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Supreme Court to rule on criminal fines, sentencing

The US Supreme Court [official website] granted certiorari [order list, PDF] Monday in five cases. In Southern Union Co v. United States [docket], the court will determine whether the Fifth and Sixth Amendment [text] principles that the Supreme Court established in Apprendi v. New Jersey [opinion] and its progeny apply to the imposition of criminal fines. Apprendi requires that "any fact" other than that of a prior conviction "that increases the penalty for a crime beyond the prescribed statutory maximum must be submitted to a jury, and proved beyond a reasonable doubt." The US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit held [opinion] that the Apprendi rule does not apply to the imposition of statutorily prescribed fines.

In Vasquez v. United States [docket], the court will determine whether the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit violated the Supreme Court's precedent on harmless error when it focused its harmless error analysis [opinion, PDF] solely on the weight of the untainted evidence without considering the potential effect of the error (the erroneous admission of trial counsel's statements that his client would lose the case and should plead guilty for their truth) on the jury at all. The court will also determine whether the Seventh Circuit violated Vasquez's Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial by determining that he should have been convicted without considering the effects of the district court's error on the jury that heard the case.

In Christopher v. Smithkline Beecham Corp [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the court will determine (1) whether deference is owed to the Secretary of Labor's interpretation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) [text, PDF] outside sales exemption and related regulations; and (2) whether the Fair Labor Standards Act's outside sales exemption applies to pharmaceutical sales representatives. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled [opinion, PDF] that pharmaceutical sales representatives are exempt from the FLSA overtime-pay requirement.

In the consolidated cases of Dorsey v. United States [docket] and Hill v. United States [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the court will consider whether the district court erred in not sentencing the defendant-petitioner pursuant to the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 [materials] where petitioner was sentenced on December 2, 2010, after the effective date of the FSA and the amendments to the sentencing guidelines mandated by the FSA. The Seventh Circuit ruled [order, PDF] in Hill that "the relevant date for determining whether the Act applies is the date of the offense conduct, rather than the date of sentencing."

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