[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] heard oral arguments [transcript, PDF] Wednesday in Kennedy v. Louisiana [Duke Law case backgrounder, merit briefs], 07-343, where the Supreme Court considered whether the death penalty constitutes cruel and unusual punishment when imposed for a crime in which the victim was not killed. Patrick Kennedy was sentenced to death in Louisiana for raping a minor, one of the few remaining crimes where the death of a victim is not required for the death penalty, and the Louisiana Supreme Court upheld [opinion, PDF] the sentence. Kennedy's lawyers argued that imposing the death penalty for child rape under Louisiana law violates the Eighth Amendment [text] protection against cruel and unusual punishment. Justice Roberts and Justice Scalia challenged Kennedy's argument while Justice Breyer expressed concern that allowing the execution would broaden the death penalty for crimes other than murder. AP has more.
The Supreme Court also heard oral arguments [transcript, PDF] Wednesday in Taylor v. Sturgell [Duke Law case backgrounder, merit briefs], 07-371, where the Court is considering whether a litigant is barred under the theory of "virtual representation" from pursuing a claim if another litigant had previously pursued a similar claim. Taylor filed a lawsuit against the Federal Aviation Administration seeking to compel disclosure of certain FAA documents, but the suit was dismissed when the district court determined that the claim was barred because a "close associate" of Taylor's already unsuccessfully pursued a similar claim. The US Court of Appeals for the District Court affirmed the district court based on a "virtual representation" theory, noting that Taylor and the earlier litigant sought disclosure of the same documents, were represented by the same lawyer, among other factors.