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February's First Four: SCOTUS Decides Kawashima, More

By Robyn Hagan Cain on February 21, 2012 12:01 PM

After several weeks of recess, the Supreme Court was bustling this morning. The Court issued four opinions and granted certiorari in a highly-hyped case today.

There were two grants today for the October 2012 term: Fisher v. University of Texas, the college affirmative action case, and Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach, Florida, which will resolve the question of what qualifies as a "vessel" to trigger maritime jurisdiction. We'll discuss the granted cases later; today, we're talking about the decisions.

  • Kawashima v. Holder. In an opinion by Justice Thomas, the Court ruled that convictions for false statements on tax returns in which the government's revenue loss exceeds $10,000 qualify as aggravated felonies for deportation considerations.
  • Howes v. Fields. In a 6-3 vote, the Court ruled that the government doesn't have to read Miranda rights to prisoners during jailhouse interrogations about crimes unrelated to their current incarceration, reports The Associated Press. Justice Alito wrote for the majority, "Imprisonment alone is not enough to create a custodial situation within the meaning of Miranda."
  • Wetzel v. Lambert. The Court vacated and remanded a Third Circuit Court of Appeals grant of habeas to a Pennsylvania death row inmate, finding that the appellate court failed to apply the habeas deference standard to the state court's rejection of the inmate's Brady claim.
  • Marmet Health Care v. Brown. In a second per curiam opinion, the Court vacated and remanded decisions in three negligence lawsuits against West Virginia nursing homes. The Court noted that the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia misread and disregarded SCOTUS precedent when interpreting the Federal Arbitration Act and did not follow controlling federal law implementing that basic principle.

The Court will stay busy today, kicking off the first day of its February sitting with arguments in Freeman v. Quicken Loans and Taniguchi v. Kan Pacific Saipan. There may also be another round of decisions tomorrow, according to SCOTUSblog.

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