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Supreme Court rules in government immunity, juror challenge cases

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] handed down decisions in three cases Wednesday, including a decision in Will v. Hallock [Duke Law case backgrounder], where the Court ruled that a refusal to apply the judgment bar in the Federal Tort Claims Act [text] is not open to collateral appeal. The court considered [JURIST report] the case of Susan Hallock who first sued the federal government under the FTCA for alleged constitutional violations when her husband was mistakenly targeted in a child pornography investigation. That claim was dismissed and individual governmental employees, who had been sued by Hallock in a separate action, attempted to use the FTCA's judgment bar [text] in moving for judgment in the second lawsuit. The Second Circuit upheld [ruling, PDF] the District Court's denial of the motion, but the Supreme Court vacated and remanded the appeals court decision. Read the Court's unanimous opinion [text] per Justice Souter.

In Rice v. Collins [Duke Law case backgrounder], the Court held that the Ninth Circuit's attempt to use a set of debatable inferences to set aside a California court's conclusion does not satisfy the requirements of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA) [PDF text] for granting habeas relief. During jury selection for Collins' trial on drug charges, Collins alleged that the prosecutor improperly relied on race as a factor when using peremptory challenges. Though the trial court and state appellate court upheld Collins' convictions and accepted the prosecutor's race-neutral reasons for dismissing the jurors, the Ninth Circuit reversed [opinion, PDF] the state court, ruling that under AEDPA, the appeals court decision was based on an unreasonable factual determination. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case. Read the Court's opinion [text] per Justice Kennedy, along with a concurrence [text] from Justice Breyer.

The final case Wednesday is Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England [Duke Law backgrounder], where the Court ordered a lower court to reconsider the constitutionality [JURIST report] of a New Hampshire law requiring parental notification for teenage abortions.

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