March Ends with Oral Arguments in Six Cases
The U.S. Supreme Court ended the month with oral arguments in six cases. The majority of the issues before the justices involved criminal law, including the use of physical restraints and sentencing guidelines. The Court also considered yet another case involving allegations of partisan gerrymandering.
Below is a brief summary of the issues before the justices this week:
United States v. Sanchez-Gomez: The suit challenges a policy adopted by the Southern District of California allowing the U.S. Marshals Service to produce all in-custody defendants in full restraints for most non-jury proceedings. The specific question before the justices is more technical. It is “[w]hether the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit erred in asserting authority to review respondents’ interlocutory challenge to pretrial physical restraints and in ruling on that challenge notwithstanding its recognition that respondents’ individual claims were moot.”
China Agritech, Inc. v. Resh: In American Pipe and Construction Co. v. Utah, 414 U.S. 538 (1974), and Crown, Cork & Seal Co. v. Parker, 462 U.S. 345 (1983), the Supreme Court held that the “timely filing of a defective class action toll[s] the limitations period as to the individual claims of purported class members.” In this case, two defective class actions were filed during the limitations period. Respondents, absent members of the rejected classes, filed a third class action, this time outside the limitations period. The Ninth Circuit construed American Pipe to toll the limitations period and make this third class action timely. The Court must now determine whether the rule of American Pipe and Construction Co. v. Utah tolls statutes of limitations to permit a previously absent class member to bring a subsequent class action outside the applicable limitations period.
Hughes v. United States: In Marks v. United States, 430 U.S. 188 (1977), the Supreme Court explained that “[w]hen a fragmented Court decides a case and no single rationale explaining the result enjoys the assent of five Justices, ‘the holding of the Court may be viewed as that position taken by those Members who concurred in the judgments on the narrowest grounds.”‘ In Freeman v. United States, 564 U.S. 522 (2011), the Court issued a fractured 4-1-4 decision concluding that a defendant who enters into a plea agreement under Fed. R. Crim. P. 11(c)(1)(C) may be eligible for a reduction in his sentence if the Sentencing Commission subsequently issues a retroactive amendment to the Sentencing Guidelines. However, the four-Justice plurality and Justice Sotomayor’s concurrence shared no common rationale, and the courts of appeals have divided over how to apply Freeman’s result. The Supreme Court agreed to consider the following question: “Whether, as a four-justice plurality in Freeman v. United States concluded, a defendant who enters into a Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(c)(1)(C) plea agreement is generally eligible for a sentence reduction if there is a later, retroactive amendment to the relevant Sentencing Guidelines range.”
Koons v. United States: 18 U.S.C. §3582(c)(2) allows modification of a prison term for a “defendant who has been sentenced to a term of imprisonment based on a sentencing range that has subsequently been lowered by the Sentencing Commission.” In this case, the justices have been asked to clarify “[w]hether a defendant who is subject to a statutory mandatory minimum sentence, but who substantially assisted the government and received a sentence below the mandatory minimum pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3553(e), is eligible for a further sentence reduction under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2), when the Sentencing Commission retroactively lowers the advisory sentencing guidelines range that would have applied in the absence of the statutory mandatory minimum.”
Benisek v. Lamone: The case involves a First Amendment challenge to the partisan gerrymander of a single federal congressional district. Plaintiffs allege that state officials responsible for Maryland’s 2011 congressional redistricting plan targeted them for vote dilution because of their past support for Republican candidates for public office, violating the First Amendment retaliation doctrine. The issues before the Court include: “(1) Whether the majority of the three-judge district court erred in holding that, to establish an actual, concrete injury in a First Amendment retaliation challenge to a partisan gerrymander, a plaintiff must prove that the gerrymander has dictated and will continue to dictate the outcome of every election held in the district under the gerrymandered map; (2) whether the majority erred in holding that the Mt. Healthy City Board of Education v. Doyle burden-shifting framework is inapplicable to First Amendment retaliation challenges to partisan gerrymanders; and (3) whether, regardless of the applicable legal standards, the majority erred in holding that the present record does not permit a finding that the 2011 gerrymander was a but-for cause of the Democratic victories in the district in 2012, 2014, or 2016.”
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- Establishment ClauseFree Exercise Clause
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Preamble to the Bill of Rights
Congress of the United States begun and held at the City of New-York, on Wednesday the fourth of March, one thousand seven hundred and eighty nine.
THE Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best ensure the beneficent ends of its institution.