Pronouncements of the U.s. Supreme Court Relating to the Criminal Law Field: 1984 - 1985

JurisdictionColorado,United States
CitationVol. 14 No. 9 Pg. 1541
Publication year1985
14 Colo.Law. 1541
Colorado Lawyer

1985, September, Pg. 1541. Pronouncements of the U.S. Supreme Court Relating to the Criminal Law Field: 1984 - 1985


Vol. 14, No. 9, Pg. 1541

Pronouncements of the U.S. Supreme Court Relating to the Criminal Law Field: 1984 - 1985

by William H. Erickson

Associate Justice,

Colorado Supreme Court


William D. Neighbors

Associate Justice,

Colorado Supreme Court

[Please see hardcopy for image]

Justice Erickson

[Please see hardcopy for image]

Justice Neighbors

The authors wish to acknowledge the assistance of Daniel Brotzman, Holly Eager, Martin Egelhoff, Barbara Gifford, Amy Miletich, Daniel Rumsey, Steven Sharpe, and Phyllis Steele in the preparation of this article.




A. Establishment Clause

1. Public Teachers in Parochial Schools: Grand Rapids School District v. Ball.1544

2. Publicly Funded Special Education in Parochial Schools: Aguilar v. Felton1544

3. Silence in Public Schools: Wallace v. Jaffree1546

B. Expression

1. Selective Service Act: Wayte v. United States1546

C. Restrictions on the Electoral Process

1. Campaign Contributions: Federal Election Commission v. NCPAC1548

D. Commercial Speech

1. Attorney Advertising: Zauderer v. Office of Disciplinary Counsel, Ohio Supreme Ct.1548

2. Note: New Parameters for Attorney Advertising1549

E. Libel and Slander

1. Petitions to Government Officials: McDonald v. Smith1552

F. Obscenity

1. Definition of "Prurient Interest": Brockett v. Spokane Arcades1554


A. Investigative Stops

1. School Searches: New Jersey v. T.L.O1554

2. Note: The Impact of T.L.O. on Fourth Amendment Jurisprudence1556

3. Detention of Suspected Felons: United States v. Hensley1558

4. Detention for Fingerprints: Hayes v. Florida1560

5. Roadside Detention: United States v. Sharpe1562

6. Border Searches: United States v. Montoy a de Hernandez1563

B. Scope of Protection

1. Surgery to Recover Evidence: Winston v. Lee1564

2. Deadly Force: Tennessee v. Garner1565

3. Note: The Use of Deadly Force to Stop a Fleeing Felon1566

4. Obscene Material: Maryland v. Macon1567

C. Exceptions to the Warrant Requirement

1. Motor Homes: California v. Carney1568

2. Closed Containers: United States v. Johns1568

3. Note: Development of New Dimensions to the Automobile Exception1569


A. Confessions

1. Subsequent Confessions: Oregon v. Elstad1570

2. Note: Oregon v. Elstad: "The Cat is Out of the Bag"1571

3. Retrospectivity of Edwards v. Arizona: Shea v. Louisiana1571

4. Note: New Guidelines for Retrospectivity: Shea v. Louisiana1572

B. Double Jeopardy

1. Continuing Criminal Enterprise: Garrett v. United States1573

C. Grand Jury

1. Charges in Indictment: United States v. Miller1574


A. Confrontation Clause

1. Confession of Co-defendant: Tennessee v. Street1574


A. Death Penalty

1. Voir Dire: Wainwright v. Witt1575

2. Note: New Dimensions for Juror Exclusion in Capital Cases1576

3. Jury Sentencing: Baldwin v. Alabama1577

4. Prosecutorial Comments: Caldwell v. Mississippi1578


A. Due Process

1. Prisoner's Right to Call Witnesses: Ponte v. Real1579

2. Revocation of Probation: Black v. Romano1580

3. Counsel on Appeal: Evitts v. Lucey1581

4. Disclosure of Exculpatory Evidence: United States v. Bagley1582

5. Right to a Psychiatrist: Ake v. Oklahoma1583

6. Findings of a Disciplinary Board: Superintendent v. Hill1584

B. Conclusive Presumptions

1. Sandstrom-Type Instruction: Francis v. Franklin1585


A. Federal Jurisdiction

1. Assault on Federal Employees: Garcia v. United States1586

2. Possession of Firearms by a Felon: Ball v. United States1586

3. Food Stamp Fraud: Liparota v. United States1587

4. Commerce Clause: Russell v. United States1588

5. Entry Onto Military Base: United States v. Albertini1588

B. Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure

1. Prior Convictions for Impeachment: Luce v. United States1588

2. Impeachment for Bias: United States v. Abel1589

C. Prosecutorial Misconduct

1. Invited Responses: United States v. Young1590

D. Deportation Proceedings

1. Suspension of Proceedings: INS v. Rios-Pineda1591

E. Inconsistent Verdicts

1. United States v. Powell1591


1. Sedima S.P.R.L. v. Imrex Co.1592

G. Detainers

1. Carchman v. Nash1592


A. Section 1983

1. City of Oklahoma City v. Tuttle1593

B. Immunity

1. Mitchell v. Forsyth1594



In the wake of a stormy 1983-84 term, in which the United States Supreme Court drastically shifted from its moderate ideology and consistently favored the Administration's interpretation of federal statutes, the Court's 1984-85 term marks a surprising, if perhaps short-lived, return to a more centrist position. Unlike the previous term, in which the Administration prevailed in over 85% of the cases it entered, the government won only 79% in the 1984-85 term. While the Court continued generally to uphold the police powers of the states and the federal government by expanding the government's ability to conduct warrantless searches and enforce its criminal statutes, the Court decided a number of significant decisions that favored the liberty of the individual and conferred rights upon criminal suspects.

In his comments before the House of Delegates of the American Bar Association, Attorney General Edwin Meese characterized the decisions announced by the Court this term as predominately policy choices rather than reasoned articulations of constitutional principle: "[T]he voting blocs, the arguments, all reveal a greater allegiance to what the Court thinks constitutes sound public policy than a deference to what the Constitution --- its text and intention --- may demand." Reacting in large part to a number of the Administration's significant defeats, most notably in the area of first amendment cases pertaining to religion and the government, the Attorney General criticized the Court for misinterpreting the original intent of the framers of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and advocated "a jurisprudence seriously aimed at the explication of original intention." Such a policy diverges sharply from the concept of the "living Constitution" that has shaped constitutional interpretation in recent years.

Other commentators reacted more favorably to the Court's 1984-85 term. Burt Newborne, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, who last year characterized the Court's term as "genuinely appalling," noted with favor that the anticipated trend toward more conservative decisions did not materialize, and that the Court has "returned to the role it has played historically as a defender of the individual." However, in light of the dramatic swings that have characterized the decisionmaking of the Court in recent years and the continuing realignment of the justices along ideological lines, the question remains whether the generally moderate ideology underlying the decisions of the 1984-85 term will continue to guide the Court in future decisions.

As contrasted to previous years, the workload of the Court this term was light. The Court issued 139 full opinions, compared to 150 opinions issued last year and 152 opinions during the 1982-83 term. The decisionmaking on the Court was also less fractious than in previous years. Of the 139 opinions announced by the Court this term, 59 were unanimous and only 19 were decided by a one-vote margin, compared to the 29 cases last year and 32 cases the year before that were decided by one-vote margins.

The influence of Justice Lewis F. Powell, Jr. was a key factor in shaping the present centrist position of the Court. He voted on the winning side of 13 of the 17 cases that were decided by a 5-4 vote and dissented only six times. In addition, eight potentially significant cases were decided by an equally divided 4-to-4 vote and, accordingly, set no precedent. The eight cases were decided when Justice Powell was hospitalized and absent from the Court. Justice Powell may well have replaced Justice Byron R. White as the Court's "swing" vote, as Justice White increasingly casts his votes with Chief Justice Warren E. Burger and the "conservative bloc." Although Justice William J. Brennan continued to file the highest number of dissenting votes --- 41 in the current term --- he nevertheless authored a number of the Court's most significant first amendment decisions.

The Current Term

The most significant decisions of the 1984-85 term concerned issues relating to the establishment clause of the first amendment. The decisions have the effect of solidifying the barriers between government and religion, and are surprising in light of last year's decision in Lynch v. Donnelly, 104 S. Ct. 1355, 79 L. Ed. 2d 604 (1984), in which the Court recognized that the establishment clause "mandates accommodation, and not merely tolerance, of all religions." In Wallace v. Jaffree, 105 S. Ct. 2479, 53 U.S.L.W. 4665 (U.S. June 4, 1985), the Court held that an Alabama statute authorizing a period of silence in public schools "for meditation or voluntary prayeer" violates the establishment clause of the first amendment because it does not serve a secular purpose and was motivated by a legislative purpose to endorse religion. The Court also concluded in Grand Rapids School District v. Ball, 53 U.S.L.W. 5006 (U.S. July 1, 1985), that supplemental classes taught after-hours by public school teachers in parochial classrooms have the primary effect of advancing religion...

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