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Tag: united states

Parker’s Supreme Court Watch: Losing Scalia Vote Has Not Changed Result in Criminal Cases

Ross Parker

Ross Parker

Ross Parker was chief of the criminal division in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit for 8 years and worked as an AUSA for 28 in that office.

By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com

The Supreme Court will follow the usual pattern of not hearing oral argument in May and June. But that doesn’t mean that the Justices are loafing in their chambers. Far from it. There are per curiam opinions to write, individual opinions to author and certiorari petitions to consider.

So far this term the Court has issued a half dozen per curiam (by the Court) opinions. These are decisions without a designated author, usually without a dissent or concurrence and concerning well settled areas of the law. The cases are often non-controversial, do not involve an oral argument, and serve to quickly dispose of a routine issue. They are sometimes criticized as a method of avoiding individual Justice accountability and controversies. An example is the case of Bush v. Gore, regarding the election of 2000. The cases of this term, although having some value in terms of the development of the law, do not appear to be subject to this criticism.

The most significant and time-consuming of the work to be done in the two months left of the term are the draft opinions to circulate, discuss and argue about and the cases to decide before the June adjournment. Among criminal cases, which only make up a fraction of the docket of 150-200 cases annually, the Justices still have 12 cases to decide among the 22 oral arguments they heard from October to April.

Predicted 9 of 10 Decisions

So far the Court has decided 10 of the 22 heard during this term. This column has, thus far, correctly predicted the result in 9 of the 10. Not too shabby.

The case I missed was Luis v. United States, in which 4 Justices held that the pretrial freezing of untainted assets subject to forfeiture violated the 6th Amendment. The precedential value of the case is discussed further below.

Justice Antonin Scalia

Justice Antonin Scalia

Justice Scalia’s absence has, no doubt, been felt in the process of deciding cases, but losing his vote has not changed the result in the criminal cases, at least not that is visible to the public. His votes on cases that had not been announced as of the time of his death are void, but there have been no 4-4 criminal cases handed down. In that situation the ruling of the lower court stands.

In one case decided, Luis v. United States, however his absence may have affected the precedential value of the decision. The plurality opinion was signed by only 4 Justices, but with Justice Thomas’s concurrence in the result (but not the reasoning), there was a five-vote majority with 3 dissents. The stare decisis (precedential authority of the principle of law) effect on future, similar cases of the primary opinion will have to wait for those future cases. This has been a matter of some debate. Compare The Legal Tender Cases (1870) with Mitchell v. W.T. Grant Co. (1974).

In any event the likelihood of a 4-4 stalemate is more likely in some of the hot-button civil cases currently pending, like the lawsuit to block President Obama’s order to defer deportation of 5.5 million aliens and the case involving Texas’s restriction on abortion law. Few of the pending criminal cases are likely to end up in this predicament. It has been speculated that the Court sometimes looks for a more narrow reasoning to achieve the result of a decision if the preliminary vote is 4-4. The precedential value of the case is limited but at least the opinion serves the purpose of the “right” result rather than just letting the lower court’s opinion stand.

Next month’s column on the Court will report on the case decisions during the month of May, and the following one will wrap up the significant developments of the Court’s term.

Boston Globe Editorial: Border Patrol Needs to Be Reigned In to Keep Its Focus

By Editorial Board 
Boston Globe

Most Americans have a pretty firm idea of where the borders of the United States lie. But most are unaware that the federal government has an entirely different — and alarmingly far-reaching — definition of the nation’s boundaries when it comes to immigration enforcement. In fact, Customs and Border Protection agents have the authority to stop and conduct searches on vehicles within 100 air miles from any external boundary of the United States, including the coast.

For a while now, this 100-mile rule has been the focus of the American Civil Liberties Union — for good reason. Consider this: Nearly two out of three Americans (or close to 200 million people) live within 100 miles of the US land and coastal borders, according to the US Census. The ACLU claims border patrol agents routinely violate the rights of innocent people, sometimes acting like this 100-mile zone is Constitution-free. This practice is problematic on many levels, and should be discontinued.

Primarily, “pushing the border in” for 100 miles inland creates a waste of resources: The government agency in charge of enforcing immigration in the country’s interior is Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE. Empowering border agents to operate in the 100-mile zone diverts them from doing their job at the US-Mexico and US-Canada borders.

Even more alarming are the potential consequences of this 100-mile zone rule in light of the newly released policy guidelines regarding the use of profiling by federal law enforcement agents. The Department of Justice announced that, while profiling on the basis of race was already illegal for most federal agents when deciding whether to investigate someone, they will no longer be allowed to consider religion, national origin, gender and gender identity, or sexual orientation. The rule doesn’t cover local or state police departments, and it alsoexempts border agents. This generous exclusion — which Attorney General Eric Holder was opposed to, but was overruled by the White House and the Department of Homeland Security — means that border officials will still be allowed to use profiling when conduct screening and inspection activities near the border.

To read more click here.

FBI Agent Joshua Skule Named Special Agent In Charge of Intelligence at Washington Field Office

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

FBI agent Joshua Skule has been named special agent in charge of the FBI’s Intelligence Division at the Washington Field Office (WFO). He most recently served as a deputy assistant director (DAD) in the Counterterrorism Division (CTD) at FBI headquarters.

Skule began his career as a special agent with the FBI in 1998. He was first assigned to the Chicago Division, where he investigated violent crimes and public corruption, the FBI said in a press release.

In 2008, he was promoted to a unit chief in CTD, where he was responsible for counterterrorism investigations within the United States.

A year later, he was selected as assistant section chief in CTD. In 2011, he was appointed to serve as assistant special agent in charge of the Criminal Division at the Washington Field Office.

In 2012, he was appointed to serve as a section chief in CTD, and one year later, he was promoted to DAD.

 

Opinion: Border Buildup Along Canadian Border Is Excessive

Tom Dennis
Grand Forks Herald

Helping local law enforcement is all well and good.

But that’s not why the United States beefed up the Border Patrol along the Canadian border to 10 times its pre-Sept. 11 size, an expansion.

Instead, that expansion from Maine to Washington was done for one and only one reason — the same reason why people now need passports to cross the border; the same reason why trade between the two countries remains impaired.

The reason was to better prevent terrorists from crossing the border.

How goes that struggle?

That’s the question Americans should be asking, because lots of money is being spent and manpower is being deployed based on what Washington thinks is the answer.

To read more click here.

FBI Probes Hacking of Rural Law Enforcement Websites

istock photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The FBI is investigating the hacking thefts of credit cards, email messages and other information from websites of rural law enforcement departments, the Associated Press reported.

AP reported that the hackers collective Anonymous said Saturday it attacked 70 websites of law enforcement departments in retaliation for the arrests of some of its sympathizers in the United States and Great Britain.

Some of the hacked emails contained sensitive information, including tips about suspected crimes, profiles of gang members and security training, AP reported.

The e-mail thefts were mainly from sheriffs’ departments in Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri and Mississippi, AP reported.

To read more click here.