Friday, March 21, 2008


Although the big news from SCOTUS this week, was, of course, the Heller argument, the Court also handed down decisions in two constitutional cases.  In Snyder v. Louisiana, the Court found (in an opinion by Justice Alito) that a state trial court had committed clear error in rejecting a defense Batson challenge to the prosecution's use of a preemptory strike on a black prospective juror.  In Washington State Grange v. Washington State Republican Party, the Court upheld (in an opinion by Justice Thomas) against a facial First Amendment challenge (focusing on the associational rights of political parties) a Washington primary scheme that allows candidates to designate their "party preference" on the ballot and that advances the top two vote winners for an office, regardless of party designation, to the general election.

Synder is somewhat interesting because it basically mandates that a trial judge who, in applying the process* for determining whether a prosecutor has used a preemptory strike based on the race of a prospective juror, believes the prosecutor's stated non-discriminatory grounds must articulate on the record why he believes the prosecutor.  That's not a terribly burdensome new legal requirement, but I wonder how many trial judges across the nation tend to reject Batson challenges without much explanation.

(By the way, Synder was the case where the prosecutor made  remarks comparing that case to the O.J. Simpson case.  Alas, because of the way the Court decided the case it didn't need to discuss that factor.)

As for Washington State Grange, I might say more about it after I read the opinion over the weekend.  Or perhaps not.  From a skim of syllabus it looks rather dull.


*  "First, a defendant must make a prima facie showing that a peremptory challenge has been exercised on the basis of race. Second, if that showing has been made, the prosecution must offer a race-neutral basis for striking the juror in question. Third, in light of the parties’ submissions, the trial court must determine whether the defendant has [proven] purposeful discrimination."

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