Annual Supreme Court Preview Highlights Variety on Supreme Court Docket

Lexington, VA Friday, October 09, 2009


Prof.Scott Sundby discusses two cases involving life sentences without parole for juvenile offenders.
Video Audio
U.S. Supreme Court watchers will have much more to keep them busy this year than the introduction of new Justice Sonia Sotomayor. The 2009-10 docket is full of interesting cases, including another exploration of the Second Amendment and its application to state gun laws, the free speech protections related to images depicting animal cruelty, and corporate malfeasance.

Several of these compelling cases will be discussed at the annual Supreme Court Preview at Washington and Lee University School of Law. Sponsored by the American Constitution Society (ACS), the event will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 13 beginning at 6:30 p.m. in the Millhiser Moot Court Room, Sydney Lewis Hall. The event is free and open to the public.

During the panel discussion, law professors will analyze several key cases currently on the high court's docket, framing the important issues of the case and explaining the routes the cases took through the lower courts before being accepted by the U.S. Supreme Court. The cases and participating faculty are as follows:

Prof. David Millon - Jones v. Harris Associates
In this case, the Court will decide whether the federal Investment Company Act limits the ability of investment advisors to charge higher management fees for in-house mutual funds. The plaintiffs, a group of three investors, allege that mutual fund manager Harris Associates LP charged excessive advisory fees for a certain group of mutual funds and that these high rates violated the Investment Company Act, which was designed to protect investors and regulate conflicts of interest in investment companies and securities exchanges. Washington and Lee School of Law Professor Lyman Johnson has for the last three years served as an expert witness for the plaintiffs in the case as it moved through the lower courts.

Audio: Prof. Millon previews Jones v. Harris Associates

Dean Rodney A. Smolla U.S. v. Stevens
In this case, the Court will review a circuit court decision striking down a federal animal cruelty law as a violation of the First Amendment. In 2004, a jury on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania convicted Robert Stevens of Virginia on three counts of knowingly selling depictions of animal cruelty, dog fighting in this case, with the intention of placing them in interstate commerce for commercial gain. In 18 U.S.C. 48, Congress made it a criminal offense to create, sell or possess certain depictions of animal cruelty in interstate commerce. While all 50 states and the District of Columbia outlaw animal cruelty, the federal law focuses on banning depictions of it. Opponents of the law argue that 18 U.S.C. 48, on depictions of animal cruelty, is facially invalid under the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.

Audio: Dean Smolla previews U.S. v Stevens

Prof. Scott Sundby Sullivan v. Florida and Graham v. Florida
The Court will hear two cases this term dealing with juveniles sentenced to life in prison without parole for crimes other than murder. In Graham v. Florida, a judge sentenced then-17-year-old Terrance Graham to life without parole in 2004 after he took part in an armed home invasion while he was on probation for committing a separate violent crime. Meanwhile, in Sullivan v. Florida, then-13-year-old Joe Harris Sullivan was sentenced to life in prison without parole after being convicted for the rape of an elderly woman. Attorneys for both men contend that since their clients' crimes didn't involve murder, a life sentence without parole violates the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Audio: Prof. Sundy previews Sullivan v. Florida and Graham v. Florida

Prof. Brian Murchison Free Enterprise Fund v. Public Company Accounting Oversight Board
Free Enterprise Fund v. Public Company Accounting Oversight Board involves a constitutional challenge to Title 1 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, in which Congress created a board with expansive powers to regulate, investigate, and enforce the law against accounting firms. The issue is whether the statute violates the Appointments Clause of Article II and the separation of powers doctrine by establishing a governmental entity whose members are neither appointed nor removable by the President. Instead the Board's members are appointed and removable by the Securities and Exchange Commission, itself an agency "independent" of the President. Besides testing Sarbanes-Oxley, the case may have implications for agency structures designed to address the nation's current financial woes. Email This Page