MARY REICHARD, PRESIDENT: Monday morning, November 14, 2022, are you listening The World and everything in it! Good morning. I’m Mary Reichard.
NICK EICHER, HOST: I’m Nick Eicher. It’s time for the Legal Form, where we’ll cover all the oral arguments heard this term by the United States Supreme Court. You will listen every Monday from now until the end of the episode, and you will know everything.
Today, there are three cases.
First, what happens when you send money to someone via MoneyGram and no one claims it?
It’s hard to believe that will happen, but it will.
Moneygram is the second largest money transfer company in the world. It is easy to send or receive money for a small fee. Even without a bank account.
But, again, what about unclaimed money? And the address of the sender and recipient are unknown? Where does the money go? Who gets it?
REICHARD: There is the common law concept of “escheatment”. It’s a good idea to wrap things up so that the material doesn’t sit around forever.
With MoneyGram’s orders, we’re talking hundreds of millions of dollars unclaimed for a variety of reasons. So the war is over.
With MoneyGram headquartered in Delaware, that state claims the money. It’s been like this for years! Lawyer Neil Katyal argued that the forecast was good. To do otherwise?
KATYAL: … it’s very dangerous and disruptive to the financial sector because this has all been going on, and it’s been going on since 1974.
EICHER: Are states suing Delaware saying: Well, we have to keep doing it because we’ve been doing it for 48 years?
Thirty state governments argue that is not a dispute.
There are different types of unclaimed property. For example, bank accounts, insurance products, and other financial transactions.
REICHARD: The law in this case has a very long name: The Federal Disposition of Abandoned Money Orders and Traveler’s Check Act, the FDAMOTCA. Even the beginning doesn’t help much, so the lawyers call it “the FDA.” Congress passed the FDA in 1974. Here is the attorney for 30 states, Nicholas Bronni. You will hear him use the word “tool.” He is talking about financial instruments.
BRONNI: That rule says that where addresses are not generally maintained for a class of equipment, those equipment will change in the manner of sale. Now, 50 years later, Delaware says it deserves the same atmosphere that led to FDA approval. To justify that, the FDA says it doesn’t cover devices that work the same way as other money orders but are marketed differently. But marketing strategies do not define commercial tools and do not guarantee $250 million in revenues.
Part of the problem is that the law, the opinions of the courts, and the common law, are not always consistent.
In this exchange with Bronni, this is Justice Samuel Alito trying to separate one financial instrument from another.
ALITO: What about a prepaid credit card? Every now and then some old man sends a MoneyGram — MoneyGram for Christmas. Now they want to be more modern, so they are offered a Visa prepaid card.
BRONNI: It’s not covered as a money order or similar instrument because the payee has to have a name, and gift cards don’t have the payee’s name.
ALITO: How does a gift certificate bearing a name get paid?
A difficult situation here is that MoneyGrams are not has been named money order. The top of the MoneyGram says “receive money”, “send money.” And Delaware argued that because the FDA wanted a label that said—not a “money order,” it should have won.
Have you heard the saying, “If it walks and talks like a duck, it’s a duck?” Justice Clarence Thomas asked something like this about Katyal’s Delaware attorney:
THOMAS: What if, tomorrow morning, they mark the top of these, the two items that are in dispute, “money order,” “commercial money order”? Does that solve your problem?
KATYAL: So, Judge Thomas, that – if they change the label, we think that’s not a money order, it’s a traveler’s check. So we suggest you look at the label for that.
But they didn’t point that way. And Katyal says that this problem is better solved elsewhere:
KATYAL: Safeguarding is what you do behind the scenes, so if we’re concerned about justice, that’s something for Congress. It’s about governments. Not for this Court.
Unclaimed property is Delaware’s third largest source of revenue. So there is a lot to lose if not to win here. I think it’s better to embrace that version: the Special Master’s Report decided that the money should go to the state where the currency instrument was purchased.
Later, two cases were included in the criminal law.
Jones v Hendrix asked how a prisoner could challenge his conviction years later, after the rules of evidence had changed against him.
EICHER: Here’s the background. More than two decades ago, a jury found Marcus DeAngelo Jones guilty of felon in possession of a firearm, among other charges.
Later, the Supreme Court changed what the government had to prove: a criminal not only had a gun, but also found that he had the status of a “felon” before the law. There are two points to convict.
But when Jones was sentenced, that wasn’t the case.
And now Jones wants to challenge his conviction because under the new law, he was found innocent.
REICHARD: I’ll spare you the technicalities—because my eyes are glazed over and I can’t imagine what’s going on with your ears.
There are many technologies.
EICHER: Mary, you are kind. The legal question is in what legal vehicle will Jones bring his challenge?
In Justice Alito’s question to the attorney general, he sought a clear rule for trial court judges to follow. He mentions “habeas.” As in habeas corpus, it is a legal protection against illegal detention.
ALITO: Do you — do you have any concerns about the complexity of the legislation that you’re supporting?…Are you concerned that federal prisoners may want to bring a follow-up motion? this falls within the tradition. of habeas, and this is an escape clause that will be invoked again and again, and every district judge must look to the breadth of habeas to see if a claim falls within it?
The rights of prisoners to the satisfaction of the government. It should be—and many in the media have said so—Justice Alito’s criticism is strong.
But it’s a common concern that’s often raised in Supreme Court cases: whether the system can handle what’s been done.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor weighed in on Jones’ arrest:
SOTOMAYOR: … there is no way to look at what they did in accordance with the legal principles that this Court has discussed. No inference can be drawn from the evidence they produced. They are very innocent. Do you think the 5th and 8th amendments won’t create a problem?
REICHARD: The bottom line is that the court has to sort out conflicting laws that try to balance the fairness of justice and the protection of prisoners’ rights.
Our last case today comes off the death row in Arizona. In 2005, John Cruz was convicted of capital murder. Under federal law, he could receive the death penalty or life without parole.
Cruz wants to tell the judge that if he is not given the death penalty, he will never be eligible for parole. He cited the Supreme Court’s 1994 decision as cited Simmons that gave the defendants the right to instruct the jury to do so. The law helped to overturn jury verdicts based on the defendant’s harm to society.
EICHER: But the judge didn’t learn that. Now Arizona will ask the Supreme Court to legalize this death penalty in line with what the state does.
His lawyer, Deputy Attorney General Joseph Kanefield, argued against what he called endless attempts by criminals to avoid responsibility:
KANEFIELD: On May 26, 2003, Petitioner murdered Tucson Police Officer Patrick Hardesty in the line of duty by shooting him five times at point-blank range. He came here today to ask for a federal post-conviction hearing to get a new sentence so that he could apply for non-parole instructions under Simmons v. South Carolina, a case that has been pending for more than a decade.
REICHARD: Furthermore, Cruz did not raise this issue in his first appeal. Well, it’s too late now.
Cruz’s lawyer hit on his strongest case yet: Arizona violated Supreme Court precedent. Here is Neil Katyal:
KATYAL: In 2005, John Cruz was sentenced to death. The judge told jurors that, without the death penalty, Cruz would face, he said, “a life sentence with the possibility of parole.” The judge did so despite this Court’s decision 11 years earlier in Simmons. The Cruz judge acted under a profoundly flawed assumption. In fact, the judge said the next day: “We needed a reason to be happy, and many of us voted for life, but we were not given a chance to save the life.” life in prison without parole. “
I counted five judges who favored that side. Here’s Justice Elena Kagan, saying that before Simmons example:
KAGAN: I think Kafka would like this. Cruz lost his Simmons claims on direct appeal because the Arizona courts held that Simmons did not apply to Arizona. And he will miss the next season because the Arizona courts say Simmons will still apply.
EICHER: In 2016, the Supreme Court called another case Lynch referred directly to the Arizona courts to comply Simmons.
But the Arizona Supreme Court said no, on the grounds that nothing important had changed. Hear Kanefield explain:
KANEFIELD: The Arizona Supreme Court’s holding on the principle of completeness is correct and ground-specific for its decision. Under the law, Arizona’s special interest in the completion of criminal cases can only be filed in those rare decisions that require a new law or a statutory or regulatory change. Here Plaintiff did not make that showing.
REICHARD: Kanefield underestimated the extent of the change in the law. Many judges have argued in that regard.
Justice Elena Kagan said:
KAGAN: You seem to be thumbing your nose at us.
If Cruz succeeds, Arizona will grant new sentencing hearings to 32 inmates whose parole ineligibility will be heard by a judge.
And here’s this week’s Rulebook!
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