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Sam Heldman


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Tuesday, January 14, 2003
The Court issued two opinions today.

In No. 01-1229, Pierce County v. Guillen, the Court held, 9-0, that 23 U.S.C. 409, which protects states that apply to the federal government for funds to improve highway safety from disclosure of information does not violate the commerce clause. Justice Thomas's opinion is available here. Both Sam Heldman and I predicted this case correctly.

In No. 01-7574, Sattazahn v. Pennsylvania, the Court held, 5-4, that Pennsylvania's death penalty law does not violate the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Constitution. Pennsylvania provides that when a jury is unable to reach a verdict on the death penalty, a sentence of life is automatically entered. That is what happened in this case, but the verdict was eventually overturned. The question was whether the state may then seek the death penalty on retrial without offending the Double Jeopardy Clause. According to Justice Scalia's majority opinion (here), a subsequent death sentence does not offend the Double Jeopardy Clause. Sam and I both predicted this case incorrectly.