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Friday, October 07, 2005
Cases for Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2005
No. 04-980 Brown v. Sanders
In California, a jury can find that a murder conviction warrants the death penalty by finding that special circumstances make the murder particularly bad. In this case, the jury found four special circumstances specified by California law and sentenced respondent Ronald Sanders to death. On appeal, the California Supreme Court set aside two of the special circumstances, but held that the jury would have imposed the death sentence anyway.

Sanders brought a habeas corpus challenge to his death sentence and the Ninth Circuit set it aside. The court held that the California Supreme Court couldn't know whether the jury would have imposed the death sentence if it only had found two of the special circumstances.

The resolution of this case may depend on whether California is a "weighing" state, in which case the California Supreme Court should have either reweighed the factors or held that the overturned circumstances were harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. California takes the position that it doesn't matter because the jury only needed to find one special circumstance in order to impose a death sentence. I think it's likely the Court will AFFIRM. Without a harmless error analysis, the California Supreme Court's ruling amounts to a holding that a jury would necessarily impose death if certain circumstances are found, which I'm pretty sure (without checking) is unconstitutional under prior death penalty cases.

Update: Scotusblog's preview of the case can be found here.

No. 04-712 Lincoln Property Co. v. Roche
This case is sure to grab the headlines, as everyone knows that diversity jurisdiction is as hot in 2005 as, well . . . um . . . something else that's hot. [My apologies - I am apparently so far removed from popular culture that I can't come up with something that is assuredly "hot" enough that I might not be mocked for picking something that was hot in 2004 but that is totally lame now.*] In any case, Lincoln Property is about a partnership that was sued in Virginia state court. The partnership, which is a subsidary of a Texas corporation, removed the case to federal court, alleging that the corporation's Texas citizenship made it diverse from the Virginia plaintiffs. The Fourth Circuit held that Lincoln Property did not sufficiently allege diversity, because it did not state where the partnership's partners operate.

Maybe I'm missing something, but I'm pretty sure Professor Cohn taught us that a partnership is a citizen of all the states that its partners are citizens of. My real prediction is that this case is DIGed; if not, I think the Court will be AFFIRM.

* Update: I have determined that the Ipod Nano is hot.