On June 22, 2015, the Supreme Court decided Kingsley v. Hendrickson. The central question in this case was whether, to prove an excessive force claim brought by a pretrial detainee against several jail officers, the detainee must show that the officers were subjectively aware that their use of force was unreasonable, or simply that the officers’ use of that force was objectively unreasonable.
In an opinion delivered by Justice Breyer, the Supreme Court held by a vote of 5-4 that the detainee needed to show only that the officers’ use of force was objectively unreasonable.
Justices Kennedy, Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Kagan joined Justice Breyer’s opinion for the Court. Justice Scalia filed a dissenting opinion in which Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Thomas joined. Justice Alito also filed a dissenting opinion. The judgment of the Seventh Circuit was vacated and the case remanded.
To discuss the case, we have Joshua A. Skinner, who is an Attorney at Fanning Harper Martinson Brandt & Kutchin, P.C., in Dallas Texas.
On June 18, 2015, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Davis v. Ayala. The issue in this case was whether Ayala was entitled to federal habeas relief because the judge in his capital murder trial, when responding to Ayala’s objection that the prosecution used its peremptory challenges to strike potential jurors based on race, excluded Ayala from the hearing during which the judge considered the prosecution’s explanation for the peremptory challenges. The Ninth Circuit granted Ayala’s petition for habeas relief.
In an opinion delivered by Justice Alito, the Court reversed the Ninth Circuit by a vote of 5-4 and remanded the case. Any federal constitutional error that may have occurred as a result of the exclusion of Ayala from the hearing, the Supreme Court held, was harmless with respect to all seven prospective jurors who had been stricken.
Justice Alito’s opinion was joined by the Chief Justice and Justices Thomas, Scalia, and Kennedy. Justices Kennedy and Thomas filed concurring opinions. Justice Sotomayor filed a dissenting opinion, which was joined by Justices Breyer, Kagan, and Ginsburg.
To discuss the case, we have Ronald Eisenberg, who heads the Law Division of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office.
On June 29, 2015, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Glossip v. Gross. This case concerned three questions. The first was whether it is constitutional for a state to execute an inmate by administering a three-drug protocol in which a) there is some scientific agreement that the first drug does not sufficiently relieve pain or consistently render a person in a deep state of unconsciousness, and b) there is a substantial risk that administration of the second and third drugs would cause significant pain to a still-conscious prisoner. The second question was whether the plurality stay standard of Baze v. Rees is applicable when states are using a different execution protocol than the one involved in Baze v. Rees. The third question was whether, if a state's protocol for lethal injection will violate the Eighth Amendment, the legal duty to propose a different drug falls upon the prisoner.
In an opinion written by Justice Alito, the Court held by a vote of 5-4 that the prisoners failed to establish a likelihood of success on the merits of their claim that the administration of midazolam as the first drug in a three drug execution protocol violates the Eighth Amendment. The Court also held that to prevail on an Eighth Amendment method-of-execution claim, the prisoner is required to prove that the protocol creates a "demonstrated risk" of severe pain and that the risk is substantial relative to available alternatives.
Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia, Kennedy, and Thomas joined the opinion of the Court. Justice Scalia filed a concurring opinion which Justice Thomas joined. Justice Thomas filed a concurring opinion which Justice Scalia joined. Justice Breyer filed a dissenting opinion, which Justices Ginsburg, Breyer and Kagan joined. The judgment of the Tenth Circuit was affirmed.
To discuss the case, we have Kent S. Scheidegger, who is Legal Director & General Counsel at the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation.
On June 29, 2015, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Michigan v. Environmental Protection Agency. The question in this case is whether the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) acted unreasonably when it did not consider the costs of compliance in determining whether it was appropriate to regulate hazardous air pollutants emitted by electric utilities.
In an opinion delivered by Justice Scalia, the Court held by a vote of 5-4 that the EPA acted unreasonably when it treated the costs of compliance as irrelevant. The judgment of the D.C. Circuit was reversed and the case remanded.
Chief Justice Roberts, as well as Justices Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito joined the opinion of the Court. Justice Thomas filed a concurring opinion. Justice Kagan filed a dissenting opinion, which justices Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor joined.
To discuss the case, we have Andrew Grossman, who is an associate at the law firm BakerHostetler.
On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court decided Obergefell v. Hodges. This highly anticipated case concerned two questions. The first is whether states are required by the Fourteenth Amendment to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The second question is whether states are required by the Fourteenth Amendment to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples who were lawfully married in a different state.
In a 5-4 opinion delivered by Justice Kennedy, the Supreme Court held that States are required by the Fourteenth Amendment to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples. On the second question, the Supreme Court held that States are required by the Fourteenth Amendment to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples lawfully married out-of-state.
Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan joined the opinion of the Court. Chief Justice Roberts filed a dissenting opinion which Justices Scalia and Thomas joined. Justice Scalia filed a dissenting opinion, which Justice Thomas joined. Justice Thomas filed a dissenting opinion, which Justice Scalia joined. Justice Alito filed a dissenting opinion which Justices Scalia and Thomas joined. The judgment of the Sixth Circuit was reversed.
To discuss the case, we have John Eastman, who is the Henry Salvatori Professor of Law & Community Service at Chapman University Fowler School of Law and Ilya Shapiro, who is Senior Fellow in Constitutional Studies at the Cato Institute.