New Supreme Court Term Heavy On Criminal Justice Issues


In their new term beginning Monday, Supreme Court justices will hear what the New York Times calls “an extraordinary set of cases that together amount to a project that could overhaul almost every part of the criminal justice system.” The court will decide whether the police need a warrant for advanced technology to track suspects, whether jails may strip-search people arrested for even minor offenses, whether defendants have a right to competent lawyers to help them decide whether to plead guilty, when eyewitness evidence may be used at trial, and what should happen when prosecutors withhold evidence.

“The Supreme Court has positioned itself to improve the quality of the criminal justice process from beginning to end,” said Hofstra law Prof. Eric Freedman. The court also has a number of First Amendment cases and potentially deciding the legality of President Obama’s health care program. For now, with a relative absence of major civil cases, the justices are focused on criminal ones, especially concerning the Fourth Amendment's protections against unreasonable searches and the Sixth Amendment's guarantee of a fair trial.

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