(The Return of) Ignatz, by Sam Heldman

Friday, September 13, 2002

Supreme Court Because I'm not inspired on any other topic today, yet still have the burning desire to see my own words on the screen, today will be the first installment in my entries in the first ever Blog-Supreme-Court-Prediction contest. As will become clear, my writing on this will not strive for humor as such; the Supreme Court is just not very funny, except when Dahlia Lithwick is writing about it. In fact, a major theme beginning with today's predictions is that the Supreme Court is really quite boring for the most part. Moreover, there will be no conscious allusions to pop songs from the 1980s, as Howard Bashman has the IP rights to that trope.

So, risking whatever reputation I might have for knowing what I'm talking about, here are my prediction for the first day's cases, to be argued Oct. 7. This gives you plenty of time to rev up your blog and make your own predictions if you care to compete.

As previously explained in the ground rules for the contest, it is completely fair if I change my mind up til (and including) the day before each argument.

Oct. 7

Yellow Transportation v. Michigan. Wow, what a boring case to start the new term's argument calendar, about the amounts of the fees that states are allowed to impose on truckers, under a federal statute allowing states to impose certain fees on truckers. This is the dirty little secret of the Supreme Court: (a) many of the cases aren't very exciting, either legally or sociologically; and (b) if Congress doesn't like the results, it can – for the most part (except of course when dealing with constitutional issues) rewrite the law. Making this case even more boring is that it will probably wind up being mostly a boring case about the proper amount of deference to administrative agencies' interpretation of statutory language, not just a boring case about truckers. Here's the Michigan Supreme Court's opinion. Prediction: REVERSE

Miller-El v. Cockrell is a capital case, certiorari to the Fifth Circuit (decision). The case is about striking juries. As you know if you've been to jury duty, each side gets to strike a given number of people from the jury pool in order to pick a jury. But it's unconstitutional for prosecutors (or defense lawyers, for that matter) to strike potential jurors because of their race. The lower courts, in this case, concluded that the prosecutor didn't have that race-based motivation here. But the question is, in essence, whether the lower courts were using the right legal standard to decide whether that was the prosecutor's motivation. Because the Court (upon agreeing to hear the case) reframed the "issue presented" to make it dry as toast, and because it will take a lot to make this very-conservative Court give a new trial to a guy who was convicted in 1986, I'm going to say AFFIRM but hope that they surprise me.

posted by sam 12:38 PM 0 comments


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