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How long do prisoners have to seek DNA evidence?John Elwood

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The Relist Watch column examines cert petitions that the Supreme Court has “relisted” for its upcoming conference. A short explanation of relists is available here.

A lot has happened since our last installment, just ahead of the Jan. 21 conference. The court has granted review in eight cases, six of them relisted, on four different order lists. Briefing has been expedited in two of them so that they can be decided in the current term. But the rest, as anticipated, are starting to fill out the merits docket for October Term 2022. Of course, the court also denied cert for a couple relists.

We have just one new relist this week, involving the application of Skinner v. Switzer, in which the Supreme Court held that state prisoners may pursue post-conviction claims for DNA testing of crime-scene evidence in a federal civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 if they have unsuccessfully sought testing under state procedures. In 1998, petitioner Rodney Reed was convicted in Texas state court of the murder of grocery store clerk Stacy Stites and sentenced to death. In August 2019, he filed a Section 1983 action in federal district court seeking DNA testing. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit ruled that his action was untimely because more than two years – the applicable statute of limitations – had run since the state trial court in 2014 denied his request for DNA testing. In Reed v. Goertz, Reed seeks review, arguing that other circuits would not start running the statute of limitations until the end of the appeals process, which in Reed’s case did not occur until October 2017.

When the Supreme Court last year denied review on another of Reed’s petitions (likewise relisted) involving the alleged suppression of exculpatory evidence, Justice Sonia Sotomayor filed an opinion concurring in the denial of review. She noted what she characterized as “a substantial body of evidence that, if true, casts doubt on the veracity and scientific validity of the evidence on which Reed’s conviction rests,” thus casting a “pall of uncertainty over Reed’s conviction.” We should have a better idea soon whether Reed’s arguments will fare any better on this trip to the court.

That’s all for this week. Until next time, stay safe!

New Relist 

Reed v. Goertz, 21-442
Issue: Whether the statute of limitations for a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim seeking DNA testing of crime-scene evidence begins to run at the end of state-court litigation denying DNA testing, including any appeals (as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit has held), or whether it begins to run at the moment the state trial court denies DNA testing, despite any subsequent appeal (as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, joining the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, held below).
(relisted after the Feb. 18 conference)

Returning Relists

Knight v. Pennsylvania, 20-7805
Issue: Whether a state may require a defendant to present an IQ score of 75 or below that was “documented prior to age 18” to have his intellectual disability claim considered as a basis to disqualify him from the death penalty, when this requirement is contrary to clinical standards for diagnosis and contrary to multiple decisions where the Supreme Court has granted relief to petitioners who lacked any such documentation.
(relisted after the Oct. 29, Nov. 5, Nov. 12, Nov. 19, Dec. 3, Dec. 10, Jan. 7, Jan. 14, Jan. 21 and Feb. 18 conferences)

Holcombe v. Florida, 21-53
Issues: (1) Whether a criminal defendant establishes an “actual” conflict of interest that adversely affects counsel’s representation when the attorney engages in “joint and dual” representation – i.e., simultaneously representing both the defendant and a key prosecution witness during a trial; (2) whether the “presumed prejudice” conflict of interest standard applies when the prosecutor (rather than defense counsel) puts the trial judge on notice at the beginning of a trial of defense counsel’s conflict of interest – a conflict which is described by the prosecutor as “not waivable” – and the judge thereafter fails to inquire into the nature and scope of the conflict.
(relisted after the Oct. 29, Nov. 5, Nov. 12, Nov. 19, Dec. 3, Dec. 10, Jan. 7, Jan. 14, Jan. 21 and Feb. 18 conferences)

Haaland v. Brackeen, 21-376
Issues: (1) Whether various provisions of the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 — namely, the minimum standards of Section 1912(a), (d), (e), and (f); the placement-preference provisions of Section 1915(a) and (b); and the recordkeeping provisions of Sections 1915(e) and 1951(a) — violate the anticommandeering doctrine of the 10th Amendment; (2) whether the individual plaintiffs have Article III standing to challenge ICWA’s placement preferences for “other Indian families” and for “Indian foster home[s]”; and (3) whether Section 1915(a)(3) and (b)(iii) are rationally related to legitimate governmental interests and therefore consistent with equal protection.
(relisted after the Jan. 7, Jan. 14, Jan. 21 and Feb. 18 conferences)

Cherokee Nation v. Brackeen, 21-377
Issues: (1) Whether the en banc U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit erred by invalidating six sets of Indian Child Welfare Act provisions — 25 U.S.C. §§1912(a), (d), (e)-(f)1915(a)-(b), (e), and 1951(a) — as impermissibly commandeering states (including via its equally divided affirmance); (2) whether the en banc 5th Circuit erred by reaching the merits of the plaintiffs’ claims that ICWA’s placement preferences violate equal protection; and (3) whether the en banc 5th Circuit erred by affirming (via an equally divided court) the district court’s judgment invalidating two of ICWA’s placement preferences, 25 U.S.C. §1915(a)(3), (b)(iii), as failing to satisfy the rational-basis standard of Morton v. Mancari.
(relisted after the Jan. 7, Jan. 14, Jan. 21 and Feb. 18 conferences)

Texas v. Haaland, 21-378
Issues: (1) Whether Congress has the power under the Indian commerce clause or otherwise to enact laws governing state child-custody proceedings merely because the child is or may be an Indian; (2) whether the Indian classifications used in the Indian Child Welfare Act and its implementing regulations violate the Fifth Amendment’s equal-protection guarantee; (3) whether ICWA and its implementing regulations violate the anticommandeering doctrine by requiring states to implement Congress’s child-custody regime; and (4) whether ICWA and its implementing regulations violate the nondelegation doctrine by allowing individual tribes to alter the placement preferences enacted by Congress.
(relisted after the Jan. 7, Jan. 14, Jan. 21 and Feb. 18 conferences)

Brackeen v. Haaland, 21-380
Issues: (1) Whether the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978’s placement preferences — which disfavor non-Indian adoptive families in child-placement proceedings involving an “Indian child” and thereby disadvantage those children — discriminate on the basis of race in violation of the U.S. Constitution; and (2) whether ICWA’s placement preferences exceed Congress’s Article I authority by invading the arena of child placement — the “virtually exclusive province of the States,” as stated in Sosna v. Iowa — and otherwise commandeering state courts and state agencies to carry out a federal child-placement program.
(relisted after the Jan. 7, Jan. 14, Jan. 21 and Feb. 18 conferences)

National Pork Producers Council v. Ross, 21-468
Issues: (1) Whether allegations that a state law has dramatic economic effects largely outside of the state and requires pervasive changes to an integrated nationwide industry state a violation of the dormant commerce clause, or whether the extraterritoriality principle described in the Supreme Court’s decisions is now a dead letter; and (2) whether such allegations, concerning a law that is based solely on preferences regarding out-of-state housing of farm animals, state a claim under Pike v. Bruce Church, Inc.
(relisted after the Jan. 7, Jan. 14, Jan. 21 and Feb. 18 conferences) 

Love v. Texas, 21-5050
Issues: (1) Whether Texas’ Court of Criminal Appeals, the only court of last resort reviewing direct appeals in death penalty cases, has decided an important federal question concerning a racially biased juror being allowed on a capital death penalty jury in violation of petitioner Kristopher Love’s rights under the Sixth and 14th Amendments to the United States Constitution; and (2) whether Texas’ Court of Criminal Appeals, the only court of last resort reviewing direct appeals in death penalty cases, has decided an important federal question concerning a racially biased juror in a way that conflicts with relevant decisions of the Supreme Court in violation of Love’s rights under the Sixth and 14th Amendments to the United States Constitution.
(relisted after the Jan. 7, Jan. 14, Jan. 21 and Feb. 18 conferences)

Gordon College v. DeWeese-Boyd, 21-145
Issues: (1) Whether professors at religious colleges perform ministerial functions when the college exists to spread its faith, and the college requires faculty, as a primary component of their position, to integrate Christian doctrine into their work and academic disciplines, engage in teaching and scholarship from a decidedly religious perspective, and serve as advisors and mentors for student spiritual formation; and (2) whether the First Amendment requires courts to defer to the good-faith characterization of a ministerial position by a religious organization or church.
(rescheduled before the Dec. 3, Dec. 10 and Jan. 7 conferences; relisted after the Jan. 14, Jan. 21 and Feb. 18 conferences)

Texas v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, 21-379
Issues: (1) Whether an agency rule delegating rulemaking authority to a private entity violates the nondelegation doctrine; and (2) whether the statute of limitations applicable to a challenge to an agency rule that delegates rulemaking authority to a private entity starts to run when the agency delegates the authority or when the private entity exercises the delegated authority.
(rescheduled before the Dec. 10 and Jan. 7 conferences; relisted after the Jan. 14, Jan. 21 and Feb. 18 conferences)

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