March 21, 2012 |
Defendants in criminal cases have a constitutional right to a competent lawyer's advice when deciding whether to accept a plea bargain, the Supreme Court ruled, providing a significant expansion of rights that could have a broad impact on the justice system. "Ours for the most part is a system of pleas, not a system of trials," Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said for the majority in a pair of 5-4 decisions. Noting that about 97% of federal convictions and 94% of state convictions result from guilty pleas, Kennedy wrote that "in today's criminal justice system, the negotiation of a plea bargain, rather than the unfolding of a trial, is almost always the critical point for the defendant.
April 27, 2014 |
Given the danger posed by drunk or reckless drivers, police should follow up on information - even information from an anonymous source - that a vehicle might be careening down a street or threatening other motorists and pedestrians. If they confirm that is the case, they should stop the vehicle. But that isn't what happened in a California case decided by the Supreme Court last week. The court's ruling makes it too easy for police to stop motorists on the basis of an anonymous tip. In 2008, a 911 dispatch team in Mendocino County received a report that a pickup truck had forced another vehicle off the road, giving rise to a concern that the driver might be drunk.
June 16, 2011 |
The Supreme Court bolstered the rights of juveniles for the second year in a row, deciding by a 5-4 vote that police officers who remove a student from class for questioning about a crime usually must warn him or her of the right to remain silent. The decision Thursday did not set a strict rule for all cases involving police questioning of minors, but the justices said young people deserved extra protection because they would feel they had no choice but to answer. "It is beyond dispute that children will often feel bound to submit to police questioning when an adult in the same circumstance would feel free to leave," wrote Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
June 3, 2013 |
WASHINGTON -- The police may take a DNA sample from people arrested for serious crimes, the Supreme Court ruled Monday in a major victory for law enforcement and crime victims. The 5-4 decision is likely to make the taking of DNA samples as common as taking fingerprints or a photograph when people are arrested. More than half of the states now require a DNA mouth swab when persons are charged with a serious crime, and many of the others were awaiting a Supreme Court ruling on the constitutionality of the practice.
June 26, 2013 |
WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court cleared the way Wednesday for same-sex marriages to resume in California as the justices, in a procedural ruling, turned away the defenders of Proposition 8. Chief Justice John Roberts, speaking for the 5-4 majority, said the private sponsors of Prop. 8 did not have legal standing to appeal after the ballot measure was struck down by a federal judge in San Francisco. "We have never before upheld the standing of a private party to defend the constitutionality of a state statute when state officials have chosen not to," he said.
February 25, 2014 |
WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that police officers may enter and search a home without a warrant as long as one occupant consents, even if another resident has previously objected. The ruling -- based on a case involving a Los Angeles Police Department search -- gives the police more leeway to search homes without obtaining a warrant, even in situations where there is no emergency. The case began with a lawsuit filed by Walter Fernandez, a Los Angeles man who was arrested in 2009 as a suspect in a street robbery and taken from his home to the police station.
January 25, 2011 |
Six Supreme Court justices are expected to attend President Obama's State of the Union speech Tuesday, amid growing concern over the politicization of the nation's high court. A court spokesman would not identify which of the panel's nine justices would attend, but it appeared likely that Justices Samuel A. Alito Jr., Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas would be the three to skip the president's speech. Alito, who shook his head in disagreement as Obama spoke last year, had accepted an offer to teach law classes in Hawaii this week.
May 12, 2010 |
If confirmed as a Supreme Court justice, Elena Kagan will bring greater diversity to the court by adding a third woman. What she will not bring is educational diversity. Her confirmation will leave the court entirely composed of former law students at either Harvard or Yale. The decision of President Obama to select a nominee from one of these two schools is particularly disappointing as a replacement for Justice John Paul Stevens — an iconic figure on the court who was also its only graduate from an alternative institution (Northwestern)
June 28, 2012 |
WASHINGTON -- Just before 10 a.m. EDT today, the nine justices of the Supreme Court will be summoned by a buzzer to the robing room behind the court bench. No matter how acrimonious the fight over the healthcare decision they are about to announce, tradition calls for them to shake hands with one another. Chief Justice Melville W. Fuller began that little ceremony in the late 1800s to note that differences of opinion do not preclude the justices' overall harmony of purpose. That sense of harmony may be short-lived if the court is badly split on what may be the most significant ruling on an act of Congress in more than half a century.
April 5, 2011 |
The Supreme Court restored a death sentence for a Van Nuys murderer Monday, despite evidence that he suffered severe brain damage as a child. Scott Pinholster, who stabbed two men to death in a drug robbery gone bad in Tarzana in 1982, is an epileptic who suffered blows to the head in two auto accidents. His mother backed her car into him when he was 2, and his head slammed into the windshield during an accident a year or two later. By age 10, he was having outbursts at school. At 11, he was sent to a mental institution.