[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] heard oral arguments [day call, PDF; merit briefs] Tuesday in three cases. In South Carolina v. North Carolina [oral arguments transcript, PDF; JURIST report], the Court heard arguments on whether additional parties may intervene in a lawsuit between two states, over which the Court has original jurisdiction. A special master recommended [report, PDF] that three parties - the city of Charlotte, North Carolina, the Catawba River Water Supply Project, and Duke Energy Carolinas - be allowed to intervene in the lawsuit brought by South Carolina over water flows from the Catawba River. The state of South Carolina and the US government both dispute that recommendation, arguing that the states should speak for the interests of all their citizens. Counsel for plaintiff South Carolina argued that the special master incorrectly applied the standard for intervening. Counsel for the US also argued on behalf of South Carolina as amicus curiae:
In order to intervene in an original action in this Court, a citizen of a State that is a party to the action must show a compelling interest, separate from that of other citizens, that is not properly represented by the State. In an equitable apportionment action, the interest that is at stake is not a private property interest in water. Rather it is the sovereign interest of the State in a particular share of the waters of an interstate river. For that reason, a private interest in water is not an appropriate basis for intervention in such a proceeding.Counsel for the interveners argued that the special master's "recommendation deserves some deference because she is in the best position to know whether these parties would assist her in the adjudication of this complex dispute." Counsel for defendant North Carolina argued "the intervention motion directly affects each of these interveners and they have a right to be heard with respect to that intervention."
In Padilla v. Kentucky [oral arguments transcript, PDF], the Court heard arguments on whether the Sixth Amendment [text] guarantee of effective assistance of counsel requires a criminal defense lawyer to advise a non-citizen client that pleading guilty to an aggravated felony will trigger mandatory, automatic deportation. The Supreme Court of Kentucky ruled [opinion, PDF] that a guilty plea induced by bad advice does not amount to ineffective assistance of counsel and does not warrant setting aside the guilty plea. Counsel for petitioner, Honduras native Jose Padilla, argued:
The Kentucky Supreme Court announced a categorical rule so restrictive of the Sixth Amendment that the United States Government disavows it. The court held that the Sixth Amendment never provides a remedy to a defendant who pleads guilty to a crime on the false advice of his attorney that he would not be deported as a result.Counsel for the Commonwealth of Kentucky argued that "advice of counsel is just a tool to ensure" that a defendant's plea is voluntary. Padilla shares the same name as convicted terrorist Jose Padilla, currently serving a 17-year sentence, but is of no relation.
In Smith v. Spisak [oral arguments transcript, PDF], the Court heard arguments on whether the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit contravened the directives of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) [text, PDF] by extending Mills v. Maryland [opinion text] to resolve in a habeas petitioner's favor questions that were not decided or addressed in Mills. The Sixth Circuit ruled [opinion, PDF] that the jury instructions in defendant John Spisak, Jr's trial violated Mills by requiring unanimity in the finding that the aggravating circumstances outweighed the mitigating factors. Counsel for petitioner, the state of Ohio, argued:
the extension of Mills that the Sixth Circuit's ruling made here is not clearly-established law even today. ... There is a - the vast majority of Circuits, Fourth, Fifth, Seventh, Eighth, Tenth, have rejected the position the Sixth Circuit took here, and in fact, this case is quite distinct from Mills even if Mills were applicable.Counsel for respondent Spisak argued that the Sixth Circuit applied Mills correctly.