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Four years ago, in Miller v. Alabama, the Supreme Court ruled that mandatory life sentences without parole were an unconstitutional violation of the Eighth Amendment. Since then, there has been significant debate about Miller's reach: are automatic life without parole sentences verboten only for offenders sentenced after the Court's ruling, or should childhood offenders from long ago be given the opportunity of parole?

Today (while the rest of Washington took the day off to shovel itself out of the snow) the Court settled the debate, ruling that Miller applied retroactively and that all mandatory life without parole sentences for juveniles are unconstitutional, whether the sentencing took place five days or 50 years ago.

The status of Puerto Rico was front and center in the Supreme Court on Wednesday, as the justices heard arguments in Puerto Rico v. Valle. On its face, the case is about whether the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico can prosecute a criminal, already tried by the federal government, without violating the Constitution's prohibition on double jeopardy. Puerto Rico says yes. The federal government and Luis M. Sanchez Valle, who faced federal and Puerto Rican charges related weapons trafficking, say no.

More broadly, however, the case is about how Puerto Rico fits into the American system of government. Is it a semi-independent sovereign, not wholly unlike the federal states, capable of pursuing justice under its own laws, drawn from the consent of its own people? Or simply a semi-colonial territory, under the control of the federal government? After Wednesday's oral arguments, things don't look too good for la isla del encanto.

Florida's capital punishment sentencing scheme is unconstitutional, the Supreme Court ruled this morning. In an 8-1 opinion authored by Justice Sotomayor, the Court found that Florida violated the Sixth Amendment by allowing a judge and not a jury to make the final determination over whether a defendant should be put to death.

Florida employs a "hybrid" capital sentencing structure, where a jury recommends the death penalty but a judge decides whether a defendant shall ultimately face execution. Today's ruling rejects that scheme and highlights the central role jurors must play when courts impose the death penalty.

SCOTUS Hears Arguments: Can Gov't Freeze Money to Pay Lawyers?

Today the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments for the case of Luis v. United States, a case of first impression for SCOTUS that asks probing questions about the role of government forfeiture of personal assets.

The legal issue at the core of Luis is this: Can prosecutors freeze all of the defendant's assets even if they are unrelated to any criminal activity and even if freezing them would hinder the defendant's ability to hire counsel?

The Supreme Court sided with a Texas police officer this Monday, ruling that he had qualified immunity for shooting at, and killing, a fleeing suspect. In an unsigned, 8-1 per curiam opinion, the Court agreed that state trooper Chadrin Mullenix didn't violate any clearly established constitutional rights when opened fire on a vehicle fleeing from the police, killing the driver.

The sole dissenting voice was that of Justice Sotomayor, who argued that an untrained officer, firing into the dark at oncoming traffic, certainly violated unmistakable Fourth Amendment rights.

This November begins with a bang in the Supreme Court. While the rest of us are still nursing our Halloween candy hangovers, the High Court is hearing two of the year's most interesting cases, Foster and Spokeo.

Foster deals with race and jury selection, specifically whether a prosecutor's use of peremptory challenges to strike all black candidates from a jury is prohibited racial discrimination. (We'll get to Spokeo tomorrow.) So, how'd things go?

SCOTUS Revisits Racism in Jury Selection

Almost three decades have passed since the nation's highest court declared that peremptory strikes on the basis of race are a violation of equal protection. In little less than a week, SCOTUS will revisit the issue of racism in jury selection again.

The Supreme Court's review of Foster v. Humphreys is the latest case to highlight what some have called a double standard of justice against blacks in American courts even with the ruling in Batson v. Kentucky.

The death penalty's days are numbered, at least if you trust Justice Scalia's predictions. Speaking at the University of Minnesota Law School, the justice said it "wouldn't surprise" him if the High Court declared capital punishment unconstitutional in the near future.

His statement drew applause, CBS Minnesota reports, but Justice Scalia is no opponent of capital punishment. He has repeatedly condemned attempts to make executions more difficult through "labyrinthine restrictions" -- a sort of "abolition by a million cuts" approach. If the Court's attitudes are changing as quickly as Justice Scalia indicates, that incremental strategy might not be necessary.

Should Juries Recommend Capital Punishment? SCOTUS Will Decide

The US Supreme Court ushered in a new term yesterday morning with a bevy of polarizing social issues: the death penalty, affirmative action, and contraception.

The Court's docket this year is already furnished with two cases of particular significance regarding capital punishment. The Court will answer this question: is a jury the correct body for recommending capital punishment?

Here's something you don't see -- well, ever? A cadre of ex-government prosecutors, including 20 former Justice Department officials, has filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court accusing current federal prosecutors of violating the Constitution by withholding evidence regarding a key witness. The claims made in the brief aren't in themselves uncommon, but it's unprecedented to see them made by former federal prosecutors against their current-prosecutor colleagues in the Justice Department.

The brief, signed by former officials from the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations, was submitted to support the cert petition of George Georgiou, a Canadian businessman convicted of securities fraud in 2010, after prosecutors failed to disclose evidence regarding the credibility of a government witness.