[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Wednesday agreed to hear 10 cases [Order List, PDF], including two implicating the land rights of Native peoples, during its term that begins next week. In Hawaii, et al. v. Office of Hawaiian Affairs, et al. (07-1372) [docket; cert. petition], the court will consider whether a congressional resolution [text] acknowledging the 100th anniversary of the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii and "offer[ing] an apology to Native Hawaiians" prohibits Hawaii from selling or otherwise transferring more than 1 million acres of state-owned land without settling claims by native Hawaiians. The Supreme Court of Hawaii ruled [opinion, PDF] that the resolution imposed a fiduciary duty on Hawaii to preserve the land and enjoined the state from alienating it. The second case, United States v. Navajo Nation (07-1410) [docket; cert. petition], questions whether the US Supreme Court's decision in a 2003 case [text] involving the same parties forecloses a holding [opinion, PDF] on remand by the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit that the US government breached its fiduciary duties in connection with coal leases and is liable to the Navajo Nation for as much as $600 million.
The court consolidated two cases, Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Company, et al. v. United States (07-1601) [docket; cert. petition] and Shell Oil Company v. United States (07-1607) [docket; cert. petition] involving government reimbursement under the Comprehensive, Environmental, Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) [text; EPA backgrounder] for remediation of hazardous waste sites. The petitioners are challenging decisions by the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit holding them jointly and severally liable for remediation.
The court also granted petitions for certiorari in seven cases raising issues of criminal law. Those cases and the questions presented are
- Boyle v. United States (07-1309) [docket; cert. petition, PDF], whether provisions [text, 18 USC 1962(c)-(d)] of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) require prosecutors to prove the existence of an "ascertainable structure beyond that inherent in the pattern of racketeering activity" in which an organization engages.
- Kansas v. Ventris (07-1356) [docket; cert. petition], whether a defendant's statement made without a knowing and voluntary waiver of his Sixth Amendment right to counsel may be used to impeach a witness.
- Montejo v. Louisiana (07-1529) [docket; cert. petition], whether an indigent defendant must affirmatively accept appointment of an attorney to invoke Sixth Amendment protection from police-initiated interrogation in the absence of counsel.
- Puckett v. United States (07-9712) [docket; cert. petition], whether a defendant's claim, not raised at trial, that the prosecution breached a plea agreement is reviewed on appeal according to the plain-error standard under the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure [Rule 52(b) text].
- Rivera v. Illinois (07-9995) [docket], whether the seating of a juror following an erroneously denied peremptory challenge requires the reversal of a conviction or may constitute harmless error.
- Corley v. United States (07-10441) [docket; cert. petition], whether federal statutory and case law requires suppression of a confession given more than six hours after arrest but before the defendant is presented to a judge if law enforcement authorities unreasonably delay presentment.
- Vermont v. Brillon (08-88) [docket; cert. petition], whether delays caused solely by a public defender may violate a defendant's Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial.