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Supremes Launch New Term - Plenty On The Docket And One Hopeful For The Docket

As the Supreme Court kicks off the second semester of the Roberts term, the Law Librarian's blog is best place to go for a roundup of what's on the docket.  It's chock full of resources and will lead you down the black hole of the world surrounding The Court.  For the definitive roundup, however, homage has to be paid to the SCOTUS blog and its new, easy-to-use wiki.

There are some 43 cases on the docket so far, with 17 just added days ago, perhaps in reaction to the uniform criticism of The Court's last term, dubbed by some as "Supreme Court Lite."  Of these 43 important cases, MIPTC has his eye on several.


For closely-held businesses, the case of Boulware v. US involves a corporate shareholder who diverted funds (some $4.5 million) to his girlfriend and then found himself deep in the weeds with the IRS.  He got there apparently because he broke up with his girlfriend, who perhaps not surprisingly wanted to keep the money for herself after the relationship was over.  They ended up in litigation with claims and counter-claims flying back and forth, but sooner rather than later the IRS picked up on the case and sued for back taxes, alleging the shareholder improperly diverted funds to avoid taxes, and filed criminal charges.

If you own a business and participate in this type of "tax planning" (said with tongue planted firmly in cheek), then you'll want to watch for the outcome of this case.  MIPTC's bet?  It will have something to do with avoiding death and taxes -  two things you really can't avoid. 

It's a big year for taxes.  There's another tax case involving the sale an investment interest in Lexis-Nexis, and while important for some big businesses, it won't have the cautionary tale of Boulware.  And, if you buy bonds, you'll want to watch the outcome of this case to determine whether you can buy bonds in one state and pay taxes on those bonds in your home state. 


Of the upcoming cases, there is a major securities case that has many different takes.  There's at least 14 different amicus briefs on file in the case of Stoneridge Investment v. Scientific Atlanta, and there will likely be more.  It's garnered so much attention because the outcome will determine whether third parties can be held liable as primary actors if they were tangentially involved in a securities fraud scheme.  As you would expect, there's a group of plaintiff's attorneys clamoring for more defendants in these cases and just about everyone else in the securities industry claiming, "not me."  Stay tuned. 

The World Court

Perhaps of more academic interest over whether the judiciary will ever get involved with the global village is the case of Medellin v. Texas, where the Supreme Court will have to determine whether the several states have to comply with the judgment of the World Court when they arrest foreign nationals in their states.  Under World Court law, a foreign national must be told when arrested that he/she has the right to contact the consular office of his/her own country. 

As Americans, we demand that right when one of our own is arrested on foreign soil, but evidence here in the US shows spotty compliance, at best.  The question arises whether the failure to advise Jose Ernesto Medellin of this right is sufficient to overturn his conviction for the strangling murder and gang rape of two teenage girls in Houston in June 1993.  MIPTC observes this case would likely go nowhere if it involved solely the right to counsel under the US Constitution, but it's different when you're on the world stage and you want other countries to treat your citizens with care.  Something about the Golden Rule....

Death Penalty 

Finally, two other cases of interest involve voting rights and the death penalty.  The significance of death penalty case from a legal standpoint arises because it's the first time since 1879 that the Supreme Court has heard one involving the method of execution, now as you know done by lethal injection.  The last time as you know from watching old Westerns, the Court upheld execution by firing squad.  It was in the case of Wilkerson v. Utah, when the Court's order held "that you there [in the territory of Utah] be publicly shot until you are dead." 

Voting Rights 

The other case (actually two consolidated cases) involves a fight between Democrats and Republicans, which may affect the outcome of the upcoming Presidential elections.  The dispute centers on whether states can require voters to produce government-issued photo IDs in order to cast a vote.  Republicans claim the requirement eliminates voter fraud by ensuring no one from the cemetery votes and Democrats claim it will prevent poor, elderly and otherwise disenfranchised voters without photo IDs from presenting themselves at the polling place. 

It's a big year for voting rights cases:  there's another one pending over cross-voting in primary elections and another over voting by delegate.

Free Speech 

There's also a case involving the distribution of child pornography, but it depends on how you look at the underlying statute:  does it prevent child pornography or catch just about everything in its grasp, impinging on free speech?


Many remember last term's opinion in Rapanos, the wetlands decision, where no one seems to be able to agree which version of the Court's opinion is the central opinion.  There's a case where a Petition for Writ of Certiorari is pending but not yet granted, Johnson v. US, where the issue is whether Justice Kennedy's stand-alone concurring opinion or the narrower opinion of the four Justice plurality is the controlling opinion in Rapanos v. US.  MIPTC hopes The Court takes this case and clarifies who speaks for the Court.

Posted by J. Craig Williams on Friday, October 05, 2007

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