June 25, 2012 |
They might well be the most powerful men and women in the nation, but most Americans probably couldn't pick the members of the U.S. Supreme Court out of a lineup. (Unless perhaps they were the only ones wearing long black robes.) As the court's current term draws to a close, it's issuing a series of monumental decisions this week that will affect every man, woman and child in the country. Today alone, the court handed down a split decision on Arizona's controversial immigration law, and ruled that it was unconstitutional to send juveniles to prison for life without the possibility of parole.
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.
February 12, 2012 |
For months there have been repeated calls from Supreme Court watchers for Justices Clarence Thomas and Elena Kagan to recuse themselves from the healthcare litigation to be argued before the court in March. The controversy heightened in December when Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., in his year-end report, argued that not only should Supreme Court justices decide recusal issues solely for themselves, but that some ethical rules that apply to all other federal judges should not bind the justices.
December 1, 2011 |
As the Supreme Court prepares to consider one of the most closely watched cases in its recent history, two of its nine justices -- one on the left and one on the right - -are being urged to step aside and let their colleagues determine the fate of President Obama's healthcare overhaul without them. Conservatives want Elena Kagan, the newest jurist on the court, off the case because of her ties to the Obama administration. Liberals would like to see Clarence Thomas to excuse himself because of his wife's connection to advocacy groups that want the law overturned.
July 8, 2011 |
A Mexican national who became the focus of an international dispute was put to death Thursday by Texas authorities after the Supreme Court, on a 5-4 vote, refused an urgent appeal from the Obama administration to stop the execution. Humberto Leal Garcia, 38, was given a lethal injection for the 1994 rape and murder of a 16-year-old girl in San Antonio. His case drew the attention of the Mexican and U.S. governments because Texas officials failed to notify the Mexican consulate at the time of his arrest and trial, a violation of the Vienna Convention.
June 24, 2011 |
The Supreme Court on Thursday put an extra burden on crime labs, declaring that a man accused of drunken driving has the right to demand that a lab technician testify in person about a blood test that showed he was impaired. The 5-4 decision was the latest to extend the reach of a defendant's constitutional right "to be confronted with the witnesses against him. " And once again, the outcome was driven by an unusual coalition of conservative and liberal justices. Two years ago, the court said a crime lab technician was a witness for the prosecution and, therefore, must be available to testify.
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 6, 2011 |
The Senate on Monday approved Donald B. Verrilli, Jr. as the U.S. solicitor general, taking over the position that opened after Elena Kagan’s confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court last year. Verrilli, a deputy counsel to President Obama and former associate deputy attorney general, was approved 72-16 as federal government’s chief legal representative before the U.S. Supreme Court. He had been an attorney in private practice for 20 years, and argued 12 cases before the court.
May 20, 2011 |
Senate Republicans blocked a vote on the nomination of UC Berkeley law professor Goodwin Liu to the federal appeals court in San Francisco, making Liu the first judicial nominee named by President Obama to be successfully filibustered. The move appears to doom Liu's chances of becoming the first Asian American on the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which serves California, Hawaii, Washington and Oregon, all states with significant or growing Asian populations. Democrats failed to come close to the 60 votes needed to override the filibuster.