The US Supreme Court is turning its attention to capital punishment this week, with the justices taking up a case examining whether Florida is engaging in cruel and unusual punishment by seeking to execute a condemned prisoner who may be mentally retarded.
The high court declared in 2002 that the Eighth Amendment barred use of the death penalty for anyone with mental retardation. But the court left it to each state to decide how best to determine which defendants qualify as “mentally retarded” for purposes of the death penalty.
On Monday, lawyers for death row inmate Freddie Lee Hall are set to argue that Florida uses an unacceptable method to decide who is – and who isn’t – mentally retarded. The argument will be presented by former US Solicitor General Seth Waxman.
The case is a potential landmark because it could establish a national standard for executions involving individuals with mental retardation. Or it could reaffirm that states retain discretion to decide for themselves who to execute.
If a majority of justices set a national standard it would open new avenues for lawyers seeking to halt executions in a variety of cases in Florida and other states.
2. Chief Judge Federico Moreno had two big rulings on Friday -- one involving JP Morgan and one involving the homeless. Here's a little about the homeless ruling:
U.S. Judge Federico Moreno on Friday approved changes that will strip the homeless of some of the life-sustaining rights they were granted through a historic settlement reached in Miami almost two decades ago.
Police will now be able to stop homeless people from building fires in parks to cook, or from building makeshift tents to sleep in. The homeless can still sleep on sidewalks, but not if they block the path of pedestrians.
If homeless people are within a quarter-mile of a public restroom, they can no longer expose themselves to urinate or to clean. And convicted sex offenders who are homeless will no longer receive the same life-sustaining benefits as other homeless people.
Moreno’s approval followed a vote in January by Miami city commissioners to go along with the agreement worked out between the city and the American Civil Liberties Union.
3. Justices Ginsburg and Scalia celebrate Verdi:
When Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is waiting patiently for his spoonful of rigatoni and scallops, too, you know you’re in for a real Italian party. But what else would you expect at a dinner in honor of a 200-year-old Italian rock star?
On Thursday, the Washington Chorus’s “The Essential Verdi” gala held at the Italian Embassy was dedicated to il Tricolore. Scalia, along with fellow Supreme Court Justice and opera aficionado Ruth Bader Ginsburg and a hundred other music lovers, celebrated another famous Italian, composer Giuseppe Verdi, described to this novice as “The Bruce Springsteen [who's, you guessed it, Italian] of Italy,” while sipping on Italian wine and dining on Italian food. The five-course meal was peppered heavily with performances as part of the chorus’s annual “essential week,” this year dedicated to Verdi, which culminated in a performance at the Kennedy Center on Sunday.
The national pride then was hardly a surprise, although the night held many. The first came as the crowd settled into their seats. As the few non-Italians at Table 32 took a first bite of gnocchi, without warning the chorus members embedded throughout the grand atrium shot up from their seats and commenced to harmonizing. “This is their version of a flash mob,” one guest joked.
4. The dangers of Facebook can be seen in this state case. I feel bad for the dad and daughter here:
Call it the biggest Facebook mistake ever. A daughter’s snarky status update has cost her father the $80,000 settlement he won in an age-discrimination lawsuit.
According to the Miami Herald, Patrick Snay, 69, was the headmaster at Gulliver Preparatory School in Miami for several years, but in 2010, the school didn’t renew his contract. Snay sued his former employer for age discrimination and won a settlement of $80,000 in November 2011. The agreement contained a standard confidentiality clause, prohibiting Snay or the school from talking about the case.
However, Snay’s daughter, Dana, now at Boston College and a part-time Starbucks barista, couldn’t resist bragging about the case on Facebook. “Mama and Papa Snay won the case against Gulliver,” she wrote. “Gulliver is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer. SUCK IT.”
5. John Pacenti covers the Kaley decision here. The Justices got this one wrong, but Chief Justice's Roberts' dissent is strong:
Federal prosecutors, when they [*22] rise in court, represent the people of the United States. But so do defense lawyers — one at a time. In my view, the Court's opinion pays insufficient respect to the importance of an independent bar as a check on prosecutorial abuse and government overreaching. Granting the Government the power to take away a defendant's chosen advocate strikes at the heart of that significant role. I would not do it, and so respectfully dissent.