ealth and Hospital Corp. of Marion County, Indiana v. Talevski the State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hold that private parties can’t bring lawsuits for money damages under Spending Clause legislation unless the statute explicit states such suits are possible.Continue reading
SCOTUS to Decide Alabama Redistricting Case
In Merrill v. Milligan the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether Alabama’s 2021 congressional redistricting plan which contains one majority-black district violates §2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA).Continue reading
U.S. Supreme Court to Decide Scope of Federal Honest-Services Law
The issue the U.S. Supreme Court will decide in Percoco v. United States, is whether a private citizen who has informal political or other influence over governmental decisionmaking, owes a fiduciary duty to the general public and can be convicted of honest-services fraud.Continue reading
Supreme Court to Decide Scope of Federal Wire Fraud Law
ed States the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether the “right-to-control” theory of fraud — which treats the deprivation of complete and accurate information bearing on a person’s economic decision as a type of property fraud — is a valid basis for liability under the federal wire fraud statute.Continue reading
Supreme Court to Decide False Claims Dismissal of Litigation Case
In United States, ex rel. Polansky v. Executive Health Resource the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether the federal government has authority to dismiss a False Claims Act lawsuit after initially declining to proceed with the action, and if so, what standard applies.Continue reading
U.S. Supreme Court to Resolve Interstate Compact Dispute between New York and New Jersey
In New York v. New Jersey the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether New Jersey may unilaterally withdraw from the Waterfront Commission CoContinue reading
Supreme Court Strikes Down Clean Power Plan
In West Virginia v. EPA the U.S. Supreme Court held 6-3 that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lacked the statutory authority to issue the Clean Power Plan (CPP).Continue reading
SCOTUS Rules in Favor of States in Indian Country Criminal Prosecution Case
In Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta the U.S. Supreme Court held 5-4 that states (along with the federal government) may prosecute crimes committed by non-Indians against Indians in Indian country.Continue reading
SCOTUS Puts Back in Place Louisiana Legislature Drawn Congressional Map
In an order in Ardoin v. Robinson containing no written opinions the U.S. Supreme Court has frozen in place a federal district court preliminary injunction which required the Louisiana Legislature to enact a new congressional map with a second black-majority district.Continue reading
SCOTUS Rules for Inmates in Method-of-Execution Case
In Nance v. Ward the U.S. Supreme Court held 5-4 that a capital inmate may bring a method-of-execution case under 42 USC §1983 rather than federal habeas even when the alternative method proposed isn’t allowed under state law. The holding of this case benefits inmates because the habeas statute contains procedural requirements §1983 lacks which may require dismissal of a claim.
Supreme Court precedent allows death row inmates to challenge a state’s proposed method of execution under the Eighth Amendment. The inmate must “identify a readily available alternative method of execution that would significantly reduce the risk of severe pain.” He or she may propose a method used in other states. If the alternative method proposed is already authorized under state law the Court has held the inmate may bring his or her claim under §1983.
Michael Nance was sentenced to death for shooting and killing a bystander while fleeing from a bank robbery. He claims that lethal injection will create a substantial risk of severe pain for him and has proposed that he be executed by firing squad. Georgia only allows capital inmates to be executed by lethal injection; four other states allow execution by firing squad.
The Supreme Court has previously held that an inmate must proceed to habeas and may not bring a §1983 case when the relief sought would “necessarily imply the invalidity of his conviction or sentence.” According to Justice Kagan, writing for the Court, Nance may bring his case under §1983 even though Georgia law doesn’t allow the firing squad because he isn’t seeking to invalidate his sentence.
In Nelson v. Campbell (2004) and Hill v. McDonough (2006) the Court held that method-of-execution claims could be brought under §1983 where inmates requested that the state use a different lethal injection protocol (not a different execution method). Except for the Georgia statute, the Court reasoned, “this case would even more clearly than Nelson and Hill be fit for §1983” since when those cases were decided the Court had not yet required those challenging the method of execution to identify alternative methods.
The Court reasoned: “The substance of the [method-of-execution] claim, now more than ever, thus points toward §1983. The prisoner is not challenging the death sentence itself; he is taking the validity of that sentence as a given. And he is providing the State with a veritable blueprint for carrying the death sentence out. If the inmate obtains his requested relief, it is because he has persuaded a court that the State could readily use his proposal to execute him. The court’s order therefore does not, as required for habeas, ‘necessarily prevent’ the State from carrying out its execution.”
This is true even if Georgia must change its law to allow death by firing squad the Court opined. It did admit “amending a statute may require some more time and effort than changing an agency protocol, of the sort involved in Nelson and Hill.”
Justice Barrett dissented joined by Justices Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch. She opined that Nance is seeking to invalidate his death sentence by proposing a method of execution Georgia doesn’t currently allow. “The Court is looking too far down the road. In my view, the consequence of the relief that a prisoner seeks depends on state law as it currently exists. And under existing state law, there is no question that Nance’s challenge necessarily implies the invalidity of his lethal injection sentence: He seeks to prevent the State from executing him in the only way it lawfully can.”