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Monday, May 18, 2015

Justice Scalia on "Snookering" the Supreme Court into Granting Certiorari

The Supreme Court just issued its opinion in City and County of San Francisco v. Sheehan. The questions presented in that case were: 

(1) Whether Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act requires law enforcement officers to provide accommodations to an armed, violent, and mentally ill suspect in the course of bringing the suspect into custody; and (2) whether it was clearly established that even where an exception to the warrant requirement applied, an entry into a residence could be unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment by reason of the anticipated resistance of an armed and violent suspect within. (Breyer, J., recused.)

Due to San Francisco's refusal to brief or argue the first question, that question was dismissed as improvidently granted. The majority of the Court went on to decide the second question, holding that the officers were entitled to qualified immunity.

But in a separate opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, Justice Scalia (joined by Justice Kagan) argued that both questions should have been dismissed. Justice Scalia did not hold back in expressing his disapproval of the petitioner's strategy:

Why, one might ask, would a petitioner take a position on a Circuit split that it had no intention of arguing, or at least was so little keen to argue that it cast the argument aside uninvited? The answer is simple. Petitioners included that issue to induce us to grant certiorari. As the Court rightly observes, there are numerous reasons why we would not have agreed to hear petitioners’ first QP if their petition for certiorari presented it in the same form that it was argued on the merits. See ante, at 7–10. 
. . .

I would not reward such bait-and-switch tactics by proceeding to decide the independently “uncertworthy” second question. And make no mistake about it: Today’s judgment is a reward. It gives the individual petitioners all that they seek, and spares San Francisco the significant expense of defending the suit, and satisfying any judgment, against the individual petitioners. I would not encourage future litigants to seek review premised on arguments they never plan to press, secure in the knowledge that once they find a toehold on this Court’s docket, we will consider whatever workaday arguments they choose to present in their merits briefs.

There is no injustice in my vote to dismiss both questions as improvidently granted. To be sure, ex post—after the Court has improvidently decided the uncertworthy question—it appears that refusal to reverse the judgment below would have left a wrong unrighted. Ex ante, however—before we considered and deliberated upon the second QP but after petitioners’ principal brief made clear that they would not address the Circuit conflict presented by the first QP—we had no more assurance that this question was decided incorrectly than we do for the thousands of other uncertworthy questions we refuse to hear each Term. Many of them have undoubtedly been decided wrongly, but we are not, and for well over a century have not been, a court of error correction. The fair course—the just course—is to treat this now-nakedly uncertworthy question the way we treat all others: by declining to decide it. In fact, there is in this case an even greater reason to decline: to avoid being snookered, and to deter future snookering.

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