Dad explains ‘good purpose’ for locking son inside trunk

A Chicago couple tried explaining why they put their 2-year-old son inside the trunk of a car – insisting they’re “good parents” who were merely conducting a controlled social experiment. Boguslaw Matlak, 28, was charged with misdemeanor child endangerment on Sept. 2 after putting his son inside the locked trunk of his car while parked…

A Chicago couple tried explaining why they put their 2-year-old son inside the trunk of a car – insisting they’re “good parents” who were merely conducting a controlled social experiment. Boguslaw Matlak, 28, was charged with misdemeanor child endangerment on Sept. 2 after putting his son inside the locked trunk of his car while parked...

from https://nypost.com

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Empirical SCOTUS: The hottest bench in town

Empirical SCOTUS: The hottest bench in townThe practice of Supreme Court oral arguments has changed dramatically over time. Once multi-day events, Supreme Court oral arguments now typically take place in a one-hour time span, with some exceptions granted by the justices. Not only has the time allotted to arguments changed, but so has the justices’ engagement. This increased engagement has helped […]

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Empirical SCOTUS: The hottest bench in town

The practice of Supreme Court oral arguments has changed dramatically over time. Once multi-day events, Supreme Court oral arguments now typically take place in a one-hour time span, with some exceptions granted by the justices. Not only has the time allotted to arguments changed, but so has the justices’ engagement. This increased engagement has helped quantitative scholars of the court understand the relationship between oral arguments and votes both in the aggregate and in particular cases.

One claim that has been raised time and again over the years is that Justice Antonin Scalia changed the tenor of oral arguments and specifically gave rise to the “hot bench” of justices who ask many questions. This claim was recently framed a bit differently during Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee by Supreme Court advocate and former Solicitor General Paul Clement, who said, “I think the Supreme Court right now is about the hottest bench that the Supreme Court has ever been. I think each of the last justices that have been confirmed by this committee has tended to ask more questions than the justice they replaced.” This post tests these claims on data from Supreme Court oral arguments.

Scalia helped transform Supreme Court oral arguments. There is ample and detailed empirical support for this proposition in a recent book chapter by political scientists Tim Johnson, Ryan Owens and Ryan Black. But have all of the most recently confirmed justices asked more questions than the justices they replaced? Thoroughly answering this question involves putting the justices under a microscope.

The data used to test this claim come from 90 oral argument transcripts across five court terms. This includes 10 from 1965, 20 from 1979, 20 from 1989, 20 from 1999, and 20 from 2017. (Transcripts from the Oyez Project were used for all years prior to 2017.) This set of arguments encompasses years from all current justices and their most recent predecessors. It allows for a look before and after Scalia joined the court in 1986. Finally, data from the 1965 term helps to set a baseline from the Warren court years. The selection of arguments within a term was random aside from those in the 1965 term, which were randomized among arguments that lasted one hour.

The aggregate

All of the current justices are fairly engaged in oral arguments with the exception of Justice Clarence Thomas. An increase in engagement is evident at both the aggregate court level and by individual justice. If we look at average words per justice per argument by term in these samples, there is an increase from 1979 through 1999 and then a slight dip in 2017 (The numbers for 1999 and 2017 are sufficiently close that the difference could be a factor of sampling.).

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When we reframe this to look at justices’ words per talking turn, this measure increases in each subsequent term.

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The justices have found techniques like increasing the number of words per utterance that allow them to say more during arguments. The change in level of engagement is also evident in the number of arguments when justices were silent in each set from 1979, 1989, 1999 and 2017.

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Even with Thomas’ silence in all 20 argument slots for the 1999 and 2017 terms, the sum of silent-justice slots in these two terms is well under the 44 from 1979 and 46 from 1989. This reflects a change in the court’s culture, as is detailed in the chapter from Johnson, Owens and Black, which can likely be ascribed to Scalia.

Individual justices

Breaking this down into individual actors, we can see a much more balanced spread of justices silent at oral arguments in the terms preceding 1999.

Click graph to enlarge.

Justices William Brennan, Harry Blackmun, Lewis Powell and Thurgood Marshall each were silent for multiple arguments in the 1979 and/or 1989 terms. When we push back to 1965, a full 42 percent of the 90 justices’ argument slots were silent, including all 10 from Justices William Douglas and John Marshall Harlan.

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With silence decreasing over time, the justices’ words per argument increased. The justices were much less talkative in the 1965 term than they were in any of the subsequent terms measured for this post.

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Only Justice Abe Fortas was in the range of average words per justice per argument for a modern justice. When we look by the justices’ seats we also see that the justices generally said more in the more recent terms.

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[NoteSeat ordering follows historic Supreme Court seating and the numbering accounts for previously abolished seats.]

Of the more recent justices, only Justice Neil Gorsuch, Chief Justice John Roberts and Thomas spoke less than their predecessors. Gorsuch replaced Scalia, who was very active in oral arguments, so this dip is not surprising. Thomas is widely acknowledged for his idiosyncratic and almost complete silence at oral arguments since he joined the court. Roberts’ words per argument are in the same vicinity as those of Rehnquist, and because this is only based on a sample of arguments, the difference is insignificant at best.

When we look at actual questions per justice/argument in the transcripts (delineated by question marks), we can see that the increase over time is not quite as universal.

Click graph to enlarge.

Along with Thomas, Gorsuch and Roberts, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg asked fewer questions on average than Justice Byron White, and Justice Elena Kagan asked fewer questions than Justice John Paul Stevens.

The justices’ average utterances per argument by seat follow a similar path.

Click graph to enlarge.

By utterance we also see that although Justice Samuel Alito took a similar number of talking turns on average as Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, he was well behind Justice Potter Stewart in this category.

The most evident across-the-board increase in verbosity among justices is in their words per utterance. The modern justices aside from Gorsuch and Thomas each surpassed their predecessors in this respect.

Click graph to enlarge.

Conclusion

In the same vein as described in the chapter from Johnson, Black and Owens, these data allude to interesting changes in oral argument dynamics, especially when compared to the court before Scalia joined in 1986.

Focusing once again on Clement’s comments, the current justices tend to speak more than their predecessors, although this is not the case across the board. An upward trajectory in contemporary justices’ talking turns and questions per argument as compared to their most recent predecessors is less evident. The justices do appear more strategic in their talking now as compared to the past: On average, they utter more words each time they speak.

Even though according to these metrics, Gorsuch is not more active than Scalia, the justice who fills Justice Anthony Kennedy’s spot on the court very well may exceed Kennedy in oral argument engagement. Kennedy averaged fewer words than the average justice in the samples for each of the 1989, 1999 and 2017 terms. It is entirely plausible that the next justice on the court will have at least as much to say as the average justice, especially because there is a significant dip in average words per argument after those of Kagan and Justices Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor.

This post was originally published at Empirical SCOTUS

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from http://www.scotusblog.com

Argument preview: Justices to consider competency in capital cases

Argument preview: Justices to consider competency in capital casesIt has been over 33 years since Vernon Madison shot and killed Julius Schulte, a police officer in Mobile, Alabama. Schulte had come to Madison’s house to protect Madison’s former girlfriend and her daughter while they moved out; Schulte was sitting in his car when Madison shot him twice in the back of the head. […]

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Argument preview: Justices to consider competency in capital cases

It has been over 33 years since Vernon Madison shot and killed Julius Schulte, a police officer in Mobile, Alabama. Schulte had come to Madison’s house to protect Madison’s former girlfriend and her daughter while they moved out; Schulte was sitting in his car when Madison shot him twice in the back of the head. Madison was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death, but next week the Supreme Court will hear oral argument on whether it would violate the Constitution to execute Madison when he has no memory of his crime.

Madison, now in his late 60s, has been on death row for over 30 years. During that time, he has had several strokes, which have left him with significant brain damage. Madison suffers from dementia and long-term memory loss; he is also legally blind and can no longer walk without assistance. Since Madison’s stroke, his lawyers tell the Supreme Court, Madison “has repeatedly asked for his mother to come and visit him even though she has been dead for years.”

Madison also cannot remember any of the details of the crime that put him on death row, including Schulte’s name, the events surrounding the crime, or his trial. After his execution was scheduled for January of this year, Madison went to state court to challenge his competency to be executed, armed with evidence that a court-appointed expert who had evaluated him, and whose findings had played a key role in earlier rulings that Madison was competent to be executed, was abusing narcotics and was eventually suspended from practicing psychology. The state court would have allowed Madison’s execution to go forward, but the Supreme Court stepped in and – over the objection of Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch – put the execution on hold while it considered Madison’s request for review.

In his brief on the merits at the Supreme Court, Madison contends that executing him would violate the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment because he does not understand why he is being executed. To support this argument, Madison points to two earlier decisions by the Supreme Court: Ford v. Wainwright, in which the justices ruled that the Eighth Amendment bars the execution of inmates who are mentally incompetent; and Panetti v. Quarterman, in which the justices held that the lower courts should have considered an inmate’s claim that he suffered from “a severe, documented mental illness that is the source of gross delusions preventing him from comprehending the meaning and purpose of” his death sentence.

Taken together, he asserts, these cases “require that states refrain from executing an individual,” like Madison, “whose verifiable cognitive impairments render him incompetent to rationally understand the circumstances surrounding a scheduled execution.” This is particularly true, Madison adds, because executing an inmate who does not understand why he is being punished does not serve the purposes of the death penalty: The execution would not deter future crimes, nor would it punish Madison for his conduct.

For its part, Alabama casts doubt on whether, as a result of his health problems, Madison cannot actually recall his crime: Madison, the state notes, “first claimed that he could not remember murdering Officer Schulte in 1990, long before he purportedly suffered from dementia-related amnesia.” Moreover, the state observes, Madison remembers many details of his life and criminal history; his physicians reported that he can provide consent for medical procedures and sometimes declines medications if he does not like the side effects.

But in any event, the state continues, whether Madison remembers his crime is irrelevant to whether he should be executed. Although the Constitution does prohibit the execution of someone who is incompetent and cannot understand the reasons for his execution, Madison does not fit that description: Even if he doesn’t remember killing Schulte, a court-appointed psychologist has concluded that “Madison has a rational understanding that he is to be executed for killing a police officer in 1985.” The Eighth Amendment does not, the state emphasizes, prevent Alabama from executing Madison simply because he says he does not remember committing his crime.

When the justices consider Madison’s case next week, it will be the second time that the Supreme Court has done so: In 2017, the court reversed (without briefing on the merits or oral argument) a ruling by a federal appeals court that would have vacated Madison’s sentence. Discussing the high bar under federal habeas law for a federal court to overturn a state court’s ruling in a criminal case, the court’s unsigned opinion stressed that its decisions in Ford and Panetti had not “clearly established that a prisoner is incompetent to be executed because of a failure to remember his commission of the crime, as distinct from a failure to rationally comprehend the concepts of crime and punishment as applied in this case.” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote an opinion in which she agreed with the court’s disposition of Madison’s case but also noted that the question “whether a State may administer the death penalty to a person whose disability leaves him without memory of his commission of a capital offense is a substantial question not yet addressed by the Court.”

During this round of proceedings at the Supreme Court, the justices will consider the question of Madison’s competency to be executed on the merits, rather than under the higher standard created by federal habeas law. But it also seems increasingly likely that only eight justices will hear oral argument in Madison’s case. With Thomas, Alito and Gorsuch already having signaled that they are likely to rule against him, Madison will almost certainly need the votes of all four of the court’s more liberal justices and Chief Justice John Roberts to prevail and stave off his execution – which could be a tall order. We’ll have a better sense of where the justices might be heading after next week’s oral argument.

This post was originally published at Howe on the Court.

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from http://www.scotusblog.com

School bus driver walking to work gets killed in hit-run

A school bus driver was killed on his way to work Tuesday morning when he was was struck by a hit-and-run motorist in the Bronx, police and sources said. The 62-year-old Queens man was discovered shortly before 6 a.m. lying face-down in the road near t…

A school bus driver was killed on his way to work Tuesday morning when he was was struck by a hit-and-run motorist in the Bronx, police and sources said. The 62-year-old Queens man was discovered shortly before 6 a.m. lying face-down in the road near the intersection of Randall and Zerega avenues in Castle Hill,...

from https://nypost.com

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Petitions of the week

Petitions of the weekThis week we highlight petitions pending before the Supreme Court that address, among other things, the reach of the Clean Water Act’s permitting requirement, the constitutionality of establishing personal jurisdiction over a defendant based on the contacts of a defendant’s alleged co-conspirators, and the categorical classification of an indivisible state statute that criminalizes false agency […]

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Petitions of the week

This week we highlight petitions pending before the Supreme Court that address, among other things, the reach of the Clean Water Act’s permitting requirement, the constitutionality of establishing personal jurisdiction over a defendant based on the contacts of a defendant’s alleged co-conspirators, and the categorical classification of an indivisible state statute that criminalizes false agency endorsement.

The petitions of the week are:

18-167
Disclosure: Vinson & Elkins LLP, whose attorneys contribute to this blog in various capacities, is counsel to the petitioner in this case.

Issue: Whether the due process clause permits a court to exercise personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant based on the contacts of the defendant’s alleged co-conspirators with the forum state, as the court below held; or whether the due process analysis looks only to the defendant’s own contacts with the forum state and not those of alleged co-conspirators, as the Nebraska and Texas Supreme Courts have held.

18-247

Issue: Whether Section 102(c) of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act—which grants the Secretary of Homeland Security sweeping power to waive any or all legal requirements in her sole discretion, and then insulates that exercise of discretion from judicial review—violates the separation of powers.

18-260

Issues: (1) Whether the Clean Water Act requires a permit when pollutants originate from a point source but are conveyed to navigable waters by a nonpoint source, such as groundwater; and (2) whether the County of Maui had fair notice that a Clean Water Act permit was required for its underground injection control wells that operated without such a permit for nearly 40 years.

18-268

Issues: (1) Whether the Clean Water Act’s permitting requirement is confined to discharges from a point source to navigable waters, or whether it also applies to discharges into soil or groundwater whenever there is a “direct hydrological connection” between the groundwater and nearby navigable waters; and (2) whether an “ongoing violation” of the Clean Water Act exists for purposes of the act’s citizen-suit provision when a point source has permanently ceased discharging pollutants, but some of the pollutants are still reaching navigable water through groundwater.

18-273

Issue: Whether an indivisible state statute that criminalizes false agency endorsement is categorically “an offense relating to … forgery” and thus an aggravated felony.

 

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from http://www.scotusblog.com

PTSD Coach Smartphone App for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms

This is a smartphone app intervention designed to help manage and reduce posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. The program is rated Promising. Over time, symptoms of PTSD, such as depression, and psychosocial functioning, reduced more for the treatment group, compared with the control group. However, there was no statistically significant difference in users’ confidence in managing their PTSD symptoms and reaching out for support.

This is a smartphone app intervention designed to help manage and reduce posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. The program is rated Promising. Over time, symptoms of PTSD, such as depression, and psychosocial functioning, reduced more for the treatment group, compared with the control group. However, there was no statistically significant difference in users’ confidence in managing their PTSD symptoms and reaching out for support.

from http://www.crimesolutions.gov/

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Argument preview: Justices face nondelegation challenge to federal sex-offender registration law

Argument preview: Justices face nondelegation challenge to federal sex-offender registration lawOver 12 years ago, Congress enacted the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act. One provision of SORNA created a requirement that a convicted sex offender register with every jurisdiction in which he resides, works or studies, as well as in the jurisdiction in which he was convicted. Another part of SORNA, its criminal enforcement provision, […]

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Argument preview: Justices face nondelegation challenge to federal sex-offender registration law

Over 12 years ago, Congress enacted the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act. One provision of SORNA created a requirement that a convicted sex offender register with every jurisdiction in which he resides, works or studies, as well as in the jurisdiction in which he was convicted. Another part of SORNA, its criminal enforcement provision, made it a crime for a convicted sex offender subject to the registration requirement to fail to register or to keep his registration information updated if he travels across state lines. But what about sex offenders convicted before SORNA’s enactment? SORNA did not itself specify whether pre-SORNA offenders were required to register. It instead authorized the attorney general of the United States to “specify the applicability” of SORNA’s registration requirement to “sex offenders convicted before” the date of SORNA’s enactment, and “to prescribe rules for the registration of any such sex offenders and for other categories of sex offenders who are unable to comply” with the registration requirement.

In subsequent years, defendants charged under SORNA contended that the act and its enforcement scheme violated a panoply of constitutional rules. One of these cases reached the Supreme Court in 2012 in United States v. Reynolds. By issuing an interim rule, the attorney general had made SORNA’s registration requirements applicable to pre-SORNA offenders, and Billy Joe Reynolds claimed this interim rule was invalid. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit rejected Reynolds’ argument because that court had earlier held that SORNA by its own terms required pre-SORNA offenders to register; the validity of the interim rule, it reasoned, was thus irrelevant to Reynolds. At the Supreme Court, Reynolds challenged that logic, contending that SORNA did not of its own force apply to pre-SORNA offenders and that a valid interim rule was therefore necessary to subject him to the registration requirement and its enforcement provision.

The Supreme Court agreed with Reynolds and reversed in a 7-2 opinion by Justice Stephen Breyer. Unless the attorney general “validly specifie[d]” that SORNA was applicable to pre-SORNA offenders, the court held, SORNA’s registration requirement did not apply to them, and the case therefore had to be remanded so the 3rd Circuit could decide on the interim rule’s validity. (On remand, the 3rd Circuit concluded that the attorney general had failed to comply with the Administrative Procedure Act’s requirement of notice-and-comment rulemaking in issuing the interim rule, and it vacated Reynolds’ conviction.)

Justice Antonin Scalia dissented in Reynolds, and he was joined in this dissent by — and only by — Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. (Mavens of voting patterns may be interested to know that this is the only occasion on which just those two justices together joined in a dissent.) In a key passage, Scalia noted that it was not “entirely clear … that Congress can constitutionally leave it to the Attorney General to decide—with no statutory standard whatever governing his discretion—whether a criminal statute will or will not apply to particular individuals. That seems to me sailing close to the wind with regard to the principle that legislative powers are nondelegable.” The prudent course, Scalia urged, would be to interpret the statute narrowly so that it steered clear of the constitutional shoals of the nondelegation doctrine, the principle that Congress cannot transfer its power to legislate to another branch of government.

The issue flagged by the Reynolds dissent has lingered ever since: Does SORNA’s delegation to the attorney general violate the nondelegation doctrine?

Herman Gundy’s case now presents that question. In 2008, the attorney general promulgated guidelines that applied SORNA’s registration requirement to pre-SORNA sex offenders, among them Gundy. Gundy was convicted in 2005 of the rape of an 11-year-old girl and sentenced to 20 years in prison. In 2010, Gundy began serving a federal prison sentence for violating the terms of his supervised release, and the Bureau of Prisons moved him from Maryland to a prison in Pennsylvania. In 2012, while he remained in federal custody, the Bureau of Prisons allowed Gundy to travel to a community re-entry facility in New York. Upon leaving that facility two months later, Gundy remained in New York. Later that year, he was arrested and indicted for violating SORNA for failure to register as a sex offender upon traveling to New York from Pennsylvania. The district court ultimately held that Gundy should be convicted and sentenced him to time served and five years of supervised release. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit affirmed.

Gundy petitioned for certiorari. Gundy’s petition raised four questions, but the Supreme Court chose to take up just one of them, a question on which the circuits were not split and which the justices had repeatedly declined to hear in the past: “Whether SORNA’s delegation of authority to the Attorney General to issue regulations under [34 U.S.C. 20913(d)] violates the nondelegation doctrine.”

Gundy’s merits brief contends that SORNA’s delegation to the attorney general violates a core principle of separation of powers: that only Congress can legislate. That principle, Gundy emphasizes, holds special importance and force in the criminal law context. Gundy contends that the power wielded by the attorney general here is an immense one and “quintessentially legislative” — the power to “prescribe rules, backed by criminal sanctions, governing the conduct of roughly half a million people” — and such a delegation cannot be constitutional.

Gundy argues that “an originalist interpretation of the Constitution” flatly forbids such a delegation of legislative power. Moreover, he contends, the delegation does not meet even the lax standard set by the modern test finding a delegation to be constitutional if Congress provides the executive branch with an “intelligible principle” to guide its exercise of discretion. Identifying a host of questions that SORNA leaves unanswered, Gundy argues that the delegation contains no guidance, let alone the requisite “substantial guidance,” on how the attorney general should wield her authority in this important area. Instead, Gundy says, SORNA confers on the attorney general — the “nation’s top prosecutor” — the “unguided discretion” to subject hundreds of thousands of individuals to the act’s registration requirements and its criminal enforcement provisions. Gundy contends that other SORNA provisions that speak to the need for a “comprehensive national system” of registration or the goal of “protect[ing] the public” neither supply an intelligible principle nor dictate the answers to key policy judgments and value choices that Congress is required to make. Gundy adds that SORNA’s delegation to the executive offends retroactivity doctrine and federalism concerns to boot.

A baker’s dozen of amicus briefs were filed on Gundy’s side, but the U.S. solicitor general stands alone before the Supreme Court in defending the constitutionality of SORNA’s delegation to the attorney general. Apart from two 1935 cases, Panama Refining Company v. Ryan and Schechter Poultry Corp. v. U.S., the government stresses, the court has continually upheld congressional power to delegate, including in cases in which the delegation authorized the executive to trigger criminal sanctions for private conduct. The government contends that the attorney general’s discretion under SORNA is confined to a single issue — to determine the applicability of the statute’s civil registration requirement to pre-SORNA offenders. In making that determination, the government argues, the statute supplies the “general policy” for the attorney general to pursue: “ .” Congress determined that granting discretion to the attorney general to implement the registration requirement for pre-SORNA offenders was necessary, the government says, so that the attorney general could address logistical and practical difficulties with administering the new national registration scheme and harmonizing it with a patchwork of state registration schemes. But, the government contends, that discretion is limited to a “defined subset of sex offenders,” and indeed is no different from a scheme in which Congress itself required all pre-SORNA offenders to register and instead authorized the attorney general to issue exemptions from that requirement.

The government denies that the delegation in SORNA implicates retroactivity or federalism concerns, the void-for-vagueness doctrine or the law of deference. Nor, in the government’s view, does SORNA’s delegation offend the principle that only Congress may define crimes: Although a law that authorized the executive “to create new federal crimes out of whole cloth” would “raise substantial constitutional questions,” in SORNA “Congress itself established the new crime of failing to register” and created a “civil registration requirement,” and although the attorney general’s rules “implement that civil registration regime[,] they do not define any criminal offense.” The government closes its brief by stressing that the court should not depart from long-established precedents that allow Congress to give the executive the discretion to make determinations that affect private-party conduct, “so long as Congress is clear about its general policy.”

How the Supreme Court chooses to decide this case could have potentially sweeping implications on several scores. The government notes that since SORNA was enacted, 4,000 sex offenders have been convicted of “federal sex-offender registry violations,” and “many of those offenders who failed to register would go free” if the court were to invalidate the delegation in SORNA. In addition, as Gundy notes, there are “hundreds of thousands” of pre-SORNA offenders now covered by the attorney general’s guidelines — as many people, he points out, as live in Wyoming — and the court’s decision will determine whether or not they will face criminal liability for failure to comply with SORNA’s registration requirements going forward.

Beyond the law of sex-offender registration, the approach the court takes in Gundy could have repercussions across the law of the administrative state. Broad delegations of authority to the executive branch form the foundation of modern regulatory government. But given Ginsburg’s dissenting vote in Reynolds, Justice Clarence Thomas’ recent opinions on nondelegation and administrative power, and Justice Neil Gorsuch’s dissent from denial of rehearing en banc in a U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit case involving SORNA, there is a real possibility that the Gundy court will issue a ruling that revives the nondelegation doctrine from its 80-year slumber. If the justices ultimately do find that SORNA’s delegation does something more than just “sail[] close to the wind,” then we can confidently expect to see a string of challenges attacking the exercise of federal administrative power in areas ranging from environmental law to immigration law to food-and-drug law to the law of tariffs and trade. Cass Sunstein famously wrote that nondelegation doctrine has had only “one good year”; when the justices issue their ruling in Gundy, we will discover whether it will finally have a second.

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from http://www.scotusblog.com

ACLU Launches Tool Showing Candidate Stances on Justice Reform

The American Civil Liberties Union, which is campaigning against mass incarceration, is providing voters with information about the criminal justice positions of thousands of candidates for Congress, governor, and state legislatures.

The American Civil Liberties Union has launched a voter education tool called Vote Smart Justice that the advocacy group says will help voters access information about thousands of candidates for Congress, governor, and state legislatures to see where they stand on criminal justice reform issues. The ACLU wants to push candidates to adopt platforms that embrace criminal justice reform.

The ACLU released a survey it said shows that 78 percent of likely voters are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports criminal justice reform, including 72 percent of Republicans. The survey said that 75 percent of likely voters, including 67 percent of white Republicans, are more likely to support candidates who pledge to reduce and speak out against racial disparities in the criminal justice system. Some 71 percent of likely voters want candidates who are committed to ending the war on drugs. On VoteSmartJustice.org, users may input their address to learn where candidates running for office in their district stand on criminal justice reform issues, based on their legislative voting records and public statements.

The ACLU already has taken part in prosecutorial elections. In St. Louis County, Mo., the group informed voters about the record and platforms of incumbent Bob McCulloch and his challenger, Wesley Bell. On August 7, the 27-year incumbent McCulloch was defeated by Bell, who ran on a criminal justice reform platform that included a pledge to end cash bail for low-level offenses and increase police accountability.

Similar voter education work has been taking place in Texas, California, Oklahoma, Oregon, Utah, and in Massachusetts. The ACLU is campaigning for reducing the U.S. jail and prison population by 50 percent and to combat racial disparities in the criminal justice system.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Trust, But Verify: The Hazards of Police Body Cams

Cops have been known to manipulate body camera evidence to support their version of fatal encounters with civilians. That’s why video footage should be closely examined through courtroom questioning, argue two researchers.

Police officer statements captured through body camera footage should be permissible in court as evidence against a criminal defendant only if the officer making the statements testifies in court, argues a forthcoming article in the Fordham Law Review

The authors of the article, William and Mary Law School Professor Jeffrey Bellin and 13th Judicial Circuit of Virginia Law Clerk Shevarma Pemberton, made the recommendation as part of an analysis of preexisting laws governing hearsay evidence and the rising widespread use of police body cameras.

Police body cams typically produce audio and video recordings of police officer actions, observations and interactions with citizens, and while they are generally viewed as checks on police misconduct, they are also a tool for officers to collect evidence against citizens who later become defendants in criminal trials, the researchers say.

Since officers know the footage will be used as evidence, they could control and manipulate evidence during police-civilian interactions in a manner that incriminates civilians.

One way they can do so is through their oral statements. For example, an officer may shout “He is reaching for his gun,” or “He just threw something in the bushes,” when in fact no such actions occurred or at least aren’t corroborated in the video footage.

For that, they should testify and face cross-examination, the researchers say.

The study provides a list of recent events the authors say back up their concern. In Baltimore, police were accused of reenacting drug discoveries for their body cameras. Officers involved in shooting Stephon Clark muted their body camera audio shortly after the shooting. During the 2016 shooting of Alton Sterling, both officers’ body cameras were “dislodged.”

The researchers also found that 70 percent of officers violate body camera policies.

“This is particularly important because the footage produced by police body cameras will much more commonly be used to prosecute citizens than to document their abuse at the hands of police,” the authors wrote.

“This danger becomes particularly significant if police body camera statements are introduced at trial without the live testimony of the authoring officer. Such statements will be admitted with a veneer of reliability despite never having been subjected to an oath, or the “crucible of cross-examination.”

The authors proposed that officers must testify that they cannot fully and accurately recall the incident and vouch for the accuracy of the out-of-court statements. Furthermore, the oral statements in the video must exhibit “excited utterances,” as they are spontaneous and less likely to engage in “conscious fabrication than the reflective mind.”

The authors argued that the media and scholars of body camera footage coverage focused on holding police accountable for unlawful shootings and other uses of excessive force but have ignored examining the extent to which the audio track—specifically statements made in the audio track in body cam footage should be admissible against a defendant in a criminal prosecution.

The full study can be downloaded here.

This summary was prepared by J. Gabriel Ware, a TCR news intern. Readers’ comments are welcome.

from https://thecrimereport.org

William Norris Sues His University After Being Acquitted of Sexual Assault

Breakfast reading from the Voice Media empire: William Norris has filed a lawsuit against a major university, where he was a student and member of the Air Force ROTC program before being suspended in the wake of sexual-assault allegations that were later rejected by a jury. He claims that administrators violated Title IX and his right to […]

The post William Norris Sues His University After Being Acquitted of Sexual Assault appeared first on True Crime Report.

Breakfast reading from the Voice Media empire: William Norris has filed a lawsuit against a major university, where he was a student and member of the Air Force ROTC program before being suspended in the wake of sexual-assault allegations that were later rejected by a jury. He claims that administrators violated Title IX and his right to [...]

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from http://www.truecrimereport.com