Supreme Court Score Card #5

Just because it’s a holiday doesn’t mean I can’t blog. And besides, I like this one.

District Attorney’s Office v. Osborne Basically, a guy wants to know if, after he’s convicted, he can have access to the biological evidence (in this case, sperm found in a condom at a crime scene) that the state has, even though he hasn’t filed any sort of claim that would use that evidence, and the claim he may intend to file isn’t tenable. In other words, is that jizz his, regardless of how he plans or doesn’t plan to use it?

He wanted to order (at his own expense) DNA testing that wasn’t available at the time of his conviction – which seems reasonable, right? Due process, and all that? There are lots of rather dry legal questions here (e.g. can he sue rather than making a habeas claim, can he claim freestanding innocence rather than a defect in the trial), but the one I find most interesting is about whether he can have access to that evidence.

I won’t go on too long, but the DNA test they did at the time of conviction involved identifying one small sequence on one chromosome, a sequence that one in six or seven African Americans has. (In other words, the analysis revealed that the perpetrator was likely to be black, not that he was William Osborne. Which is an issue for another day.)

The court ruled, 5-4, that he has no constitutional right to the evidence. They were careful to say that that didn’t mean he shouldn’t have it; it just meant that it wasn’t up to the Court to say he could. In other words, the states will have to make their own clear rules about that.

Lawyer says: My head hurts!

Supreme Court Score Card #4

Have off from work today? Great! More time to read Nurse & Lawyer!

United States v. Hayes Oh, this one might make your head spin a little. It’s a question about domestic violence. That’s health-related, right?

The question is, in order for a misdemeanor crime to be considered domestic violence, does the domestic relationship between the victim and offender have to be an element of the actual language of the crime the offender is convicted for, or does the fact that there is a domestic relationship involved, regardless of the statute under which the person is convicted, qualify it?

This matters because if it IS a domestic violence-specific misdemeanor, then the offender may never carry a firearm. If not, he might be able to.

Basically, some jerk beat his wife, and then, since he was actually convicted of battery, not wife-beating, he claimed that restrictions placed on domestic violence offenders didn’t apply to him. The court ruled, 7-2, that if the relationship exists, it was domestic violence, regardless of the fine details of the actual conviction. (Thanks, Justices Roberts and Scalia. You really got our backs.)

Lawyer says: Decency Win!

Supreme Court Score Card

Well, the good people of SCOTUS just wrapped up their term and now get a nice long summer vacation. (Or a long rest-of-life vacation, if you’re Justice Souter.) But nurse & lawyer are still hard at work! Of the 83 cases decided by the Supreme Court this term, these lucky 7 addressed health care-type issues. For the next week, Lawyer will review one case each day with a brief summary and an even briefer opinion!

Wyeth v. Levine: Oooh, remember this one from the early days of Nurse & Lawyer? The question was whether a drug company could be sued for damage caused by the on-label use of an approved drug. (In other words, for insufficient warnings on the label.) The drug company says that being FDA-approved should give them protection. But the patient – who lost an arm, by the way, to a gnarly infection — prevailed! The FDA requirements represent a MINIMUM – and are not sufficient to get the manufacturer off the hook.

Lawyer says: Patient Protection Win!