The Supreme Court's term begins today, and as always, it will be marked by the ritualistic entry of the justices into the majestic courtroom, followed by the airing of grievances and feats of strength. Whoops, no, that's not how it goes. Instead, Justice Thomas will give his customary long-winded dissertation greeting the assembled masses.
Seriously, the Court will begin its term with oral arguments this week in several criminal cases, including Martinez v. Ryan, which presents the issue of when an indigent defendant is entitled to appointed counsel on appeal. The Court's previously held that the right to assigned counesel only attaches to an appeal "as of right," and doesn't include discretionary appeals or collateral proceedings. Arizona, though, allows a defendant to pursue claims of ineffective assistance of counsel only in post-conviction relief, and so the question then becomes whether he's entitled to appointed counsel for this purpose, since it essentially serves the same function as an appeal as of right on that claim. Maples v. Thomas presents an appalling case of form over substance: Maples was sentenced to death, and a court clerk mailed the papers denying his latest claim of relief to his attorneys. They'd withdrawn from the case without notifying Maples or the court, though, and never filed the necessary papers to appeal that decision. The 11th Circuit held that this didn't excuse Maple's "procedural default," essentially nullifying his habeas claim. I'll have more on these cases after oral argument.
The Columbus Seven swing back into action this week, with the 8th District's decision in State v. Ginley among the cases slated for argument. In Ginley, the State sought to have the trial judge declare a recanting witness in a domestic violence case a court's witness under EvidR 614, which would have allowed the State to impeach her with her statement. The judge declined, and the State's appeal to the 8th District was rejected. The case presents somewhat of a procedural quagmire: the 8th actually rejected the State's leave to appeal, and there are questions of whether the judge's order was even appealable. That will get fleshed out on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the court will take up State v. Monford, in which the defendant's lawyer (who died before trial and was replaced by another attorney) filed pleas of not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity in an aggravated murder case. Monford was convicted, with no evidence presented on the issue of insanity, but the defense was never formally withdrawn, and Monford appealed, claiming that it was structural error not to charge the jury on the defense. The 10th District didn't buy it, and I've read none of the law or the briefs, but the early line on this one is take the State and give the points.
On to the courts of appeals, where that's also a pretty good rule of thumb...
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