News 2003

June 5 : March 7 : March 5

June 5, 2003

  • USSC Chavez v. Martinez Decision
    On Tuesday, May 27, the Supreme Court issued its long awaited decision in Chavez v. Martinez. The case involved a civil rights suit by an arrestee against a police officer for questioning him without complying with the Miranda rule. The arrestee was never prosecuted, and his statement was never used in a criminal case.

    Although the Court was deeply divided, the following points can be pieced together from the several opinions:

    1. Questioning an arrestee without complying with the Miranda rule (reading warnings, ceasing questioning upon request) does not, by itself, violate the Fifth Amendment. A violation would only occur if and when the statements were used against the arrestee in a criminal case.

    2. Whether more severe questioning tactics by the police could violate the Fifth Amendment is not resolved.

    3. Extracting a confession by brutal means that "shocks the conscience" is a violation of the Due Process Clause and the civil rights statutes, as has long been established. (Brown v. Mississippi; Screws v. United States)

    The Ninth Circuit's decision in favor of the arrestee on Fifth Amendment grounds was reversed. The case was remanded for consideration of the Due Process claim.

March 7, 2003


    A divided Supreme Court upheld today long sentences meted out under California's three-strikes-and-you're-out law, ruling that a prison term of 25 years to life is not too harsh for a small-time thief who shoplifted golf clubs, the Associated Press reported. The court divided, 5-4, in two cases testing the limits of California's Proposition 184, intended to close the revolving prison door for criminals with lengthy, violent records. "When the California legislature enacted the three-strikes law, it made a judgment that protecting the public safety requires incapacitating criminals who have already been convicted of at least one serious or violent crime," Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote for the majority. The three-strikes law mandates a sentence ranging from 25 years to life in prison for defendants convicted of any felony if they have already been found guilty of two serious or violent felonies. In dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer said the lengthy sentence handed down to Gary Albert Ewing for stealing golf clubs is a rare example of a sentence that is so out of proportion to the crime that it is unconstitutional.

    Click to read the full opinion: Ewing v. California


    The Supreme Court ruled today that states may put pictures of convicted sex offenders on the Internet, a victory for states that use the Web to warn of potential predators in neighborhoods. In a separate narrow ruling, the Associated Press reported that the court turned back a challenge From offenders who argued they deserved a chance to prove they are not dangerous to avoid having their pictures and addresses put on the Internet. The 6-3 decisions came in the Supreme Court's first review of what are known as Megan's laws -- and have far-reaching implications because every state and the federal government have sex-offender registry laws. The cases, from Alaska and Connecticut, required justices to balance the rights of offenders with the public safety interest in keeping tabs on people who may commit more sex crimes. The court came down on the side of public safety in the Alaska case, but left the door open for future constitutional challenges of Megan's laws in the second case.

    Click to read the full opinions: Connecticut Dep't of Pub. Safety v. Doe & Smith v. Doe

March 5, 2003

  • Cybercrime Conference Transcripts

    The transcripts of the proceedings of the Federalist Society's full-day conference on Cybercrime issues have been posted. The Conference featured panels on Technological methods, International Cooperation and Public/Private Sector Cooperation and addresses by Hon. John Malcolm, U.S. Department of Justice and Hon. Claude Allen, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Please click HERE to access the transcript. (PDF)


2003 The Federalist Society