Criminal Justice Decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court, 2009 Term

Published date01 December 2010
Date01 December 2010
DOI10.1177/0734016810388389
Subject MatterArticles
Recent Legal Developments
Criminal Justice Decisions
of the U.S. Supreme
Court, 2009 Term
Craig Hemmens
1
, Valerie Bell
2
, and Cody Stoddard
3
Abstract
During its 2009 term, the U.S. Supreme Court decided 26 cases dealing with a criminal justice–
related issue. While a number of these decisions will have only a slight impact on the daily
administration of justice, there were several significant cases involving criminal justice–related
topics such as search and seizure, interrogations, and sentencing. We present in this article a
summary and analysis of the most significant decisions involving criminal justice.
Keywords
Supreme Court, legal, courts, criminal procedure
During its 2009 term,the U.S. Supreme Court decided 86 cases on the meritsand issued 72 signed
opinions. In all, 26 cases at least touched upon a criminal justice–related issue. While a number of
these decisionswill have only a slight impact on the daily administration of justice, therewere several
significant cases involving criminal justice–related topics such as search and seizure, interrogations,
and sentencing.
In all, 40%(40 of 86) of the Court’s decisions were unanimous, while another 21 (24%) cases
were decided by at least a 7-2 vote. A total of 16 (19%) cases were decided by a narrow 5-4 margin.
This is a significant decrease over the 2008 term, in which almost 30%of the cases were decided by
a 5-4 vote. Justice Kennedy remains a crucial swing vote on the court, but his influence was a bit less
obvious this term. In the 2006 term, Justice Kennedy was in the majority in 100%(24 of 24) of the
cases decided by a 5-4 margin. In the 2007 and 2008 terms, he was in the majority in more than 75%
of such cases. In the 2009 term, Justice Kennedy was in the majority in 11 of 16 cases decided by a
5-4 vote (69%), but he was matched by Justices Scalia and Thomas, while Justice Alito was in the
majority 10 times and Chief Justice Roberts was in the majority 9 times. Together, these five justices
comprise the ‘‘conservative’’ wing of the Court. Justice Ginsburg, by contrast, was in the majority in
only 4 (25%) of 16 cases decided by a 5-4 vote.
1
Boise State University, Boise, ID, USA
2
Loras College, Dubuque, IA, USA
3
Central Washington University, Ellensburg, WA, USA
Corresponding Author:
Craig Hemmens, 1910 University Drive, Boise, ID 83725, USA
Email: chemmens@boisestate.edu
Criminal Justice Review
35(4) 550-562
ª2010 Georgia State University
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DOI: 10.1177/0734016810388389
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