3D-printed firearms and liability for police shootings

Petitions of the week

This week we highlight cert petitions that ask the Supreme Court to consider, among other things, when a state attorney general can be pulled into court in another state and when a police officer is immune from civil liability for fatally shooting a passenger in a fleeing car.

Grewal v. Defense Distributed is a dispute between the attorney general of New Jersey and a Texas company that develops digital files used to manufacture 3D-printed guns. In 2018, the attorney general, Gurbir Grewal, sent a cease-and-desist letter to Defense Distributed, warning that distributing such files to New Jersey residents over the internet would violate New Jersey law. In response, the company sued Grewal in federal court in Texas. It sought an injunction barring Grewal from taking any enforcement action against the company, which it argued would violate the First and Second Amendments.

The Texas district court dismissed the lawsuit after finding that it had no personal jurisdiction over Grewal. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit reversed and ruled that the case could proceed. Grewal argues in his cert petition that the 5th Circuit’s decision is at odds with the Supreme Court’s case law on personal jurisdiction. He also claims that the 5th Circuit created a circuit split on the question whether state officials subject themselves to jurisdiction in other states merely by sending cease-and-desist letters across state lines.

City of Hayward v. Stoddard-Nunez arises from a police officer’s fatal shooting of a passenger in a fleeing car. In 2013, an officer in Hayward, California, attempted to stop a car on suspicion of drunk driving. After initially stopping in a parking lot, the driver refused to exit the car. Instead, he drove past the officer’s patrol car and fled the scene. The officer, who testified that the car swerved toward him as it fled, fired nine shots into the car, killing a passenger. The passenger’s next-of-kin sued the officer and the city under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, arguing that the officer violated the passenger’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizures.

The district court dismissed the lawsuit, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit reinstated it, concluding that a reasonable jury could find that the officer fired the fatal shot after the car had already passed him and posed little threat to the officer or the public. The officer and the city ask the Supreme Court to take up the case to resolve two issues: (1) the proper of level of generality that courts should use to assess whether an officer violated “clearly established law” for the purpose of deciding whether that officer is entitled to qualified immunity, and (2) whether a shooting of a passenger under these circumstances counts as a seizure under the Fourth Amendment.

These and other petitions of the week are below:

Brown v. Polk County, Wisconsin
Issue: Whether the Fourth Amendment permits jail officials to conduct a physical, penetrative search of the vagina and/or anus of a pretrial detainee without a warrant, probable cause or exigent circumstances, including in cases of persons detained for minor nonviolent non-drug offenses like shoplifting.

Grewal v. Defense Distributed
Issue: Whether a nonresident state official subjects itself to personal jurisdiction in another forum state when it sends a single cease-and-desist letter to a single resident in that state.

Smith v. Tyson
Issues: (1) Whether the review required under Section 2254 of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 and Cullen v. Pinholster is violated by reliance upon a “some ambiguity” standard utilized by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit to find a due process violation without affording the required benefit of the doubt to both defense counsel and the trial court; (2) whether the 3rd Circuit’s decision granting habeas relief on the basis of alleged erroneous jury instructions in a state accomplice murder trial erred by failing to apply the Supreme Court’s own precedent in Waddington v. Sarasaud; and (3) whether, by ignoring whole sections of the trial court’s charge to the jury with respect to accomplice liability and failing to view it in the context of the trial record, the 3rd Circuit erred in concluding that there exists a substantial and not just a conceivable likelihood of a different result.

England v. Hart
Issue: Whether the “objective inquiry” required by Davis v. United States for an assertion of the right to counsel may be based on subjective factors.

Dominguez v. United States
Issue: Whether attempted robbery under the Hobbs Act qualifies as a “crime of violence,” meaning that it “has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person or property of another.”

City of Hayward, California v. Stoddard-Nunez
Issues: (1) Whether an accelerating fleeing driver’s sudden turn deprives a threatened shooting officer of qualified immunity; and (2) whether an unintended victim-passenger of a fleeing vehicle is “seized” for purposes of the Fourth Amendment.

Shinn v. Ramirez
Issue: Whether application of the equitable rule the Supreme Court announced in Martinez v. Ryan renders the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, which precludes a federal court from considering evidence outside the state-court record when reviewing the merits of a claim for habeas relief if a prisoner or his attorney has failed to diligently develop the claim’s factual basis in state court, inapplicable to a federal court’s merits review of a claim for habeas relief.

Rranxburgaj v. Mayorkas
Issue: Whether legal determinations antecedent to agencies’ discretionary decisions to commence proceedings, adjudicate cases or execute removal orders “arise from” these decisions for purposes of 8 U.S.C. § 1252(g), which provides that “no court shall have jurisdiction to hear any cause or claim by or on behalf of any alien arising from the decision or action by the U.S. attorney general to commence proceedings, adjudicate cases, or execute removal orders against any alien under this chapter.”

Louisiana Real Estate Appraisers Board v. Federal Trade Commission
[Disclosure: Goldstein & Russell, P.C., whose attorneys contribute to SCOTUSblog in various capacities, is among counsel to the petitioner in this case.]
Issue: Whether and under what conditions orders denying state-action immunity to public entities are immediately appealable under the collateral-order doctrine.

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