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Although the 2018-19 Term at the Supreme Court did not include any blockbuster rulings like Carpenter v. United States, the Court issued a number of significant criminal law and procedure rulings. It addressed warrantless blood-alcohol testing, the dual-sovereignty doctrine, the right to trial by jury, ineffective assistance of trial counsel, questions of incorporation, prisoners' competence to be executed, permissible methods of execution, and some important statutory interpretation questions. Looking back on the Term, Justice Gorsuch clearly solidified his position as the libertarian "swing" vote in criminal procedure cases. He joined the liberals to uphold a defendant's right to trial by jury, strike down a federal statute as unconstitutionally vague, and incorporate the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against excessive fines against the states. At the same time, he took a very pro-death penalty stance in the Eighth Amendment cases and joined Justice Thomas in a dissent that questioned the validity of Gideon v. Wainwright's holding that indigent criminal defendants are constitutionally entitled to appointed counsel. With Justice Kavanaugh consistently voting with the conservatives, Justice Gorsuch will likely continue to play a large role in shaping the Court's criminal law and procedure jurisprudence.


All rights reserved; reproduced with permissions. Originally published as Primus, Eve Brensike. "Select Criminal Law and Procedure Cases from the U.S. Supreme Court's 2018-2019 Term." Kristin Froehle, co-author. Ct. Rev. 55, no. 4 (2019): 134-45.