Pronouncements of the U.s. Supreme Court Relating to the Criminal Law Field: 1981-1982

Publication year1982
11 Colo.Law. 2327
Colorado Lawyer

1982, September, Pg. 2327. Pronouncements of the U.S. Supreme Court Relating to the Criminal Law Field: 1981-1982


Vol. 11, No. 9, Pg. 2327

Pronouncements of the U.S. Supreme Court Relating to the Criminal Law Field: 1981-1982

by William H. Erickson

Deputy Chief Justice

Colorado Supreme Court

[Please see hardcopy for image]
The author wishes to gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Stephen Baity, Daniel Bronson, Scott Johnson Jeremy Miller, Marlene Triggs, Steven Sharpe and Ted Allegra in the preparation of this article.





A. Right of Access to Criminal Trials

1. Globe Newspaper Co. v. Superior Court 2331

2. New dimensions on the right of access to criminal trials 2331

B. Child Pornography

1. New York v. Ferber 2332

C. Censorship of Books

1. Island Trees Community School District v. Pico 2333

D. Regulation of the Legal and Medical Professions

1. Advertising 2334

a. In The Matter of R.M.J 2334

b. American Medical Association v. Federal Trade Commission 2335

2. Federal Court Abstention in State Disciplinary Proceedings 2335

a. Middlesex County Ethics Committee v. Garden State Bar Association 2335

b. Other Approaches to Federal Court Abstention in State Disciplinary Proceedings 2336

3. The Impact of the First Amendment on Professional Codes 2336

E. Restrictions on the Electoral Process 2337

1. Brown v. Hartlage 2337


A. Plain View Exception to the Warrant Requirement

1. Washington v. Chrisman 2338

B. Automobile Exception to the Warrant Requirement

1. United States v. Ross 2338

2. The Automobile Exception from Carroll v. United States to United States v. Ross 2339

C. Exclusion of Evidence as the Fruit of an Illegal Arrest

1. Taylor v. Alabama 2340

D. Prospectivity and Retroactivity

1. United States v. Johnson 2341

2. Prospectivity and Retroactivity in Constitutional Decisions 2342


A. Double Jeopardy

1. Oregon v. Kennedy 2344

2. Tibbs v. Florida 2345

3. New Parameters for Double Jeopardy 2345

B. Due Process

1. United States v. Goodwin 2346

2. Lane v. Williams 2347

C. Impeachment

1. Fletcher v. Weir 2348


A. Speedy Trial

1. United States v. MacDonald 2348

2. Comparison of the Right to a Speedy Trial under the Fifth and Sixth Amendments 2349

B. Right to Compulsory Process

1. United States v. Valenzuela-Bernal 2349


A. Death Penalty

1. Mitigating and Aggravating Circumstances 2351

a. Eddings v. Oklahoma 2351

b. Zant v. Stephens 2351

2. Limitations on the Imposition of the Death Penalty in Felony Murder Cases 2352

a. Enmund v. Florida 2352

B. Excessive Bail

1. Murphy v. Hunt 2353


A. Jury Instructions on Lesser Included Offenses

1. Hopper v. Evans 2353

B. Right to an Impartial Jury

1. Smith v. Phillips 2354

C. Equal Protection for Non-Resident Aliens

1. Cabell v. Chavez-Salido 2354

D. Rights of the Mentally Retarded

1. Youngberg v. Romeo 2355

2. Mills v. Rogers 2356

E. Parental Rights

1. Standard of Proof in Termination Proceedings 2356

a. Santosky v. Kramer 2356

2. Equal Protection in Termination Proceedings 2357

a. Mills v. Habluetzel 2357


A. Habeas Corpus

1. Exhaustion of State Remedies under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 2358

a. Rose v. Lundy 2358

2. Preservation of Error as a Prerequisite to the Right to Habeas Corpus 2359


a. Engle v. Isaac 2359

3. Plain Error Standard under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 2360

a. United States v. Frady 2360

4. State Termination of Parental Rights 2361

a. Lehman v. Lycoming County Children's Services Agency 2361

5. Restrictions on Habeas Corpus Relief 2361

B. Presidental Immunity

1. Nixon v. Fitzgerald 2362

2. Harlow v. Fitzgerald 2363

C. National Stolen Property Act

1. McElroy v. United States 2364

D. False Statements under 18 U.S.C. § 1014

1. Williams v. United States 2364

E. Freedom of Information Act

1. Federal Bureau of Investigation v. Abramson 2365

F. Federal Youth Corrections Act

1. Ralston v. Robinson 2366

G. Unconstitutional Vagueness or Overbreadth

1. City of Mesquite v. Aladdin's Castle, Inc. 2367

2. Village of Hoffman Estates v. Flipside 2368

H. Civil Rights Actions (28 U.S.C. § 1983)

1. Public Defenders --- Color of State Law 2368

a. Polk County v. Dodson 2368

2. State Action 2369

a. Rendell-Barker v. Kohn 2369

b. Lugar v. Edmondson Oil Co. 2370


The ever-expanding caseload of the United States Supreme Court was reflected in a torrent of last-minute decisions released during the final weeks of the 1981-82 term. The Court was presented with 5,178 cases for review during its nine month term; the Court heard arguments in 184 cases, and a record 143 full decisions were announced. In the last three weeks of the term, the Court issued 58 decisions --- a full 40 percent of those released during the term. As in past years, the stampede to adjournment before the July 4th weekend reflected a number of divided decisions that were released only after a myriad of dissents and special concurrences were written to establish the individual position of a Justice on a particular issue.

A. The Current Term

Many of the Court's most important rulings this year seemed to be characterized more by the product of fragile and shifting coalitions among the Justices than by any overriding vision of the law or the United States Constitution. Among the numerous 5-4 decisions during the 1981-82 term relating to the criminal law field were two decisions concerning the constitutionality of the death penalty under the cruel and unusual punishment clause of the Eighth Amendment. In Eddings v. California, ___U.S. ___, 102 S.Ct. 869, 71 L.Ed.2d 1 (1982), the Court ruled that the death penalty was unconstitutional for a juvenile murderer who had not been allowed to offer mitigating evidence relating to his deprived background at trial. And in Enmunds v. Florida, 50 U.S.L.W. 5087 (June 29, 1982), a bare majority of the Court declared that the death penalty was unconstitutionally imposed on an accomplice to a robbery in which a murder took place because the accomplice neither committed the murder nor intended death to result from the robbery. The decision in Enmunds invalidated the laws of Florida and eight other states --- California, Georgia, Mississippi, Nevada, South Carolina, Tennessee, Washington, and Wyoming --- that have permitted the death penalty for a participant in a felony murder who neither committed the actual murder nor had a culpable mental state for murder.

In addition, the Court rendered a 5-4 decision in Nixon v. Fitzgerald, ___U.S. ___, 102 S.Ct. 2690, ___L.Ed.2d ___(1982), where the President of the United States was held to be absolutely immune from civil suit for illegal or unconstitutional acts taken during his term. In an opinion by Justice Lewis F. Powell, the Court overturned a lower court ruling in a suit against former President Richard M. Nixon, declaring that "absolute Presidential immunity" is a "functionally mandated incident of the President's unique office, rooted in the constitutional tradition of the separation of powers and supported by our history." In a companion case, Harlow v. Fitzgerald, ___U.S. ___, 102 S.Ct. 2727, ___L.Ed.2d ___(1982), the Court refused to accord the same absolute immunity to top Presidential advisors. But, in Harlow, the Justices effectively rewrote the law of "qualified immunity" that applies to most federal and state officials, making it substantially more likely that courts will dismiss suits against such officials before trial.

In another significant 5-4 decision, the Court determined in Taylor v. Alabama, ___U.S. ___, 102 S.Ct. 2664, ___L.Ed.2d ___(1982), that a confession obtained after an illegal arrest may not be used as evidence even though the suspect received a Miranda warning before he signed the written confession. In Taylor, the majority opinion pointedly rejected the opportunity to allow a "good-faith" exception to the controversial exclusionary rule, stating that the case was "a virtual replica" of prior Supreme Court decisions in Dunaway v. New York, 442 U.S. 200 (1979), and Brown v. Illinois, 422 U.S. 590 (1975). Noting that the State of Alabama had suggested a good-faith exception in Taylor, Justice Marshall wrote for the majority: "To date, we have not recognized such an exception, and we decline to do so here."

Perhaps the only significant decision this term in the criminal law field which showed a rare semblance of unanimity was New York v. Ferber, 50 U.S.L.W. 5077 (July 2, 1982), where the Court upheld a New York law prohibiting the manufacture or distribution of child pornography, regardless of whether the material is actually obscene under First Amendment standards. In reversing the decision of the New York Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, the Supreme Court held that child pornography was a "category of material outside the protection of the First Amendment" and could therefore be regulated regardless of whether it was obscene. Although all nine Justices joined in the Court's judgment, only Chief Justice Warren E. Burger and Justices Lewis F. Powell and William H. Rehnquist joined Justice Byron R. White's opinion in full without writing a separate opinion. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor joined Justice White's opinion but wrote...

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