Wednesday, February 20, 2002

supreme court actions

There are many more cases brought before the US Supreme Court every year than they have time to hear. What does the Court think about when deciding whether or not to hear a case? How is a request made to the Court? The answer to the first question is sometimes difficult to ascertain, though there's no denying that the chosen cases are interesting.. The second is easier to answer. You file a Writ of Certiorari when asking them to review a decision from a lower court. You can also try to file a Writ of Certiorari before a judgment has been filed in a case. The court has total discretion over which cases they will hear.

Recent decisions made by the Court can be found on the Slip Opinions page from the Court's web site. Orders on writs of certiorari are found on another page. Four writs were issued today (pdf), and I counted 417 being denied (I may have missed a couple).

Here's some information on a couple of the ones granted:

Eldred v. Ashcroft
The writ of certiorari raises the following questions:

  • Did the D.C. Circuit err in holding that Congress has the power under the Copyright Clause to extend retrospectively the term of existing copyrights?

  • Is a law that extends the term of existing and future copy-rights “categorically immune from challenge under the First Amendment?

  • May a circuit court consider arguments raised by amici, different from arguments raised by a party, on a claim properly raised by a party?

The counsel of record in the case is Lawrence Lessig, and the lead plaintiff builds free web libraries based upon public domain works. A nice summation of the case can be found in the Wired article; High Court Hears Copyright Case.

John Doe v. Ronald Otte and Bruce Botelho

The impact of the original ruling in the Alaska Court of Appeals has a possible impact upon many of the states that have online registries of sex offenders.
U. S. District Court Judge H. Russel Holland issued a preliminary injunction on January 29, 2002, enjoining the state from the enforcement of the Alaska Sex Offender Registration Act against persons whose crimes were committed before August 10, 1994. This website is now limited to information about persons who committed qualifying offenses on or after August 10, 1994.

Guam was forced to remove 75 per cent of their registered profiles. The docket of the case shows that the writ was filed on November 21, 2001, and that California filed an amici curiae brief.

The Supreme Court will hear the case in the next term which begins in October. The controversy is over whether people who were convicted of crimes before the registration law went into effect should be required to register, and shown on the website registrar.
- William Slawski