June 19, 2013

US Supreme Court - June 17, 2013

Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, INC. - Immigration - Proof of Citizenship - Voting- Supremacy Clause - Elections Clause - Preemption.
Facts: To fight the phantom problem of ‘voter fraud’, Arizona voters passed a law requiring that anyone who votes must prove they are citizens of the United States with identification, passport etc.  In 1993, Congress passed and the President signed a bill into law called the ‘Motor Voter Law’. Under the law, States must “accept and use” the Election Assistance Commission’s ‘Federal Form’ (EAC). Congress passed the Motor Voter Law to simplify the registration procedure in each state. The Federal Form that the EAC devised did not require a person to prove citizenship. Instead, the Federal Form required anyone registering to vote to attest and sign, under the penalty of perjury, that she or he is a United States citizen. Arizona’s law went one step further by requiring actual proof of citizenship with identification, birth certificate, passport, etc.. The 9th Circuit invalidated the proof of citizenship requirement. On appeal, the U.S. Supreme Court grappled with the Arizona law, the Motor Voter Law, the Federal Form, the Elections Clause of the Constitution, and the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution.
Issue: Whether the Motor Voter Law and EAC’s Federal Form preempted Arizona’s law requiring proof of citizenship?
Held: Yes. 
Reasoning: Stunning as it is, Justice Scalia, who loves the anti-American fictional theory of states’ rights and who hates real or imagined Federal usurpation of States’ powers, authored the majority opinion in which Justices Ginsberg, Breyer, Kagan, and Sotomayor joined.
      The Court went to great lengths defining what “accept and use” meant in the Motor Voter Law with respect to EAC's Federal Form. Did Congress mean this language to be an all-inclusive order to accept as proof of that the person is indeed eligible to vote, i.e. a citizen? Or did the language mean, as Arizona argued, the Federal Form makes up but one element of the registration process? And thus, leaving Arizona and other states to add to the qualifications of prospective voters? Justice Alito, joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Thomas and Kennedy, agreed with Arizona, and found that the Federal Form “simply should be used as a meaningful part of the registration process.”
     The Court held to the contrary. The Court held that the completed Federal Form qualified anyone to vote. Further, the Court held that the Elections Clause allowed Congress to preempt Arizona’s law requiring proof of citizenship. The Court wrote, “There is good reason for treating Elections Clause legislation differently:  The assumption that Congress is reluctant to pre-empt does not hold when Congress acts under that constitutional provision, which empowers Congress to “make or alter” state election regulations. Art. I, §4, cl. 1. When Congress legislates with respect to the ‘Times, Places and Manner’ of holding congressional elections, it necessarily displaces some  element of a pre-existing legal regime erected by the States. Because the power the Elections Clause confers is none other than the power to pre-empt, the reasonable assumption is that the statutory text accurately communicates the scope of Congress’s pre-emptive intent. Moreover, the federalism concerns underlying the presumption in the Supremacy Clause context are somewhat weaker here. Unlike the States’ ‘historic police powers,’ (citation ommitted) ‘the States’ role in regulating congressional elections—while weighty and worthy of respect—has always existed subject to the express qualification that it“terminates according to federal law.
Fun Scalia jab at Alito and the Dissent in footnote 3 (just know Scalia holds a particular dislike of new amorphous, undefined, easily manipulated language, rules, or standards which is fun when he is on your side): “The dissent accepts that a State may not impose additional requirements that render the Federal Form entirely superfluous; it would require that the State ‘us[e] the form as a meaningful part of the registration process.’ Post, at 7 (opinion of ALITO, J.). The dissent does not tell us precisely how large a role for the Federal Form suffices to make it “meaningful”: One step out of two? Three? Ten? There is no easy answer, for the dissent’s ‘meaningful part’ standard is as indeterminate as it is atextual.
Link to Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, INC. here

June 17, 2013

Colorado Supreme Court - June 10, 2013

Dooly v. People - Lawyer Erred In Moving To Dismiss Client's 35(c) Without Client's Consent 
Facts: Mr. Dooly filed a Rule 35(c) motion with the trial court. The trial court appointed the Public Defender’s Office. After a year went by, Mr. Dooly claimed his lawyer was not investigating his claims. The trial court ordered the prosecution to respond to Mr. Dooly’s substantive allegations in the 35(c) motion. Before the prosecution responded, Mr. Dooly's lawyer moved to dismiss the 35(c) because “the motion was without merit.” The trial court granted the motion. 
Issue: Whether the trial court erred in granting defense counsel’s motion to dismiss the 35(c) without Mr. Dooly’s consent?
Held: Yes.
Reasoning: Justice Coats wrote “Because every person convicted of a crime is provided a statutory right to make application for postconviction review and is entitled to a prompt review and ruling granting or denying any motion substantially complying with Form 4 , the District Court erred in granting counsel's motion to dismiss against Dooly's wishes. The judgment of the Court of Appeals is therefore reversed with instructions to order that the defendant's application for postconviction relief be reinstated.”
Text of People v. Dooly here:

US Supreme Court - June 17, 2013

Salinas v. Texas - 5th Amendment - Invocation of Right to Silence - Comment on Silence - Pre-Custodial Silence 
Facts: According to Justice Alito the plurality author, “Without being placed in custody or receiving Miranda warnings, petitioner voluntarily answered the questions of a police officer who was investigating a murder. But petitioner balked when the officer asked whether a ballistics test would show that the shell casings found at the crime scene would match petitioner’s shotgun. Petitioner was subsequently charged with murder, and at trial prosecutors argued that his reaction to the officer’s question suggested that he was guilty. Petitioner claims that this argument violated the Fifth Amendment, which guarantees that ‘[n]o person . . . shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.’”
Issue: Whether introduction of Mr. Salinas’s pre-custodial silence violated his right to remain silent under the 5th Amendment?
Held: No.
Reasoning: In a 3-2-4 split, the Court affirmed the trial court’s ruling. Justice Alito, joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kennedy, authored the plurality opinion and shows no real world perspective. Justice Alito held that the 5th Amendment did not protect Mr. Salinas because he made no affirmative effort to invoke the right. The plurality found that simply remaining silent does not sufficiently invoke the right to silence. Thus, the plurality found comments by the prosecution regarding Mr. Salinas’s silence during trial did not violate Mr. Salinas’s rights under the 5th Amendment.
          Justice Thomas joined by Justice Scalia concurred in the result by reasoning that Griffin v. California, 380 U.S. 609 (1965) should be overruled. In Griffin, the Court held neither the prosecution nor the trial court may comment upon the silence of an accused as an inference of guilt. 
          Handwringer, Justice Breyer, joined by the moderate bloc of Justices Ginsberg, Sotomayor, and Kagan, summed up the most logical and just reading of the 5th Amendment's Right to Silence, “In my view the Fifth Amendment here prohibits the prosecution from commenting on the petitioner’s silence in response to police questioning. And I dissent from the Court’s contrary conclusion.”
http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/12pdf/12-246_1p24.pdf

US Supreme Court - June 17, 2013

 Alleyne v. US - 6th Amendment - Apprendi - Mandatory Minimums - Jury Trial
Facts: A jury convicted Mr. Alleyne of robbery without finding Mr. Alleyne branshied a firearm. Not to worry, the other prosecutor in criminal cases, the judge, unceremoniously found Mr. Alleyne brandished the firearm. According to the decision, Mr. Alleyne’s accomplice brandished the gun. A finding that Mr. Alleyne brandished the firearm raised the mandatory minimum from 5 years to 7 years in prison.
Issue: Whether the trial court violated Mr. Allenyne's 6th Amendment right to a jury trial by increasing the mandatory minimum of his sentence by two years without a jury finding?
Held: Yes  
Reasoning: In a majority opinion, Justice Thomas, the truest believer in the Right to a Jury Trial, wrote,  “The essential point is that the aggravating fact produced a higher range, which, in turn, conclusively indicates that the fact is an element of a distinct and aggravated crime. It must, therefore, be submitted to the jury and found beyond a reasonable doubt. Because there is no basis in principle or logic to dis-tinguish facts that raise the maximum from those that increase the minimum, Harris was inconsistent with Apprendi. It is, accordingly, overruled.”

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