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SCOTUS Releases October Oral Arg Schedule, Promises Interesting Cases

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on July 30, 2015 3:35 PM

For those of you who can't wait for the Supreme Court to get back from summer recess, there's some good news. No, the Court hasn't decided to call its vacation off. But it has released the schedule for the first oral arguments of the 2015 term.

All told, the Court will hear 11 cases in its first sitting. The topics covered range from relatively mundane to pretty dang interesting. Here's a quick overview of a few of the best:

Ocasio v. United States, Tuesday, October 6th

The Court is starting off with something interesting for its first oral argument of the next term. Ocasio is an appeal from the Fourth Circuit, where the court held the conviction of Baltimore police officer Samuel Ocasio for extortion and conspiracy to commit extortion under the Hobbs Act.

In the kickback scheme at issue, auto shop owners paid Baltimore police to refer accident victims to their shop. The payments were between both sides of the extortion scheme -- accident victims weren't bilked by the cops, only the auto shop. The Fourth ruled that lack of third party payment doesn't prevent a conspiracy to commit extortion conviction, contrary to what the Sixth Circuit had ruled in 2007.

Kansas v. Carr and Hurst v. Florida, Wednesday, October 7th and Tuesday, October 13th

These cases (three in total, as Kansas v. Carr is a consolidated case) address the role of the jury in death sentences. Kansas v. Carr will examine whether sentencing two brothers to death, in one trial, violated their right to "individualized sentencing." The Kansas Supreme Court had ruled that it did. In hearing Carr, the Court will also address whether a jury must be specifically instructed that mitigating circumstances need not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

The Florida case involves a challenge to Florida's death penalty sentencing scheme. In Florida, a judge may find aggravating factors necessary to impose death. A death row inmate challenges scheme, arguing that it violates the Court's 2002 holding in Ring v. Arizona, where the Court ruled that a sentencing judge cannot find aggravating circumstances without the involvement of a jury.

FERC v. Electric Power Supply Association, Wednesday October 14th

This case involves a challenge to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's "demand response" rules. FERC had attempted to improve energy efficiency by incentivizing retail customers to reduce electricity consumption at peak times -- by reimbursing consumers who reduce their power usage. Power suppliers hated the rules and the D.C. Circuit struck them down last year, saying that the ability to regulate retails sales of electric power was reserved to the states.

Which cases are you most interested in seeing next term? Let us know via Twitter (@FindLawLP) or Facebook (FindLaw for Legal Professionals).

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