High Court Returns With Cases on Race and Criminal Justice

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The Supreme Court returned to the bench today to face a volatile docket, the New York Times reports. The new term’s cases “are not snoozers,” said Elizabeth Wydra of the liberal Constitutional Accountability Center. “This term features important cases about racial bias in the criminal justice system, voting rights and redistricting, immigration and detention, and accountability for big banks that engaged in racially discriminatory mortgage lending practices.” University of Chicago law Prof. Justin Driver said, “One item to keep an eye on … is the extent to which the Black Lives Matters movement makes its presence felt on the court’s docket.”

On Wednesday, the court will hear arguments in the death penalty case of Duane Buck, in which an expert witness said black men are more likely to present a risk of future danger. The court will decide whether Buck, who is black, may challenge his death sentence based on the ineffectiveness of the trial lawyer who presented that testimony. On Oct. 11, the court will consider another statement, this one ascribed to a juror during deliberations in a sexual assault trial. “I think he did it because he’s Mexican, and Mexican men take whatever they want,” the juror said of the defendant, according to a sworn statement from a second juror. The future of the eight-member court depends on the November election results. It is possible that the Senate could confirm Judge Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee to replace the late Antonin Scalia, in a lame-duck session.

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