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Sam Heldman


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Monday, December 15, 2003
Cases for November

Well, you keep coming to see what I have predicted, even though I have not updated this site since the second week of the Term. The least I figure I can do is make some predictions so that you can see whether I can be even more wrong about this year’s predictions than I was about last year’s.

On the other hand, I am doing pretty well so far. I apparently correctly predicted that the Court would uphold some provisions of the Bipartisan Campaign finance Reform Act and that it would hold other parts unconstitutional. I’m not really counting that one, however. I did correctly predict that in No. 220129 Virginia v. Maryland, Virginia would win. I also correctly predicted U.S. v. Banks (REVERSED); Raytheon v. Hernandez (REVERSED), and Barnhart v. Thomas (REVERSED).

Finally, the Court today issued an opinion in 02-809 Maryland v. Pringle, which I didn’t get a chance to predict, and in No. 02-6683 Castro v. U.S., which the court today VACATED, where I had predicted AFFIRM. Of course, I did say that I would not do “too much thinking” on the Castro case.

By my count that makes me 4-1-1, with 4 correct predictions, one incorrect, and one not predicted but not incorrectly predicted either.

What follows is a slew of predictions that, due to how quickly I am going to do them, likely will be mostly incorrect. See, e.g., Castro v. United States, supra.

No. 02-819 Kontrick v. Ryan

If you love bankruptcy, and I know you do, then this case is for you. An excellent summary of this case can be found here. The case has to do with whether deadlines established by Bankruptcy Rule 4004 are jurisdictional, or whether an objection to an untimely filing may be waived.

I think that the deadlines make the more sense as statutes of limitations, rather than as jurisdictional requirements. I think the court will therefore AFFIRM.

No. 02-802 Maryland v. Pringle

I suppose it’s a little late to post-dict that the court will REVERSE, since it did just that this morning.

No. 02-811 Groh v. Ramirez

This case is about the Fourth Amendment. The petitioner, Groh, made out a warrant to search Ramirez’s ranch for weapons. Unfortunately, in the description of items sought section of the warrant, Groh mistakenly described the house to be searched. The warrant thus authorized Groh to search the ranch for one “two-story blue house.” Groh served the warrant and searched the house, but did not find anything. After Ramirez’s lawyer looked at the warrant, they decided to sue Groh for violating Ramirez’s Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches & seizures. The Ninth Circuit eventually held that Groh should have read the warrant, realized that it was defective, and taken it back to the magistrate to be corrected. The agent therefore was not entitled to qualified immunity. Groh maintains that he thought it was a good warrant, and that he acted in good faith by serving it and explaining what he was looking for.

I suspect the court will REVERSE. Ramirez’s chief complaint doesn’t seem to be that Groh purposefully served a defective warrant, but that he was negligent in failing to read the warrant to make sure that it made sense. The warrant was actually supported by an affadavit and probable cause; it was just an editing mistake that caused it to be invalid. I doubt the Court will want to subject police to liability for negligence in writing warrants that would otherwise be valid.

No. 02-1196 SEC v. Edwards

Summary here. Oh how I wish to be a securities lawyer. The question here seems to be whether a company that sold bogus payphone leases should be covered by federal securities laws. The Eleventh Circuit held that under relevant Supreme Court cases, an investment contract is covered by securities laws if there is 1) an investment of funds; 2) in a common enterprise; 3) with expectation of profits to be derived solely from the efforts of others. The appeals court held that under United Housing Foundation v. Forman, “profits” means participation in earnings or capital appreciation. Because the contracts here were purportedly a sale and lease-back, the investors’ potential earnings would be from lease payments, not earnings or capital appreciation.

I think that the purported form of payment in a bogus investment scheme should not preclude its falling under the securities laws. I would reject such a fine distinction under the bunk doctrine,* and I therefore think the Court will REVERSE.

    * I would also take the opportunity to announce for the first time the bunk doctrine.

No. 02-1060 Illinois v. Lidster

Here is a summary. In this case, police set up a roadblock purportedly to search for witnesses to a hit-and-run that had occurred in the same area at the same time of day. Lidster nearly hit an officer when he drove up, had alcohol on his breath, and failed the sobriety tests. Lidster was found guilty of driving under the influence, but appealed, saying that the roadblock was an unreasonable seizure under the Fourth Amendment and Indianapolis v. Edmund (which held that vehicle checkpoints to interdict drugs are unconstitutional).

I think that random checkpoints are not a valid way to pursue a police investigation, and I don’t think the Court will deviate from the Edmund rule. The police’s interest in gathering evidence is not sufficiently distinct from its general interest in crime control to justify the search & seizure. I think the Court will AFFIRM.

No. 02-693 Lamie v. United States Trustee

Disclosure: This case was argued for the petitioner by Tom Goldstein, for whom I used to work, but I did not work on this case. Here is a summary. The case has to do with whether Congress purposefully intended to disallow payments to debtors’ attorneys under the bankruptcy code when it omitted them in its recodification of the section of the code authorizing payments to persons for work they do for the estate. The error is so obvious – omitting attorneys from the list of people that can be paid, but not from the list of services that can be paid for -- that I seriously doubt the Court will favor rigid form to create a nonsensical result. I predict the Court will REVERSE.

No. 02-9410 Crawford v. Washington

In this case, Crawford stabbed a guy named Lee. Both Crawford and his wife made statements about the stabbing. At the trial, Crawford invoked the marital privilege to prevent his wife from testifying, but the prosecution entered her out-of-court statements, and Crawford was convicted. Crawford claims that his Sixth Amendment right to confrontation was violated by the admission of the evidence. I am inclined to agree, but I invoke the “not too much thought” doctrine, in order to be able to wiggle out if this is incorrectly predicted as a REVERSE.

No. 02-1080 General Dynamics Land Systems, Inc., v. Cline

This case is about whether the ADEA prohibits “reverse discrimination.” The statute protects people over 40 from discrimination on the basis of their age. The Sixth Circuit held that discrimination against the protected group in favor of other people in the group is covered. I think the Court will AFFIRM, just because it’s been a while since I predicted AFFIRM.

No. 02-1348 Olympic Airways v. Husain

No, not that Hussein. This Husain died of second-hand smoke on an airplane. That’s what the trial judge found, anyway, and awarded his estate nearly $2 million. Breyer is recused from the case because his brother, Judge Charles Breyer, oversaw the trial. I predict the Court will AFFIRM. (Look, there I go again).

I'll get to the December cases before they are decided, I promise. I can already tell you I predict REVERSE in Fellers.