In this case [Overton v. Ohio (00-9769)], an Ohio woman claimed that a warrant police used to search her home (and subsequently uncovered controlled substances) was unconstitutional because it was not based on probable cause. Supreme Court Update - Week of October 15, 2001

It’s the middle of October and the U.S. Supreme Court continues to stay busy granting review in a number of cases. This week, the Court added three more cases to the docket.

The Court agreed to hear Watchtower Bible, Etc. v. Stratton, Ohio (No. 00-1737), a case involving whether a city ordinance requiring door-to-door solicitors (in this instance, Jehovah’s Witnesses) to obtain and display a permit with their name violates their First Amendment right of free expression and anonymous speech. The lower courts upheld the ordinance, opining that the city of Stratton had a valid interest in attempting to discourage fraud by canvassers and that the law did indeed apply to all canvassers, religious or not. Back in 1995, the Supreme Court ruled in McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission that activists have the constitutional right to hand out political literature anonymously. The Sixth Circuit ruled in Watchtower that a canvasser gives up his right to McIntyre-style anonymous speech when he chooses to present himself face- to- face to speak with people (for example, going door to door). The Supreme Court will focus solely on the provision of the city ordinance that requires canvassers to display their permits, and therefore their names, on demand.

The Court also granted review in Federal Maritime Commission v. South Carolina State Ports Authority (No. 01-46). The case involves the question of whether a state has constitutional immunity from private parties bringing lawsuits before federal administrative agencies. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Federal Maritime Commission did not have the authority to rule in a dispute between a cruise line and the South Carolina Ports Authority. The central issue in the case now before the Supreme Court is whether the immunity of a state encompasses any court, including federal administrative agencies.

The third case, Newland v. Saffold (No. 01-301), involves the filing of habeas petitions and the statute of limitations. At issue in this case is whether a California accused murderer should be given extra time to challenge his conviction. The California state Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act gives inmates a year to seek federal court review of their cases.

Also of note, the Court issued a five-page statement declining to hear the case Overton v. Ohio (00-9769), summarily overturning the case. In this case, an Ohio woman claimed that a warrant police used to search her home (and subsequently uncovered controlled substances) was unconstitutional because it was not based on probable cause. Even though four justices agreed to hear the case, the Court determined that it did not justify a grant, but the state court’s decision upholding the warrant should be reversed.

For the Supreme Court’s Website, please click here:

To view Tom Goldstein’s OT 2001 Case List please click here.

October 15, 2001
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