The Supreme Court has fewer significant criminal law cases on its 2008-09 docket so far than it did last term, says the National Law Journal. In the death penalty area alone last year, justices decided cases involving lethal injections, capital punishment for rape of a child, and the effect of international treaty violations on state criminal procedures. “I think last term was ‘criminal-heavy,’ ” said Ohio State University law Prof. Douglas Berman. “I won’t say they’re tired of this, but by design or happenstance, they’ve ended up with cases somewhat below the radar screen.” Perhaps the most immediate, high-profile issue is whether to reconsider last term’s ruling striking down capital punishment for the crime of child rape.
The court each term grapples with Fourth Amendment search issues; four are slotted for argument. The issues: Whether evidence must be suppressed when police make an arrest based on a good-faith reliance on faulty information; whether the warrantless search of a man’s car after he was handcuffed and placed in a squad car was unreasonable; whether police violated the Fourth Amendment when, after making a routine stop for a suspended license, they searched a man; whether the “consent once removed” doctrine applies when a police informant, making a drug sale in a suspect’s home, signals police, who then enter and search the home without a warrant.