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Supreme Court adds 10 cases to 2009 docket

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Wednesday added 10 cases to its 2009 docket. In addition to taking a case dealing with the Second Amendment and another on a controversial terrorism law [JURIST report], the Court also granted certiorari [order list, PDF] in eight other cases. In Berghuis v. Thompkins [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the Court will consider whether a police officer can non-coercively persuade a defendant to cooperate after the defendant has heard his Miranda rights but has not invoked or waived them. The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled that the defendant's nearly three-hour silence in response to questioning constituted a desire to not waive his rights [opinion, PDF] and that the state failed to satisfy its heavy burden of showing such a waiver took place. The case will be the third Miranda case that the Court will review this term.

The Court will also consider whether there is a constitutional violation when the African-American representation on a jury is disproportionate to the community population. In Berghuis v. Smith [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the Court will resolve a circuit split on the comparative-disparity test to make such a determination. The Sixth Circuit held [opinion, PDF] that the defendant's Sixth Amendment right to a jury drawn from a fair cross-section of the community was violated, while the Michigan Supreme Court found no such violation.

In Carr v. United States [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the Court will consider whether the failure to register provision [18 USC § 2250] of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) can be applied retroactively to underlying offenses occurring before SORNA's enactment. The Court will review whether the ex post facto clause applies to such a prosecution. The US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit held that, since the violation of failing to register was not complete when SORNA became applicable to the defendant, his rights under the ex post facto clause were not violated [opinion, PDF].

In Lewis et al. v. City of Chicago [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the Court will decide whether a plaintiff seeking to bring suit for employment discrimination for disparate impact must file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) [official website] within 300 days after test results are released or 300 days after hiring decisions are announced. The Seventh Circuit ruled [opinion, PDF] that the statute of limitations began running when the allegedly disparate results were announced, not when hiring decisions were made. The case involves minority firefighters in Chicago and follows the Court's decision last term in Ricci v. DeStafano [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] regarding the disparate impact doctrine of Title VII.

In Astrue v. Ratliff [docket; cert. petition], the Court will consider whether an award of fees and expenses under the Equal Access to Justice Act [28 USC § 2412] is payable to the prevailing party rather than to the party's attorneys, making it subject to being off-set by pre-existing debt owed to the government. The US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled [opinion, PDF] that the fees are awarded to the attorneys, shielding them from government debt offset.

In United States v. O’Brien and Burgess [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the Court will decide whether mandatory minimum sentencing enhancement for the use of a machine gun in a federal crime is an element of the underlying offense that must be proved to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt or if it is to be determined by a judge at sentencing by a preponderance of the evidence. The US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruled [opinion, PDF] that such a determination should be made by a jury, relying on statutory interpretation and creating a circuit split.

In Samantar v. Yousuf [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the Court will decide whether a foreign state's immunity under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act [materials] extends to an individual acting in an official capacity on behalf of the foreign state. The plaintiffs allege that Mohamed Ali Samantar committed acts of torture during the regime of Somalian dictator Mohamed Siad Barre. The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit held that immunity did not apply to individuals [opinion, PDF], allowing the suit to proceed and reversing the district court's opinion.

In the combined cases of Migliaccio v. Castaneda [docket; cert. petition, PDF] and Henneford v. Castaneda [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the Court will consider whether the Federal Tort Claims Act is the sole remedy for claims regarding the care provided by Public Health Services personnel. The Court will decide if the act precludes the cause of action recognized in Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics [opinion text]. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the legislation did not preclude a Bivens action, while the Second Circuit has held [opinion, PDF] that it does.

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