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SCOTUS -- April 20, 2020 -- Stare Decisis and Non-unanimous jury verdicts

by: Don Samuel

This morning, the Supreme Court announced its decision in Ramos v. Louisiana. The Court held that the Fourteenth Amendment does not tolerate non-unanimous jury verdicts in serious criminal cases. Only Louisiana and Oregon permitted non-unanimous verdicts, so the decision does not have much relevance in Georgia.

If you are interested in the principles that govern the Court’s assessment of whether to abide by stare decisis, this is a most interesting decision. Justice Kavanaugh devotes 18 pages in a concurring opinion explaining why Apodaca v. Oregon should be overruled. Included in his concurring opinion is a list of some of the monumental decisions of the Court that overruled precedents, including Brown v. Board of Education, Obergfell v. Hodges, Lawrence v. Texas, Batson v. Kentucky, Katz v. United States, Gideon v. Wainwright, Mapp v. Ohio among numerous others. And Justice Alito’s 26-page dissent is also devoted entirely to explaining the importance of stare decisis. Justice Alito’s dissent was joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kagan (an odd alignment).

Also today, the Supreme Court granted cert in a NDGa case (Federal Defenders; Judge Evans) addressing the following question: “Whether a person who is authorized to access information on a computer for certain purposes violates Section 1030(a)(2) of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act if he accesses the same information for an improper purpose.” United States v. Van Buren.

Ramos v. Louisiana Supreme Court Decision