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SCOTUS Grants 3 New Cases, Lets Texas Voter ID Law Stand (for Now)

By William Peacock, Esq. | Last updated on

The Supreme Court's latest orders list is out, with three very interesting grants. First, what happens to a convict's guns? Can a court order them transferred or sold to a buyer of the convict's choice? Second, can a Batson issue be dealt with ex parte? And in the third grant, the Court explores the possibility of a facial challenge to a hotel records law under the Fourth Amendment.

In other news: The Court let another state voting law stay in effect, this time in Texas, in the strongest test of the Purcell v. Gonzalez holding yet. A district court had held that the law had a discriminatory purpose, and blocked it, but the Fifth Circuit, citing Purcell, reversed the trial court.

Grants: Guns, Hotel Records, Batson Ex Parte

Henderson v. United States: Police officers seize guns during a drug case. The owner, obviously, can't own them at this point, but can a court order the guns turned over to a buyer -- the defendant's neighbor or wife in this case? The government argues that he could have sold them before he was convicted, while Henderson points out that he is being deprived of valuable assets. Reuters has more

Chappell v. Ayala: Is it unconstitutional to hold an ex parte hearing to address the legality of a prosecutor's striking of minority jurors from a panel? The California state courts said yes, but called it harmless error. The Ninth Circuit granted habeas relief and denied en banc over the dissent of eight judges.

Los Angeles v. Patel: A Los Angeles ordinance allows police to inspect hotel records at will and without a warrant. A facial challenge to the law, under the Fourth Amendment, succeeded in the lower courts, but now the Court will take a look at whether one can ever launch a facial challenge under the Fourth Amendment.

As Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSblog explains, there are two issues in this case: the hotel's commercial privacy interest in their records (does the interest exist and does it require a court order?) and the facial challenge issue. Because a Fourth Amendment challenge asks whether a particular search is reasonable in light of the facts of the case, it may not even be possible to launch a facial challenge that covers all applications of the law.

Texas Voter ID Law Not Blocked

In a piece of wholly expected news, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the controversial Texas voter ID law to go into effect, a ruling that was consistent with the Purcell principle (courts shouldn't institute last-minute changes to voting procedures) and the Court's recent holdings in similar challenges in Ohio, Wisconsin, and North Carolina.

Justices Ginsbug, Sotomayor, and Kagan all dissented, with Ginsburg writing, "The greatest threat to public confidence in elections in this case is the prospect of enforcing a purposefully discriminatory law, one that likely imposes an unconstitutional poll tax and risks denying the right to vote to hundreds of thousands of eligible voters."

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