SCOTUS Hears Oral Arguments in Four Cases
The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in four cases last week. In the closely-watched case involving Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the justices appeared poised to reinstate his capital sentence. The other potential blockbuster of the week, which involves a legal challenge to a Kentucky abortion law, appears likely to be resolved on procedural grounds in favor of the state’s Attorney General.
Below is a brief summary of the issues before the Court:
Cameron v. EMW Women’s Surgical Center, P.S.C.: Although the case involves Kentucky’s controversial abortion law, the issue before the Court is whether the state’s Attorney General Daniel Cameron can intervene to defend it. The specific question before the Court is whether a state attorney general vested with the power to defend state law should be permitted to intervene after a federal court of appeals invalidates a state statute when no other state actor will defend the law.
Thompson v. Clark: The case asks the Court to clarify the meaning of “favorable termination” under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Under Section 1983, criminal defendants who believes their constitutional rights were violated can sue government officials for civil damages, but only after demonstrating that the criminal proceeding was terminated in their favor. The justices will specifically determine whether the rule that a plaintiff must await favorable termination before bringing a Section 1983 action alleging unreasonable seizure pursuant to legal process requires the plaintiff to show that the criminal proceeding against him has “formally ended in a manner not inconsistent with his innocence,” as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit decided in Laskar v. Hurd, or that the proceeding “ended in a manner that affirmatively indicates his innocence,” as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit decided in Lanning v. City of Glens Falls.
U.S. v. Tsarnaev: The case asks the Court to reinstate the death penalty against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was convicted of carrying out the Boston Marathon bombing. The justices have agreed to decide the following questions: (1) Whether the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit erred in concluding that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s capital sentences must be vacated on the ground that the district court, during its 21-day voir dire, did not ask each prospective juror for a specific accounting of the pretrial media coverage that he or she had read, heard or seen about Tsarnaev’s case; and (2) whether the district court committed reversible error at the penalty phase of Tsarnaev’s trial by excluding evidence that Tsarnaev’s older brother was allegedly involved in different crimes two years before the offenses for which Tsarnaev was convicted.
Babcock v. Kijakazi: The case centers on dual-status military technicians in the National Guard who are members of the National Guard. They serve in uniform, observe military protocol, are required to maintain a military grade appropriate for their role, and are available for active deployment with their unit. A provision of the Social Security Act exempts payments from adverse treatment if they are “a payment based wholly on service as a member of a uniformed service.” The question before the Court is whether a civil service pension received for federal civilian employment as a “military technician (dual status)” is “a payment based wholly on service as a member of a uniformed service” for the purposes of the Social Security Act’s windfall elimination provision.
Decisions in all of the cases are expected before the term ends in June 2022. We encourage readers to check back for updates.
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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.