Supreme Court 2012

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Welcome back to the Legal Information Institute’s Supreme Court Bulletin. We are excited to cover the Supreme Court’s 2012–2013 term, including the upcoming review of affirmative action in college admissions. All case previews are written and edited by Cornell Law School students, focusing on a balanced reporting of the issues in each case on the Supreme Court docket. We are especially excited for this year as LII celebrates its 20th anniversary of hosting free law on the Internet.

The Court’s 2012–2013 term begins in October. Below, we discuss some notable cases from the upcoming term.


In perhaps the most prominent case of the term, the Court will review affirmative action in education in October’s case of Fisher v. University of Texas, No. 11-345. Petitioner Abigail Fisher argues that the University of Texas denied her admission in favor of minority applicants with lesser credentials. The 2003 case of Grutter v. Bollinger determined that universities may consider race as one factor in a holistic review, and the University of Texas argues that it admitted those minority applicants in order to benefit the entire university with a diverse student body. The Court will decide whether the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment allows a university to consider race in undergraduate admissions decisions.


In Moncrieffe v. Holder, No. 11-702, the Court will examine the applicability of the Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”) when a non-citizen is convicted of selling marijuana. Under the INA, an individual faces deportation if he is convicted of an "aggravated felony". A non-citizen can commit an "aggravated felony" under state law if the offense is a felony under the Controlled Substances Act. (“CSA”). The Court will address whether the non-citizen's conviction under a broader state law, which includes conduct that would not be a felony under the CSA, necessarily rises to the level of a felony under the CSA.

In the November case of Chaidez v. United States, No. 11-820, the Court will determine the extent of its 2010 holding in Padilla v. Kentucky. In Padilla, the Court held that attorneys must advise defendants that pleading guilty to an offense may subject them to deportation. Chaidez will answer whether defendants may raise ineffective assistance of counsel claims for convictions that became final before the ruling in Padilla.


November brings some Fourth Amendment arguments before the Court. In Bailey v. United States, No. 11-770, the Court will clarify how officers may detain an individual while the officers execute a search warrant. Current law states that officers executing a search warrant may detain a person while they search the premises for contraband. In this case, however, the defendant argues that officers may not detain a person who has already left the premises before the execution of the warrant.

The day after the Bailey case, the Court will hear more Fourth Amendment questions, including the roles of dogs in searches. Florida v. Jardines, No. 11-564, will answer two questions. First, the Court will answer whether a dog sniff at a front door is a Fourth Amendment search, thus requiring probable cause. Second, the Court will consider whether officers waiting outside a house to obtain a search warrant are participating in a Fourth Amendment search. The state of Florida argues that past cases imply these are not searches, but Joelis Jardines argues that these actions are searches because they violate an individual’s reasonable expectation of privacy.


In October, the Court will look at three cases interpreting the right of habeas corpus. In Johnson v. Williams, No. 11-465, the Court will consider whether it violates the Sixth Amendment to remove a biased juror from a deadlocked jury. If so, when the case reaches the federal court, can that court reject the state court’s findings of juror bias? The state court's findings have finality and deference in habeas corpus proceedings. The Johnson case will also ask whether state courts, in order to adjudicate a claim and therefore be entitled to deferential review, must explicitly state the federal law basis of the claim.

The following week, the Court will hear cases involving competence during habeas proceedings. The case of Tibbals v. Carter, No. 11-218, involved a capital defendant sentenced to death. The defendant filed a habeas petition but was mentally incapable of participating in the habeas process. The Court will determine whether capital prisoners have a statutory right to be competent during federal habeas review.

On the same day, the Court will consider the case of Ryan v. Gonzales, No. 10-930. In this case, the Court will consider whether 18 U.S.C. § 3599(a)(2) entitles the defendant to a stay in habeas corpus proceedings due to mental incompetence. The Court will review the Ninth Circuit’s decision stating that the statute gives an inmate the right to both an attorney and a right of mental competency in habeas corpus proceedings. The Court’s rulings will hold important implications for the finality of judgments in criminal proceedings.


The Court will review copyright law again in the November case of Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., No. 11-697. This case will answer whether it is legal to buy copyrighted material overseas for resale in the United States, without the copyright owner’s permission. Supap Kirtsaeng, a former Cornell student, bought textbooks for a low price abroad, and he subsidized his education by reselling the textbooks on ebay. When the book publisher sued him, the district court found Kirtsaeng guilty of copyright infringement. The first-sale doctrine of copyright law would allow Kirtsaeng to resell books made in the United States, but there is no such protection for items made in a foreign country. This case will examine many questions presented in Costco Wholesale v. Omega, and because all nine justices will participate, Kirtsaeng can determine a rule that Costco failed to set in place.

The 2012–2013 term will bring us these and many other significant cases. Beginning later this month, the LII e-mail service will include condensed summaries of these cases with links to full previews of each case. We hope you will join us for the 2012–2013 term!


Lisa Schmidt, Editor-in-Chief

Jenny Liu, Executive Editor