This week alone, the Court denied certiorari in three cases that would have made for interesting arguments.
Let’s take a look at a few of the most recent rejects.
De Facto Life Sentences. In 2010, the Court ruled in Graham v. Florida that the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause does not permit a juvenile offender to be sentenced to life in prison without parole for a nonhomicide crime. Last year, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals held in Bunch v. Smith that “consecutive, fixed-term sentences for juveniles who have committed multiple nonhomicide offenses are unconstitutional when they amount to the practical equivalent of life without parole.” Are those two holdings at odds with one another? Who knows? The Court announced this week that it wouldn’t address de facto life sentences for juvenile offenders, the ABA Journal reports.
Separation of Church and Church. In The Presbytery of Ohio Valley, Inc., et al. v. OPC, Inc., petitioners asked the Court resolve a dispute between to Olivet Presbyterian Church and Presbyterian Church U.S.A. after the former split from the latter and the latter claimed a trust on the former’s property. This could have been an interesting follow-up to the Court’s decision in Jones v. Wolf, holding that a state is constitutionally entitled to adopt a “neutral principles of law” analysis when considering the disposition of church property.
While the Court passed on these cases, it granted one new case, Burrage v. United States, in which it will decide whether the crime of distribution of drugs causing death under 21 U.S.C. § 841 is a strict liability crime, without a foreseeability or proximate cause requirement.