.

WHAT HAPPENED:  Defendant was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in Pennsylvania.  Somewhere along the line, a Motion for Post-Conviction Relief was granted in favor of Defendant, staying his death sentence.  That finding was appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, where it was reversed, thus reinstating the death penalty.

WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT:  As luck would have it, one of the Judges who reversed Defendant’s successful appeal used to work for the District Attorney in PA before being appointed to the bench.  While in his previous position, he was at least part of the decision to charge Defendant with death.  This potential conflict of interest is the crux of this case, where the Court has to determine whether or not this judge was biased enough to force recusal for Defendant’s appeal.

WHAT IS THE RULING:  This case is not  yet decided.

WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS:  There are potentially two different questions here that need to be asked.  (1)  Whether this particular judge should have recused himself on the appeal, and (2)  what are the rules going forward for judges in this position, because this judge is not the first or last person from the District Attorney’s Office to get appointed to an appellate court and hear a death penalty appeal.  Putting the specifics of Defendant’s case aside, this case could pass rules concerning under which circumstances judges should be recused based on previous work, which could affect death penalty appeals most specifically since they are both common and highly scrutinized.

ROOT FOR WILLIAMS IF: You are on-board with the “death by 1,000” cuts approach to dismantling the death penalty.

ROOT FOR PA IF: You watch Judge Dredd and think “maybe Stallone is on to something here…..”

The following scorecard has updates for Bouaphakeo v. Tyson Foods.  Nebraska v. Parker was within the grace period and therefore not counted.

Lane from Philadelphia  195

Stuckey – 155

Richard, Brett – 125

Andreas – 115

Todd – 105

Nashville Tom – 100

Neil – 95

Scott, Nick, Katya – 85

Alyssa – 80

Gunsolley – 75

Zach – 70

David – 65

Ryan – 60

Chad, Matt – 45

Urvish, Nazim, Bryce, Ray – 40

Trizz – 25

KC – 15



WHAT HAPPENED:  The Federal Government has a law that prohibits any person with a domestic violence conviction from owning a firearm.  The specific text of the statute does not specify a mental state, but subsequent cases have held that Federal Courts require a person to exhibit a “knowing or intentional” mental state to be convicted of assault.  The defendants in this case where found to be in possession of guns with past convictions for domestic violence under Maine law.

WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT:  In the most general of senses, this case is before the Supreme Court over the legal concept of mens rea.  As stated above, federal statutes require that a person convicted of assault have a high mental state, whereas Maine allows a person to be convicted of assault when the mental state is “knowing, intentional, or reckless“.  The addition of “reckless” is key, because that is a lesser mental state than the federal standard.  Defendants therefore argue that the additional lower mental state makes all Maine citizens convicted of assault ineligible for the Federal statute.

In a specific sense, this case is about the Second Amendment and everyone getting frantic about a Justice doing an optional activity with little consequence.  During the oral argument, Justice Thomas asked questions about whether or not it is Constitutional for a misdemeanor conviction to deny someone their Second Amendment rights.  Thomas argument is that mens rea aside, this statute is unconstitutional because it puts an undue burden on a person’s rights to bear arms.

WHAT IS THE RULING?  This case is not yet decided.

WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS?  Should the defendants win on any grounds, the ramifications are that domestic violence offenders are allowed to possess guns, which is probably bad unless you’ve lost most perspective on gun rights.  Should the State win, you could argue that the federal government’s ability to criminalize conduct is expanded, but this probably applies to only a few States and one specific crime.   In all honesty, this is likely just an example of the Court clearing up an issue with a statute that should have been written more clearly from the onset.

ROOT FOR VOISINE IF:  Seeing the “forest for the trees” is more important than perpetuating domestic violence.

ROOT FOR U.S. IF:  Preferring a “means to an end” is more important than strictly abiding to the Constitution.

WHAT HAPPENED? Texas passed a law that raised standards on facilities performing abortions.  Provisions included having a physician who had attending privileges at a hospital within 30 miles and requiring that clinics have the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers.  In response to these requirements, most of the abortion clinics in Texas closed down.

WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT?  The Supreme Court has held that any law that puts an “undue burden” on a women’s right to choose violates the 5th Amendment.  This law, which could be argued is intended to increase the standards for abortion clinics, creates an undue burden not on the face of the law, but in the effect that the law has on women in Texas.

WHAT IS THE RULING?  This case is not yet decided.

WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS?  The ramifications in both directions are fairly significant.  If the Abortion Clinics win, it adds an extra wrinkle to the “undue burden” test, that allows the Court to consider the effect of the law instead of just its intent.  If Texas wins, state government seeking sneaky ways to restrict abortion rights have the roadmap to doing so.

ROOT FOR WHOLE WOMEN’S HEALTH IF:  You a pro-choice advocate who doesn’t trust the government to follow directions on abortion, and/or admit defeat.

ROOT FOR TEXAS IF:  You are a pro-life advocate living in the middle of no where.

WHAT HAPPENED:  In 2014 and 2015, President Obama passed two “executive orders” which pertained to immigration, the DACA and the DAPA.  In the interests of brevity, those two orders granted deferred action to two general classes of illegal immigrants, (1) people who arrived in the U.S. under the age of 16 and were now over 30, and (2)  parents of natural born citizens who never obtained their own citizenship.  These orders instructed the government against deporting those citizens, and instead allowing them to stay in the U.S., even though they would not be granted citizenship rights.

WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT:  Immigration issues are primarily Congress’ jurisdiction, as the Legislature has primary authority to create policy and regulations regarding the status of illegal immigrants.  Therefore, opponents of these actions claim the President has exceeded his authority to act.  On the other hand, the agency that performs these actions is under the President’s control and the President is allows to make edicts for those agencies to follow.  Therefore, the issue, in part, comes down to whether or not the President’s executive orders are so sweeping that they require greater action, of if the executive orders are within his ability to control lower agencies.

WHAT IS THE RULING:  This case is not yet decided.

WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS OF THIS DECISION:  This case could determine the occupancy status of hundreds of thousands of people who are currently living in America, but do not have citizenship.  These people likely have no where else to go if they are removed from the country, or could be separated from their children if deported.  If the orders are upheld, this could allow the government to have a better handle on undocumented aliens, as people would be more likely to come participate in registration if they were not concerned about deportation.  On the other hand, these orders only stabilize the situation and do not provide a real solution to the concern citizenship and illegal immigrants.

ROOT FOR U.S.:  If you are OK with expanding Presidential Power to resolve a situation temporarily, and probably until a Republican is voted into office.  You are also probably an advocate for the legalization of marijuana.

ROOT FOR TEXAS:  If you hate President Obama, Obamacare, and any other Obama-related terms.  You are also probably someone who likes it when people follow the Constitution, at least when it comes to this situation.

WHAT HAPPENED: In 1882, Congress passed a law that granted ownership of a certain parcel of Native American land to American settlers.  That parcel of land, which was owned by the Omaha Tribe, became Pender, Nebraska.  Recently, the Omaha Tribe sought to enforce taxes and liquor licenses on local alcohol vendors on that parcel of land.  Pender and the State of Nebraska sought and received an injunction blocking the Tribes regulations.  That injunction was overturned at the Circuit level, ruling in favor of the Tribe’s ownership of the land.

WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT:  The Supreme Court’s unenviable task is to look at the 1882 law and determine whether or not that law passes the Court’s existing review for 19th Century Congressional acts that sold Native American Land.  This standard comes from the case of Solem v. Bartlett, which considers (1)  the language of the federal law at issue, (2) the history of the passage of the law, (3) and the treatment of the land afterward.  The Circuit Court decision stated that there was not conclusive evidence that this test favored Pender and Nebraska, which would revert the Congressional grant of land back to the Omaha Tribe.

WHAT IS THE RULING:  This case is not yet decided.

WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS OF THIS DECISION:  The people most at issue here are the parties in this case, as it is unlikely that this case will extend to other cases or other grants of land.  If the Court overturns the Circuit Court and favors Nebraska, it could signal the Court’s movement away from the old standard of review, but that would depend on the specific opinion.

ROOT FOR NEBRASKA IF:  You sell alcohol in Pender, Nebraska, or are one of the increasingly growing Americans who is unreasonably terrified of immigrants.

ROOT FOR PARKER IF:  If you have any recognition of American history whatsoever.


WHAT HAPPENED: Defendant was convicted of a crime in Federal Court and was subject to the Federal Court’s Sentencing Guidelines.  Long story short, the sentencing guidelines consider factors that include, but are not limited to, the defendant’s criminal history, degree of crime, aggravating factors, etc., for purposes of putting each defendant in tiers that have mandatory minimums and maximum sentences.  Defendant was put in one tier (that had a range of 77-96 months), but should have been put in another tier (that had a range of 70-87 months).  Defendant was sentenced to 77 months.

WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT:  Mistakes happen, but they really shouldn’t happen when it comes to sentencing since the result is the deprivation of liberty and freedom.  The issue before the Supreme Court is whether or not a defendant who is mistakenly put in the wrong tier gets an automatic review of sentencing, or if that defendant has to prove harm/prejudice from the mistake.

WHAT IS THE RULING:  This case is not yet decided.

WHAT IS THE RAMIFICATION OF THIS DECISION:  On a limited scale, it really just affects the small class of federal criminal defendants who are mistakenly sentenced.  On a broader scale, this case speaks to the Court’s recognition of its mistakes and its willingness to resolve those mistakes.  Although this relates to a small class on a specific scale, the overall concept of fixing ones mistakes can apply to DNA evidence, wrongful convictions, or punishments we later deem unconstitutional under the 8th Amendment. On the other side, allowing automatic review could lead to more appeal petitions, which clogs up the Court system.

ROOT FOR MOLINA-MARTINEZ IF:  You have a lot of misplaced anger after watching Making a Murderer and you’re not sure how to direct it.

ROOT FOR U.S. IF: the nominal inconvenience of fixing your mistake is less important than another person being in jail.  Also, probably if you are Justice Alito.

WHAT HAPPENED:  Voters in Texas argue that their votes do not count as much as the votes of other Texas citizens who live in different districts.  The principal argument is that the method of determining districts, which counts total population instead of eligible voters, is unconstitutional.  The voters in this particular case argue that counting eligible voters is a more Constitutional way to determine districts.

WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT:  Previous cases have dealt with this issue, and while a test has been developed, it is generally recognized (or at least it should be) that voting districts are never going to perfect.  So the Court applies equal protection to these claims but has generally held that voting districts that are close enough and that are not created on the basis of discrimination are usually fine.

WHAT IS THE RULING:  This case is not yet decided.

WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS OF THIS DECISION:  If it is held that using total population violates the equal protection clause, then many states will have to go back to the drawing board to determine how to create and balance districts.  That could cause greater indecision on this topic, as there is no guarantee that calculating eligible voters will resolve the problem completely.  At very least, this would likely give States greater latitude to create their own voting districts, which can be good or bad depending on how you feel about certain States.

ROOT FOR EVENWELL IF: The principal of Constitutionality means more than the practical effectiveness of the status quo.

ROOT FOR ABBOTT IF: You’re the kind of person that is OK with things not being perfect as long as they are not fundamentally corrupt or broken.