Supreme Court Notebook

Poor litigants less likely to reach the U.S. Supreme Court

BOSTON (Daily Record Newswire)-- Poor litigants -- including prisoners -- are 30 percent less likely to have their cases heard by the U.S. Supreme Court than those with money, a Michigan State University study has found.

"My research question was, 'what influences the Supreme Court's decision to grant or deny review of a case?'" said MSU senior Sydney Hawthorne, who won a special research apprenticeship to conduct the study with the help of faulty members. "There are thousands of cases each year that want to get reviewed before the Supreme Court, so how do they beat the odds?"

After analyzing hundreds of certiorari petitions filed with the Court, the research team discovered that Supreme Court granted review in about 8 percent of all paid petitions, but in only 1 percent of pauper petitions.

Prof. Ryan Black said the study demonstrates the importance of having a good lawyer. The Supreme Court is more likely to grant cert in cases that have wide policy implications, and a good attorney is better equipped to recognize and frame an issue to pique the justices' interest. And good lawyers cost money.

"The whole decision process is pretty one-sided to begin with," Black said in a press release announcing the study's results. "But if you're at the bottom of the food chain, it's pretty dismal in terms of odds."

The researchers also found that unpublished lower court opinions were 50 percent less likely to be heard by the nation's highest court.

Second Amendment to get second SCOTUS look?

BOSTON (Daily Record Newswire) -- The news U.S. Supreme Court term is already set to be one for the record books with issues like immigration reform, same-sex marriage rights, the constitutionality of warrantless GPS tracking and the health care law all on tap. But there could be another high profile issue before the justices - again: the Second Amendment.

The Washington Post's Robert Barnes reports that since the Court handed down rulings in DC v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago that the individual right to own firearms applies in federal, state and local laws, gun rights proponents have actually been losing challenges in lower courts.

A plethora of lawsuits have been filed seeking to strike down gun control laws, but according to a report by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence titled "Hallow Victory?" the courts are applying Heller and McDonald in a very narrow way.

"Three years and more than 400 legal challenges later, courts -- so far -- have held that the Supreme Court's ruling in Heller was narrow and limited, and that the Second Amendment does not interfere with the people's right to enact legislation protecting families and communities from gun violence," the report stated.

That all could mean the Supreme Court could get a second shot and deciding just when gun control laws run afoul of the Second Amendment. As stated in a Maryland Court of Appeals ruling: "If the Supreme Court ...meant its holding to extend beyond home possession, it will need to say so more plainly."

Published: Fri, Aug 19, 2011


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