Petitions of the week: Re-opening church doorways and opening evidentiary doorways

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Justices appoint Utah law professor to defend structure of Federal Housing Finance Agency

This week, we’re highlighting certification filings that ask the Supreme Court to consider other First Amendment challenges to pandemic-related restrictions, among other things, and see if a defendant can open the door to rebuttal statements that otherwise violate the Sixth Amendment would.

Two petitions from churches bring First Amendment claims against government restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic. At Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley v. Sisolak, a Nevada church challenges Governor Steve Sisolak’s series of executive orders that restrict church meetings. For example, a policy put casinos, restaurants, indoor amusement parks, bowling alleys, water parks, pools, arcades, and more on fire code capacity restrictions of 50%, but restricted places of worship to no more than 50 people, regardless of the number of facility sizes . A new guideline has replaced them, but according to the Church it still treats places of worship less well than their secular colleagues. At the South Bay United Pentecostal Church v. Newsom, a California church is filing a petition direct from the district court questioning Governor Gavin Newsom’s “Blueprint for a Safer Economy”. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court declined in two separate orders to provide emergency relief to the Church of Nevada and the Church of California while the litigation was being held in the lower courts. Now the churches are asking the judges to take up the cases on the matter.

The federal rules of evidence protect criminal defendants from certain types of evidence in the prosecution case, such as evidence of a defendant’s violent nature. A defendant who takes a stand and testifies that he is peaceful in character “opens the door” to disproving evidence. Hemphill v. New York is asking the judges to determine whether a defendant can similarly “open the door” to refute evidence previously inadmissible under the Sixth Amendment, which guarantees a criminal defendant’s right to “oppose the witnesses to be confronted with him ”.

In Darrell Hemphill’s trial, defense attorneys testified that hours after the shooting, police found a 9-millimeter pistol, a type of weapon used to kill a girl in a passing car, on another suspect’s bedside table. In response, prosecutors introduced another suspect’s testimony from a previous assignment that he carried a .357 revolver, not a 9-millimeter revolver, on him in combat. The sixth change would normally require prosecutors to bring the other suspects to court for defense attorney to interrogate them. However, the court admitted the explanation as Hemphill opened the door to that evidence by creating the impression that the other suspect had the 9 millimeters. Hemphill argues that the lower courts are divided over whether defendants can waive confrontation rights in this way, and urges judges to review the New York Court of Appeals decision confirming the court and ruling that the admission of the Declaration violates the sixth amendment.

These and other petitions of the week are listed below:

Torres v Texas Department of Public Safety
20-603
problem: Whether Congress has the power to approve lawsuits against disagreeing states under its constitutional warring powers.

Gannett Co. versus Quatrons
20-609
problem: Whether a plaintiff alleges a reasonable breach of duty of care and diversification by claiming that the trustees have allowed participants in a defined contribution plan to invest in a non-diversified single-asset fund from a sufficiently diversified menu of investment options.

Amazon.com Inc. v Rittmann
20-622
problem: Whether the Federal Arbitration Tribunal’s exemption for classes of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce prevents the law from being applied to local transport workers who, as a class, do not operate in the transport of goods or passengers across state or national borders.

Hemphill versus New York
20-637
problem: Whether or under what circumstances a defendant whose reasoning or introduction of evidence “opens” the door to admission of evidence that would otherwise be excluded by the Rules of Evidence also loses their right to exclude evidence otherwise excluded from the confrontation clause.

Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley v. Sisolak
20-639
Problems: (1) Whether Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak prefers secular over religious gatherings – for example, under Policy 021, casinos, restaurants, indoor amusement parks, bowling alleys, water parks, pools, arcades, and more are subject to a 50 percent fire code -Capacity limit, but places of worship are limited to no more than 50 people, regardless of the size of their facilities – violates the free exercise clause; and (2) whether the governor’s preference for secular over religious assemblies violates the clauses on freedom of expression and assembly.

LSP Transmission Holdings, LLC versus seven
20-641
problem: Whether a state law that gives companies with an existing state presence an explicit preference to build facilities for a clearly interstate market discriminates against international trade even though some of the preferred state incumbents are headquartered elsewhere.

Cook Children’s Medical Center vs. TL
20-651
problem: Whether a private hospital is a state actor despite a lack of state involvement, involvement, coercion, input or control of any kind, as state law creates a safe haven for those who conduct a private internal review to determine private medical care in a private institution.

Employer Solutions Staffing Group, LLC v Scalia
20-660
Problems: (1) Whether the Supreme Court’s standard of will, which requires evidence that “the employer either knew or recklessly disregarded the question of whether his conduct was prohibited by law”, can be satisfied only by showing that a non-judge The compliant employer was informed of its general requirements under the Fair Labor Standards Act, but had no actual knowledge or reason to believe that it was not meeting the requirements of the FLSA. (2) whether the Employer Solutions Staffing Group was liable for overtime wages when there was no evidence that they knew or should have known that overtime wages were not being properly paid by a low-ranking employee; and (3) whether the Employer Solutions Staffing Group may require other joint employers to contribute under the FLSA for joint and several liability for an overtime bonus.

South Bay United Pentecostal Church v Newsom
20-746
Problems: (1) The suspension and reopening of restrictions by California Governor Gavin Newsom under the “Blueprint” framework, which imposes severe restrictions, including closings, on all places of worship in California, violates the First Amendment law of South Bay on freedom of worship? and (2) whether strict scrutiny is the appropriate standard of auditing for challenging state and regional restrictions on the exercise of religious rights during a pandemic, or whether Jacobson v Massachusetts places additional restrictions on the Supreme Court’s free line – practice of jurisdiction during a pandemic.

Posted in Torres v Texas Department of Public Safety, Gannett Co. v Quatrone, Amazon.com Inc. v Rittmann, Hemphill v New York, Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley v Sisolak, LSP Transmission Holdings, LLC v Seven, Cook Children’s Medical Center v TL , Employer Solutions Staffing Group, LLC v Scalia, South Bay United Pentecostal Church v Newsom, Featured, Cases in the Pipeline

Recommended citation:
Andrew Hamm, Petitions of the Week: Reopening Church Doors and Opening Evidence Doors,
SCOTUSblog (December 11, 2020, 4:45 p.m.), https://www.scotusblog.com/2020/12/petitions-of-the-week-re-opening-church-doors-and-opening-evidentiary-doors / .