Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Two Unhearalded Supreme Court Decisions Give Us Hope That The Constitution is still Alive

One can't make too much out of two decisions, but the Supreme Court recently breathed some life into the Constitution.

In Holmes v. South Carolina the Court unanimously held that the defendant has the right to introduce evidence that points to the guilt of another person and that casts doubt on the validity of the forensic evidence the State had introduced against him. Amazing! You read it right, and to think the South Carolina Supreme Court had ruled that this evidence was inadmissable. And what's more amazing is that this was a unanimous opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court.

In Jones v. Flowers the Court held that the State can't sell someone's property for back taxes unless reasonable steps are taken to notify the person. In this case, the registered letters notifying him of the pending sale and of the actual sale were retuned as undeliverable and no followup efforts were made to notify the homeowner. The homeowner didn't get the letters or know the taxes were due because he had stopped living in the house after his divorce. The taxes had been payed by his mortgage company, but after the mortgage was paid off the taxes went unpaid. In a 5-3 decision the Court said that when the State knows that a property owner has not received notice of a pending sale it can't just proceed with the sale. It has to expend some additional effort to locate and notify the homeowner.

Less we get too excited, it's worth noting that Thomas, Scalia and Kennedy dissented. Alito did not participate.

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