ACS Supreme Court Preview Video: Panelists Touch on Early Cases Before High Court

September 20, 2010
The justices are set to hear high-profile criminal justice and First Amendment cases early in its forthcoming term, which starts Oct. 4. Those cases, and others, were analyzed during the recent ACS Supreme Court preview.

Cynthia Jones, a law professor at American University Washington College of law, said that the Supreme Court has struggled with cases involving criminal defendants and use of DNA evidence to prove their innocence. She noted a case that may move the high court to provide more guidance on the matter.

In Skinner v. Switzer, which the justices will hear oral argument in on Oct. 13, the high court is faced with a Texas death row inmate who is challenging a state law that bars him from forcing the state to test DNA evidence he says could prove he is innocent. Jones said the Supreme Court may have to deal again with the question of whether there are indeed "correctable flaws in the criminal justice system."

Cliff Sloan, partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, and a frequent commentator on the Supreme Court, discussed two First Amendment cases the high court will consider early in its term -- Snyder v. Phelps and Schwarzenegger v. Entertainment Merchants Assoc.

In Snyder the justices will consider whether the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit correctly applied the First Amendment in setting aside a $5 million jury verdict against an anti-gay group led by Kansas preacher Fred Phelps. Phelps and members of his church have a longtime practice of picketing funerals of soldiers who have died in military action in Iraq and Afghanistan. Phelps alleges that America is advancing equal rights for gays and is being punished for doing so by God. After his church, which is largely made up of members of his extended family, picketed the funeral of Marine Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder in Maryland, his father, Albert, sued Phelps, winning the $5 million jury verdict. Sloan also noted Schwarzenegger v. Entertainment Merchants Assoc., involving a federal court striking down a California law barring the sale of violent video games to minors. He said was not surprised that the high court would hear a case involving a federal court invalidating a state law.

Video of the entire panel discussion is available here or by clicking the picture. Moderated by University of Southern California law school professor Rebecca Brown, the panel also included David Fredrick, partner, Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd, Evans & Figel, Michael A. Carvin, partner, Jones, Day, Cyrus Mehri, founding partner, Mehri & Skalet, Jennifer Chang, staff attorney, ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project, and Paul R. Q. Wolfson, partner, WilmerHale.