This death penalty case about returned mail and multiple oversights on the part of lackadaisical court clerks and ball-dropping lawyers seemed to get a positive hearing from everyone but Scalia who reportedly was the only obvious contra.
The AP’s Mark Sherman has the story.
Here’s how it opens:
WASHINGTON (AP) — The tale of returned mail and a missed deadline might seem comical if it did not involve a man trying to stave off execution. Supreme Court justices had harsh words Tuesday for lawyers who abandon their clients and a state legal system that does not seem overly concerned.
At the end of a lively hour of arguments, it appeared the court would order a new hearing for Alabama death row inmate Cory Maples, who had lost the chance to appeal his death sentence because of a mailroom mix-up at the New York law firm Sullivan and Cromwell and the diffidence of a local court clerk.
Two Sullivan and Cromwell lawyers had been pressing Maples’ claim that his earlier legal representation was so bad that it violated the Constitution – until they both left the firm without telling him or the Alabama courts.
Deadlines usually matter a lot at the Supreme Court, where a few years back a defendant who was late to file an appeal because the judge gave his lawyer the wrong date still lost his case. Another principle the court often holds dear is that it’s tough luck for defendants whose lawyers make mistakes.
But Tuesday’s case, perhaps because it involves the death penalty, was the rare instance when the court seemed prepared to grant some leeway on both counts.
Justice Samuel Alito is a former federal prosecutor who often votes for the government in criminal cases. But he said he did not understand why Alabama fought so hard to deny Maples the right to appeal when the deadline passed “though no fault of his own, through a series of very unusual and unfortunate circumstances.”
FYI: Maples isn’t arguing innocence at this point, only basic fairness in being allowed an appeal. Nice to see the Supremes responding.
The NY Times has this editorial on the case.
FEDS: NO GUNS OR AMMO FOR MED MARIJUANA USERS…..MONTANA: OH, REALLY? SEZ YOU!
Oh, how, I love the folks in my other home state.
This is by Charles Johnson from the Missoulian. A clip to get you started.
Attorney General Steve Bullock voiced his objection Monday to the U.S. Justice Department over its recent memo banning the sale of guns or ammunition to licensed medical marijuana users and urged the agency not to prosecute anyone for now.
Bullock wrote U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder about the Sept. 21 memo from the Justice Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to licensed gun dealers. The memo said it is illegal for medical marijuana cardholders to buy guns and ammunition, and illegal for dealers to sell these products to them.
The letter from Bullock followed criticism of the policy last week from all three members of Montana’s congressional delegation, Sens. Jon Tester and Max Baucus, and Rep. Denny Rehberg. A firearms advocacy group and a medical marijuana group had earlier blasted the memo.
Bullock told Holder said he’s willing to work with the U.S. Justice Department staff “on exploring a reasonable solution to the problems created by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives letter.”
The goal, he said, is to find an approach that works for the Montana and the other 15 states and the District of Columbia that have legalized medical marijuana.
“This would be much better than the type of unilateral proclamation represented by the ATF letter, which was issued without any advance notice or discussion with the elected officials who represent more than one-fourth of this nation’s population and one-third of its states,” Bullock wrote.
“In the meantime, I respectfully request that the Department of Justice not pursue any criminal prosecutions against law-abiding citizens in Montana who exercise their constitutional rights to possess guns and enjoy hunting, or the licensees who are implicitly threatened by ATF’s letter.”
Bullock said Montana had about 200,000 hunters last year, and the state Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks sold more than 580,000 hunting licenses. As Montanans purchase guns and ammunition from sporting good stores, some of them may also have medical marijuana cards, he said.
Go Big Sky!
(For the record, I’m a wine drinker, not a toker—med or otherwise. And I don’t like guns. However, that isn’t the point. But thank you for inquiring.)