U.S. Supreme Court Update
The Big Court is three months into its 2021-2022 term. There are only three cases to report on: two have already been resolved, and there is one to watch.
The Court has already, without oral argument, reversed the 9th Circuit and the 10th Circuit concerning lawsuits against police officers in California and Oklahoma. The Court sent the matters back for another look and reminded those federal appellate courts that to deny qualified immunity to government employees, the court has to point to a past case with nearly the exact same facts. Only with such a case can a court then hold that a reasonable police officer would have known that his or her actions would be unlawful. See City of Tahlequah v. Bond, Docket No. 20-1668; Rivas-Villegas v. Cortesluna, Docket No. 20-1539.
Late last week, the Court accepted the only other street law enforcement case this term: Vega v. Tekho, Docket No. 21-499, involves a California sheriff deputy being sued for failing to give the Miranda warning to a suspect. When the suspect was later acquitted by a jury, the suspect sued the officer alleging that the Miranda warning is a constitutional right and that he was damaged by the officer’s failure. A 9th Circuit panel agreed with the suspect. Because there is currently a split in the federal circuit courts about whether the Miranda warning is a right, or only a court prophylactic rule of evidence admission, the Big Court accepted the case to decide. Kansas is in the 10th Circuit and the 10th has previously held that the Miranda warning is a rule and not a constitutional right. Oral argument on Vega has not yet been set but we should have a decision by summer. Interesting question. Reviewing the long line of the Big Court’s Miranda warning cases, it will not be surprising if the 9th Circuit is reversed.