February 25, 2014 United States Supreme Court opinions

Kayley v United States

The government froze monies Kayley wanted to use to pay her attorney in a criminal matter. She sought to challenge the probable cause determination at hearing on her motion to release the funds. The district court refused to hear that issue and the 11th Circuit affirmed. Resolving a circuit split, the Court, 6-3, affirmed. The majority noted that the Court previously held that funds subject to post conviction forfeiture can be frozen upon a finding of probable cause even if the funds were going to be used for attorney fees. Here, a grand jury had determined probable cause existed to charge Kayley and, under precedent, that determination is not subject to review. Alternatively, the Court held that under the balancing test advanced by Kayley, the outcome is the same as allowing relitigation of probable cause places a heavy burden on the government and there is no material increase in the accuracy of probable cause findings given the absence of any case where the grand jury finding was later overturned at a hearing in jurisdictions allowing such hearings. The dissent argued that the right to the counsel of one’s choosing is fundamental and the majority’s decision undermines it by granting the government total control over whether Kayley or any defendant faced with an asset freeze. The dissent argued that defendants have a right to challenge the forfeitablity of particular assets even though the grand jury already found probable cause and it makes no sense to not allow challenges to the probable cause a crime was committed finding. The dissent also argued challenges to grand jury determinations are allowed in the bail context. The dissent also argued the balancing test favors Kayley as her right to counsel of choice is fundamental, there is no real burden on the government to prove probable cause and ex parte proceedings are inherently less reliable than adversarial ones.

Fernandez v California

Fernandez objected to a police search of his apartment. H was arrested for robbery and domestic abuse and removed from the apartment. Later, another occupant consented to a search and the police seized evidence. Fernandez moved to suppress based on his objection at eh scene. The trial court denied his motion and Fernandez was convicted of robbery and other charges. The Court, 6-3 with two concurrences, affirmed. The majority held that consent searches are reasonable under the 4th Amendment and precedent declares consent can be given by anyone with control over the premises. Here, the other occupant consented and this was sufficient. The majority refused to extend the rule in Georgia v Rudolph allowing a physically present cotenant to prevent a consent search to these facts because Fernandez was not present. The fact that he was removed through arrest did not change the analysis as Rudolph does not apply when an objectively reasonable detention or arrest is made. Nor was the earlier objection dispositive given the prevailing social norms allowing a cotenant to invite someone into their home after an objecting cotenant left and because a myriad of time and scope issues would arise and incarcerated felons would have veto power over residences which is unacceptable. Justices Scalia added a concurrence arguing that under property law, Fernandez could not stop someone coming onto the common property with the consent of the other occupant, thus, there was no 4th Amendment violation here. Justice Thomas added a concurrence arguing that under the proper rule, the sole issue is whether the cotenant here consented. She did and thus the search was valid. The dissent argued that the Rudolph rule applied here, the later consent did not authorize the search, that prevailing social norms do not allow visitors to rummage through an absent cotenant’s belongings and in any event, police here should have sought a warrant which is the constitutionally required mode of obtaining permission to search a home.

Walden v Fiore

Walden seized cash from Fiore at the Atlanta airport as part of a drug investigation. The funds were returned to Fiore several months later. Fiore sued Walden in Nevada. The district court dismissed the case for lack of personal jurisdiction over Fiore. The 9th Circuit reversed holding Fiore’s contacts with Nevada and the harm suffered there were sufficient for jurisdiction. The Court unanimously reversed. It held that none of Walden’s actions wither took place in Nevada or were directed at Nevada. Thus, he had no contacts with Nevada and dismissal was proper. The Court specifically reminded all lower courts that plaintiff contacts are not part of the analysis.

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