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October 06, 2014

Supreme Court Cases To Watch

I wrote up a list of cases to watch at the Supreme Court this term for Hot Air. As I noted over there, the hottest cases haven't actually been accepted for review. No same-sex marriage, no Obamacare subsidies, no Texas HB2—yet. There's a good chance some of that will make its way to 1 First Street this term, though.

Although, in a surprise move, the high court declined to accept any of the seven petitions pending in gay marriage cases. Translation: same-sex marriage is coming to Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia, Indiana, and Wisconson . . . plus the rest of the states in the 4th, 7th, and 10th Circuits.

In the meantime, the Supreme Court is starting with a Fourth Amendment conundrum:

1. Heien v. North Carolina, to be heard today.

The issue in the first case to be heard this term is whether a police officer’s mistake of law can provide the individualized suspicion that the Fourth Amendment requires to justify a traffic stop. A police officer pulled Heien and a friend over for driving with only one working brake light, which, contrary to the police officer’s belief, wasn’t unlawful in North Carolina. During the unauthorized-by-law traffic stop, the police officer asked if he could search Heien’s car. Heien agreed (which makes us 2 for 2 when it comes to people behaving questionably in this case), and the search turned up a little plastic baggy of cocaine. At trial, Heien wanted to suppress the cocaine since the police officer had no lawful basis for the traffic stop in the first place.

The Supreme Court of North Carolina, in a split decision, held that the cocaine did not have to be suppressed because the police officer’s mistake of law was “reasonable.” Heien argues that this was error, relying in part on the contention that the police must at least be held to the same standard as ordinary citizens: “ignorance of the law is no excuse.”

Click over for the rest of my list.

Oh, and my pal Chris Geidner has his own list of cases to watch, which doesn't quite overlap with mine.

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posted by Gabriel Malor at 09:52 AM

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