Supreme Court hands down five more decisions | WORLD
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Supreme Court hands down five more decisions


WORLD Radio - Supreme Court hands down five more decisions

The justices rule on cases involving a visa for a non-citizen spouse, hearsay evidence, armed career criminals, drug smuggling, and malicious prosecution

U.S. Supreme Court building Associated Press/Photo by Mariam Zuhaib, File

MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Tuesday the 25th of June, 2024.

Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher.

I’ve got to say something quickly: Got word from our development team who were blown away by your response to the double match last week. Ready for this: More than $300-thousand-dollars just in that week, and that puts us in a really good spot for this last week of the drive. But, really, we had no idea that that would be the response, but it was and it gets doubled. So very big impact and, as I say, I think it sets us up for a really strong finish this week. So again, thank you so much for that big vote of confidence. Thank you! Very encouraging, and we’re excited for a big week this week to strengthen Christian journalism!

Well, first up on The World and Everything in It: more analysis of opinions handed down last week by the U.S. Supreme Court.

First, a loss for an American citizen who sued to get her non-citizen spouse a visa to enter the United States.

Sandra Muñoz married a man from El Salvador, but the state department had reason to believe he was affiliated with the MS-13 gang. So it denied him a visa.

REICHARD: Muñoz sued, arguing the consular gave no reason for the denial and that she has a constitutional right to live with her spouse.

A majority six justices disagreed. Just one friend of the court brief was filed in support of the government here. It’s from the Immigration Reform Law Institute. I called up one of its lawyers, Chris Hajec:

CHRIS HAJEC: It primarily says that there's no fundamental right to live in the United States with one's spouse. There might be a fundamental right to marriage, but there is no right to have your spouse come into the country to live with you if that person is already inadmissible.

In other words, visa denials don’t implicate the rights of U.S. citizens even though the right to marry is fundamental.

The record shows the State Department looked into the matter on different occasions and still reached the same decision.

HAJEC: What the petitioner was really asking for was a right to bring a dangerous alien into the country, and the court found that there's nothing in the Constitution that allows people to do that.

EICHER: Muñoz eventually did learn the specific reason the consular denied the visa. The couple disputes that her husband is a gang member, but the doctrine of consular nonreviewability stands.

Hajec says this ruling comports with other instances of marital separation:

HAJEC: It doesn’t burden marriage for instance when one spouse goes to prison. They don't get released from prison to live with their spouse based on the fundamental rights of marriage. And it's the same sort of thing here. We have to be able to protect ourselves against dangerous aliens, and we have to be able to do it without too much red tape and constant reviewability and appeals and everything else, because that makes it the system less effective.

REICHARD: I’ll say I read some negative commentary on this ruling. Law professor Ilya Somen over at for example wrote that opinion writer Justice Amy Coney Barrett relied on dubious history to reach the conclusion here. Still, even the dissenting liberal justices agreed the government had justification to deny the visa here, based on evidence of ties to MS-13.

But so far as I can tell, Muñoz’s case is over and her husband won’t be entering the US…at least in the legal way.

EICHER: Ok, next opinion: a unanimous bench in Smith v Arizona sends a dispute about hearsay evidence back to lower court.

Here, a forensic scientist tested items seized in a drug bust involving a criminal defendant named Jason Smith. She submitted a written report on her findings that someone else testified about in court.

Smith claimed violation of his right to cross-examine adverse witnesses in court under the Sixth Amendment.

REICHARD: So he sued and now has a partial win. He can proceed in lower court to decide how the absent expert’s statement is being used. Is it testimony? If so, that’s what triggers the right to confront that person in court.

EICHER: Now onto opinion three: Erlinger v US. It’s a 6-3 win for criminal defendants who are sentenced under the Armed Career Criminal Act, or ACCA. Federal law already prohibits someone with a felony conviction to possess a firearm. What ACCA does upon a fourth conviction is add more prison time just for that gun possession crime.

REICHARD: Those prior offenses have to be committed on “different occasions,” and that’s the question here. Paul Erlinger argued his string of burglaries was really just one crime spree, not separate crimes that would trigger ACCA.

Adam Feldman is a professor and legal scholar who runs a blog called Empirical SCOTUS. I called him up.

ADAM FELDMAN: And the court clarified that it can't be just a judge that makes these decisions. It has to come from unanimous juries. So there was a question between precedents in the past about how these things could be determined, and the precedents went in different directions. So this is one of the many cases that has clarified aspects of the Armed Career Criminal Act and ways that sentencing can work moving forward.

EICHER: A bit of an aside, but important: the line up in the majority wasn’t what many might expect. The conservative majority that stuck together to overturn Roe and in the Bruen decision that expanded gun rights, didn’t hang together here.

FELDMAN: Well, I think what we're seeing right now is that there's a farther right, farther left, and more moderate right. You have Justice Jackson in dissent and the other two liberal justices in the majority, and you have Alito in dissent and Kavanaugh in dissent. So in terms of somebody like myself who follows the breakdown of the justices and how they vote, this was pretty irregular.

At any rate, Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote the majority opinion and quoted John Adams as seeing “representative government and trial by jury as the heart and lungs of liberty.”

REICHARD: Next to Diaz versus US, and another 6-3 opinion that crosses ideological lines. It’s a loss for a Delilah Diaz, a woman stopped at the southern border in a car carrying more than $300,000 worth of meth inside the door panels.

She said she had no idea the drugs were in there.

Prosecutors at her trial brought in an agent from Homeland Security to testify that drug cartels wouldn’t trust a big haul like that to someone unaware. Too much business at stake.

EICHER: Delilah Diaz argued that violated a rule of evidence. You can’t have some expert give an opinion about her mental state based on group generalities.

But the majority disagreed, and would allow testimony regarding the mental state of people in a similar situation.

REICHARD: To find out why, I called up a lawyer who filed a friend of the court brief in support of the government here, Emily Murphy. She particularly cited the concurrence on Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson:

EMILY MURPHY: She's a former Federal Public Defender who's really familiar with these kinds of cases and with what juries are asked to do every day. Two, she's often, you know, considered one of the court's liberal wings, but her concurrence is really interesting because she picked up on the nuances of this. That the rule itself applies to both experts that are brought by the government trying to convict someone, but it also applies to experts brought by defendants. Sometimes criminal defendants might want to bring an expert who helps explain to the jury the way most, for example, battered spouses would react in a given situation. And because the rule cuts both ways, it applies to both the government and to criminal defendants, she thought that keeping the rule intact would be kind of the best outcome for justice on all sides.

EICHER: On to the final opinion for today in Chiaverini v City of Napoleon. Here, a majority six ruled in favor of a man who faced several criminal charges based on probable cause, but there was one charge against him where authorities lacked probable cause. In that instance, the high court says he’s allowed to pursue a claim for malicious prosecution.

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