Supreme Court to examine inmates’ Miranda rights News
Supreme Court to examine inmates’ Miranda rights
Photo source or description

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] granted certiorari [order list, PDF] in two cases Monday and summarily reversed a Ninth Circuit decision in a California parole case. In Howes v. Fields [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the court granted certiorari to determine the scope of Miranda rights in jail. The case involves a Michigan man, Randall Fields, who was questioned by investigators about a child sex-abuse case while he was in the county jail serving a 45-day sentence for disorderly conduct. A lower court found that Fields did not have to be given his Miranda rights because the investigators were questioning him about a separate crime. This decision was reversed by the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, holding [opinion, PDF] that Miranda is necessary anytime the suspect is isolated from the rest of the jail inmates in a situation where the suspect would be likely to incriminate himself.

In Reynolds v. United States [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the court will examine a circuit split over the retroactive application of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) [final guidelines, PDF], which requires sex offenders to register. The attorney general determined in 2007 that all states would have to follow the federal rule to keep registration current. Billy Joe Reynolds pleaded guilty for failure to register his new address but attempted to challenge the application of SORNA against him because his sex offender conviction in 2001 predated the attorney general’s rule change. The US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled [opinion, PDF] that this did not give him “standing” to challenge the rule’s application.

In Swarthout v. Cooke [opinion, PDF], the court, in a per curiam opinion, summarily reversed a decision of the Ninth Circuit to grant prisoners’ release who were denied parole. In reversing the decision, the court held that prisoners have no right to parole and that states are under no duty to offer parole. Both prisoners had attempted to seek habeas relief in California state courts but were denied. Prisoner Elijah Clay was convicted of first-degree murder in 1978 and was found suitable for parole in 2003 by the parole board, but the governor stepped in under his discretion and found him unsuitable for parole. Justice Ruth Bader-Ginsburg wrote a short concurring opinion saying that the court does have the right to review the constitutionality of the application of parole procedures. The court has overturned [LAT report] three Ninth Circuit opinions in the past week, all written by liberal judge Stephen Reinhardt.