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When in Doubt, Deny, Deny Deny

By Robyn Hagan Cain on May 01, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The Supreme Court isn't in a hurry to fill its docket for the 2013 Term. So far, the Court has only granted cert in 19 merit-based cases.

While there are already some stand outs in the next term -- like Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action --some of the recent rejects have drawn as much attention as the cases that have been granted.

This week alone, the Court denied certiorari in three cases that would have made for interesting arguments.

Let’s take a look at a few of the most recent rejects.

  • De Facto Life Sentences. In 2010, the Court ruled in Graham v. Florida that the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause does not permit a juvenile offender to be sentenced to life in prison without parole for a nonhomicide crime. Last year, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals held in Bunch v. Smith that “consecutive, fixed-term sentences for juveniles who have committed multiple nonhomicide offenses are unconstitutional when they amount to the practical equivalent of life without parole.” Are those two holdings at odds with one another? Who knows? The Court announced this week that it wouldn’t address de facto life sentences for juvenile offenders, the ABA Journal reports.
  • State Immigration Law Redux. Maybe the Court was just bored with state immigration laws after last year’s battle royale over Arizona S.B. 1070. Regardless of the reason, the Nine won’t consider an Alabama immigration law that makes it a crime to harbor or transport illegal immigrants, The New York Times reports. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals previously blocked multiple provisions of the controversial state law.
  • Separation of Church and Church. In The Presbytery of Ohio Valley, Inc., et al. v. OPC, Inc., petitioners asked the Court resolve a dispute between to Olivet Presbyterian Church and Presbyterian Church U.S.A. after the former split from the latter and the latter claimed a trust on the former’s property. This could have been an interesting follow-up to the Court’s decision in Jones v. Wolf, holding that a state is constitutionally entitled to adopt a “neutral principles of law” analysis when considering the disposition of church property.

While the Court passed on these cases, it granted one new case, Burrage v. United States, in which it will decide whether the crime of distribution of drugs causing death under 21 U.S.C. § 841 is a strict liability crime, without a foreseeability or proximate cause requirement.

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