Friday, September 16, 2011

Supreme Court Preview - Cornell Law School's Legal Information Institute

Important Criminal Cases on the 2011–2012 Docket

Fourth Amendment Rights

In United States v. Jones, No. 08-3034, the Court will rule on the police use of Global Positioning System (“GPS”) tracking devices. The lower court held that the police violated Antoine Jones’ Fourth Amendment rights by secretly installing a GPS tracking device on his car, and operating the device for 28 days, without obtaining a warrant. In addition to deciding whether the prolonged use of a tracking device violates the Fourth Amendment, the Court will address a second question: did the installation of the GPS device on Jones’ car, with neither Jones’ consent nor a warrant, violate the Fourth Amendment. The Court will determine whether this “dragnet” type of monitoring violates the Fourth Amendment, and will resolve inconsistencies in the lower courts regarding GPS tracking.

Post-Conviction Procedure

The Court has granted certiorari on a number of cases addressing the post-conviction procedure to which a convicted prisoner is entitled. In Maples v. Thomas, No. 10-63, a prisoner alleging constitutional violations was denied federal post-conviction review in his capital case because, through no fault of his own, he missed a filing deadline. The Supreme Court has granted certiorari in order to determine whether the Eleventh Circuit was correct in holding that, even though the passing of the deadline was not the prisoner’s fault – and, in fact, was partially attributable to the State’s conduct – there was insufficient cause to excuse the prisoner’s failure to comply with filing requirements.

In Howes v. Fields, No. 10-680, the Court will determine whether separating an inmate from the general population, and questioning him about incidents that occurred outside of the prison, constitutes custody under all circumstances.

In Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders, No. 10-945, the Court will address the procedure required prior to strip searching a prison inmate; in particular, the Court will decide whether an official can conduct a strip search without a specific basis for suspicion.

Lafler v. Cooper, No. 10-209, concerns a plea bargain that Mr. Cooper rejected on the basis of erroneous advice from his lawyer. (There is reason to believe, given the facts involved, that Mr. Cooper would have accepted the plea if he had been given better advice.) After a full trial, Mr. Cooper was convicted. During post-conviction review, the Sixth Circuit found a violation of Mr. Cooper’s Sixth Amendment rights. The Court will determine whether these circumstances merit relief, and, if any relief is merited, what form it should take in light of the fact that conviction resulted from constitutional procedures.