Supreme Court agrees to hear four additional cases this term

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] on Friday granted what may be the final four [order list, PDF] cases it will hear this term. After being considered in conference eight times, the court granted Bond v. United States [cert. petition, PDF; docket] and will determine whether Carol Anne Bond can be tried under the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act [18 USC § 229 text], a federal law that enforces the international Chemical Weapons Convention [materials], which intends to ban the spread of international chemical weapons. Bond attempted to poison her husband's lover using highly toxic chemicals—10-chlorophenoxarsine and potassium dichromate [NIH backgrounders]—by applying the poisons to her nemesis' mailbox, car door handles, and house doorknob. She was then convicted under the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act of acquiring, transferring, receiving, retaining, or possessing a chemical weapon. Two terms ago, the court ruled that Bond had standing [JURIST report] under the Tenth Amendment [text] to challenge the application of the treaty against her, but did not determine the merits of her claim. This time, the court will consider if Congress has the authority to intrude on local and state programs with an international treaty in order to continue complete compliance with the treaty. The court will also look at if the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act "can be interpreted not to reach ordinary poisoning cases, which have been adequately handled by state and local authorities" in light of the court's decision in Missouri v. Holland [opinion]. The US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit upheld the conviction [opinion] stating, "because the Convention is an international agreement with a subject matter that lies at the core of the Treaty Power and because Holland instructs that 'there can be no dispute about the validity of [a] statute' that implements a valid treaty, we will affirm Bond's conviction."

The court consolidated three cases in order to rule on the legal remedies available for the victims of convicted financier Allen Stanford [JURIST news archive], who is currently serving a 110-year prison sentence [JURIST report] for committing a $7 billion Ponzi scheme [SEC backgrounder]. The court will consider if the Securities Litigation Uniform Standards Act of 1998 (SLUSA) [text, PDF] precludes the various plaintiffs from pursuing class action lawsuits under state laws against investment firms that encouraged them to invest with Stanford. The cases granted are Chadbourne & Parke v. Troice, Willis of Colorado v. Troice and Proskauer Rose LLP v. Troice [dockets].

In University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar [cert. petition, PDF; docket] the court will consider whether the retaliation provision of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 [42 USC § 2000e-2(a) text] requires a plaintiff to prove but-for causation [backgrounder] or instead requires only proof that the employer had a mixed motive [LII backgrounder]. The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled [opinion] initially that the jury had found sufficient evidence for Dr. Naiel Nassar's retaliation claim, but not his constructive discharge claim. The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center [official website] then appealed en banc on the "mixed motive" question, which a divided court declined to hear [opinion].

Finally, the court will hear Metrish v. Lancaster [cert. petition, PDF; docket], which concerns if it was an "unexpected and indefensible" change in a common-law doctrine of criminal law and thus a violation of due process rights [Cornell LII backgrounder] when the Michigan Supreme Court recognized a state statute that abolished the diminished capacity defense [Cornell LII backgrounder] and when the Michigan Court of Appeals applied it retroactively. Burt Lancaster was convicted in 1994 for first-degree murder, where he pleaded a defense of diminished capacity. That verdict was overturned due to a jury selection error, but when Lancaster was retried in 2005, he was not allowed to utilize diminished capacity as a defense. The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled [opinion text] for Lancaster, stating "[p]reventing a defendant from presenting his only viable defense at trial is so prejudicial that holding the violation harmless would suggest that almost no constitutional violation would warrant reversal." The court is being asked to consider the case in light of Rogers v. Tennessee and Harrington v. Richter [opinions].

 

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