Criminal Cases on the New Term of the Supreme Court

The new term of the Supreme Court starts up this week and the Wall Street Journal has put together a solid overview of what to expect from the Court this term.

Here are a couple of the criminal cases that the Wall Street Journal says the Court will be covering this term:

U.S. v. Stevens

Can the government criminalize depiction of animal cruelty?

Congress banned such portrayals in 1999, but the law has led to just one prosecution, of a man who sold dogfight videos. An appeals court ruled the law violated free-speech protections. In its appeal to the Supreme Court, the government argues that like child pornography, depictions of animal cruelty can be banned because they contain no redeeming content and might fuel a market that encourages further harm to animals.

Dog-fighting has been a hot topic in the news recently with the return of Michael Vick to the NFL.

Graham v. Florida; Sullivan v. Florida

Is a sentence of life without parole for juvenile offenders constitutional?

In 2005, the court ruled it unconstitutional to execute juvenile offenders. In these two cases, the justices consider whether it also violates the Eighth Amendment ban on “cruel and unusual punishments” to sentence a juvenile offender to life imprisonment without possibility of parole for crimes where no one dies, such as rape or robbery.

U.S. v. Comstock

Do federal prisons have the authority to hold inmates past their sentences out of fear they will violate state law?

A 2006 federal law allows the U.S. Bureau of Prisons to keep inmates in custody after completing their sentences if it deems them to be “sexually dangerous.” A federal appeals court struck down the law as exceeding congressional powers because most sex offenses are state crimes, not federal.

This is all that was listed by the Wall Street Journal in terms of criminal law related cases that the Supreme Court’s new term will touch on. If I can find another article that covers other criminal law cases that the Court will look at this term, I will provide the link and post on it.

It should be an interesting area for criminal law in the Supreme Court as President Obama’s nominee of Sonia Sotomayor has her first term. Where Sotomayor will come down on many criminal law issues is still an unknown at this point.

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