Category Archives: The Supreme Court

Weekly Poll: Your Opinion on Race in the U.S.

John Sununu’s racial comment on Colin Powell’s endorsement of President Obama has caused some to wonder if the nation has become more racially divided since Obama was elected in 2008. What do you think?


Weekly Quiz: Test Yourself on this Week’s Events

The weekly quiz is now live in Mypoliscilab. Good luck!

Weekly Poll: Your Opinion on the Affordable Care Act Decision

Some legal experts were surprised by Chief Justice John Roberts’ position on the Affordable Care Act decision. What do you think?

The Colbert Report: Obamacare & the Broccoli Argument

Get Ready for Several Weeks of Useless Analysis

Inside CNN

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to render its ruling on the constitutionality of Obama Care. However, the media coverage of the ruling and the resulting political fallout will be the same. Regardless of the ruling, both republicans and democrats will try to spin the Supreme Court’s ruling in a way that benefits their side. Meanwhile, the news media will overflow with coverage concerning the political impact of the ruling, but will ultimately fail to explain the ruling divorced from the typical horse-race coverage.  Horse race refers to the news media’s focus on which candidate is up or down in the latest public opinion polls. My prediction is that the news media, regardless of the Supreme Court’s ruling on Obama Care, will bombard its audience with poll numbers for the next several days along with a bloviated analysis of said poll numbers with a pretentious and misguided sense of accomplishment for delivering what they consider to be the news. Get ready for several weeks of useless analysis and blatant political spin.


Weekly Quiz: Test Yourself on this Week’s Events

The weekly quiz is now live in Mypoliscilab. Good luck!

The Constitutional Right to Plea Bargain?

In the Fall of 2011 the Supreme Court will be looking at the right of defendants to plea bargain.  Plea bargaining accounts for the resolution of the vast majority of criminal cases brought in the United States.  A typical plea bargain involves a criminal defendant’s pleading guilty to an agreeable offense or offenses—escaping more serious charges that usually carry much stronger penalties.  The benefits for the defendant are obvious; the benefits for the prosecution are also.  Criminal trials and the investigations that can precede them can be very expensive affairs.  In many cases, the prosecution may have substantial evidence, making a conviction likely.  However, criminal jury trials are notoriously unpredictable.  Rather than risk an acquittal or a hung jury, plea bargains guarantee that a defendant will be adjudicated as guilty.

In the two cases coming before the Court individuals are alleging that they were denied their Constitutional Rights to due process, a fair trial, and the assistance of counsel.  Each case presents a different aspect of the practice of plea bargaining, but each case has been reached the level of Supreme Court review, suggesting that the constitutional issues are important.  Based on what you know, does the Constitution specifically provide for plea bargaining?  If not—if plea bargaining is not a fundamental right but is just a practice that has developed as a matter of practicality—what do you believe the Court may rule on the matter?  More importantly, what are the possible ripple effects that might follow the possible rulings in these cases?  If the Court rules that plea bargaining is a Constitutional right, will courts in all fifty states be expected to meet new national standards related to the practice of plea bargaining?  If the Court rules that plea bargaining is not a constitutional right will law enforcement agencies and courts around the country become more aggressive in their practice of plea bargaining?  The criminal justice system in the United States is one of the most strained of all national and state institutions.  The Court’s ruling in these and other cases can have a significant impact on how prosecutors and defendants relate for years to come.