The Dobbs Wire: News from the Supreme Court

News from the US Supreme Court:  There’s much interest in two cases the US Supreme Court has been asked to review – Doe v. Snyder which concerns Michigan’s sex offense registry law, and Karsjens v. Piper which concerns Minnesota’s sex offense civil commitment law.  This morning the court issued a list of cases it WILL review, *neither* of the sex offense cases made the list.  In the days ahead another list will be released, cases the court has decided it will NOT review and we’ll see if either sex offense case makes that list.  There’s another possibility –  sometimes the court holds cases until it makes a decision.  That’s what happened with Packingham v. North Carolina which concerned North Carolina’s law banning registrants from social media – the court discussed the case in four private conferences until granting review.  So stay tuned for further news!  More on these cases and how the court works in the two essays below, have a look.  –Bill Dobbs, The Dobbs Wire



Reason | Sept. 27, 2017

Will SCOTUS Let Fear of Sex Offenders Trump Justice?

Two cases give the Court a chance to reconsider its counterintuitive conclusions about commitment and registration.


By Jacob Sullum


Excerpts:  According to the U.S. Supreme Court, locking up sex offenders after they have completed their sentences is not punishment, and neither is branding them as dangerous outcasts for the rest of their lives. Two cases the Court could soon agree to hear give it an opportunity to reconsider, or at least qualify, those counterintuitive conclusions.


Karsjens v. Piper is a challenge to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP), which since 1994 has confined more than 700 people who were deemed too “sexually dangerous” to release after serving their prison terms. Although these detainees are supposedly patients rather than inmates, in more than two decades only one of them has ever been judged well enough to regain his freedom.


The Michigan case gives the Supreme Court a chance to reconsider its reliance on bogus recidivism numbers as well as its conclusion that the punitive effects of registries are merely incidental. As the 6th Circuit noted, that position becomes increasingly hard to maintain as states heap additional burdens on registered sex offenders, making it impossible for them to live normal lives without making the public measurably safer. MORE:



Empirical SCOTUS | Sept. 27, 2017

Petitions to Watch For From SCOTUS’ Long Conference


By Adam Feldman


Each October before the Supreme Court begins its term, the justices meet for the “long conference” to review the Court’s agenda.  The justice held this conference for the upcoming term two days ago on September 25th.  During this conference the justices meet to discuss petitions to the Court for the upcoming term. 


This is the largest set of petitions that the justices and clerks wade through each term as the justices haven’t met since June to discuss pending petitions.  The number of petitions sorted through during this conference is typically over 1,000 with the vast majority denied.  This glut of cert petitions eventually is winnowed down to a small list of granted cases. 


In the past certain characteristics have pointed to cases that have greater likelihood of review and grants than others.  Two of these characteristics are whether any amicus briefs were filed at the cert stage and whether an elite Supreme Court attorney was involved at the cert stage.  This post looks at the petitions with such associated characteristics that will in all likelihood at least minimally garner serious review.  MORE:





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