After a disappointingly slow week, the Court handed down five opinions, one Per Curiam reversal, and a marginally interesting orders list today. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this, but a per curiam opinion is usually issued when the Court rejects a case based on procedural grounds and chooses to deny certiorari. Per Curiam decisions can also be granted in highly-controversial cases like Bush v. Gore and New York Times v. US in which no justice wants to be associated with the decision or the Court wants to show unanimity. Per Curiam decisions can have concurring opinions and dissents.
The Court issued a Per Curiam rejection of Certiorari to the ninth circuit in Los Angeles County v. Rettele. The Court summarizes the facts of the case best:
Deputies of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department obtained a valid warrant to search a house, but they were unaware that the suspects being sought had moved out three months earlier. When the deputies searched the house, they found in a bedroom two residents who were of a different race than the suspects. The deputies ordered these innocent residents, who had been sleeping unclothed, out of bed. The deputies required them to stand for a few minutes before allowing them to dress.
The Deputy’s prior investigation uncovered that one of the suspects was in possession of an unregistered firearm. The Ninth Circuit refused to grant the officers qualified immunity because “[a]fter taking one look at [respondents], the deputies should have realized that [respondents] were not the subjects of the search warrant and did not pose a threat to the deputies’ safety.” The Supreme Court shoots down this ludicrous notion with a relatively sarcastic comment: “We need not pause long in rejecting this unsound proposition.” The Court goes on to mention that the society we live in today allows for people of different races to live together and the deputy had no reason to believe that the presence of caucasians meant that the african-americans in question were not present in some form in the house.
The first opinion was in Roper v. Weaver. The Court of Appeals reviewed William Weaver’s case after he had appealed his capital sentence on the grounds that the prosecutor’s closing remarks in his case had been ‘overly inflamatory.’ Weaver stated his intention of filing for certiorari from the Supreme Court but also filed for federal habeas relief. The Court of Appeals ruled that federal habeas relief can only be granted if he has exhausted all other options, so he was forced to choose between federal habeas relief and filing for certiorari. This presented a problem for Weaver because the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 would place stricter standards of review on his case if he filed for petition after a certain date.
The Court held in Lawrence v. Florida recently that if a prisoner wishes to seek certiorari from the Supreme Court, he or she can also file for federal habeas protection at the same time. The Supreme Court dismissed Weaver’s writ of certiorari as ‘improvidently granted’ but did not rule on the applicability of the AEDPA to this case. Chief Justice Roberts issued a 1-sentence concurring opinion stating that he disagrees with the reasoning of the Court but agrees with the outcome. Justice Scalia penned a dissent that was joined by Justices Alito and Thomas that argues that the Court should have ruled on the merits of the case.
I’m trying to make each post shorter so I’ll go over the other cases later today because this one has already gotten too long.