[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] granted certiorari in three cases [order list, PDF] on Friday. In Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl [docket; cert. petition, PDF] the court will consider whether the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) [materials] allows a non-custodial parent to block an adoption by their non-Indian partner. In this case, a woman put her baby, who was fathered by an American Indian, up for adoption. A South Carolina couple attempted to adopt the child, but once the biological father was notified about the adoption proceedings, he attempted to gain custody. The South Carolina Supreme Court ruled for the biological father [opinion], stating that the federal ICWA, which seeks to keep American Indian children in their ethnic communities, supersedes South Carolina law. The court will examine not only whether the ICWA allows an American Indian parent to stop a non-American Indian parent from putting a child up for adoption, but also if the father's absenteeism when the mother gave birth and chose adoption gives him the rights of a parent under the ICWA.
The court granted US v. Davila [docket; cert. petition, PDF] and will consider what degree of error is required to vacate a guilty plea under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure (FRCP) 11(c)(1) [text]. Anthony Davila pleaded guilty to conspiring to file fraudulent tax returns under the advice of his court-appointed lawyer. However, he requested different counsel early in the proceedings, because his lawyer offered no defense other than pleading guilty. In an ex parte hearing, a magistrate judge told Davila that he would not accept his request for change of counsel, because he also believed there was no option but to plead guilty: "[T]he only thing at your disposal that is entirely up to you is the two or three level reduction for acceptance of responsibility. That means you've got to go to the cross. You've got to tell the probation officer everything you did in this case regardless of how bad it makes you appear to be because that is the way you get that three-level reduction for acceptance, and believe me, Mr. Davila, someone with your criminal history needs a three-level reduction for acceptance." The US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled [opinion] that this violated FRCP 11(c)(1) due to the "[t]he court" involving itself in plea discussions and vacated the plea.
The court will also hear Tarrant Regional Water District v. Herrmann [docket; cert. petition, PDF] and will consider to what extent a state can go into another state's territory to utilize a river that flows through both states. The dispute in this case is between Texas using water from the portion of the Red River [backgrounder] that runs in Oklahoma, analyzed under the Red River Compact [materials]. The US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit found [opinion] for Oklahoma in the dispute, stating that: "[T]he Red River Compact insulates Oklahoma water statutes from dormant Commerce Clause challenge insofar as they apply to surface water subject to the Compact."