SCOTUS under Trump


I dunno, I think Kagan’s dissent pretty much shreds the claim that the guy deliberately waited until the last minute and that there wasn’t enough time to accommodate the request.

Really, it’s quite hard to come up with a non-evil rationale for the majority’s decision. The 11th Circuit thought the guy was being harmed and wanted to hear the arguments. At most they were delaying the inevitable execution in order to address the question of the guy’s rights. For the SCOTUS majority to step in show basic contempt for the guy’s rights and for the jurisprudence of the 11th Circuit. They could have simply passed on the case. The 11th Circuit hears it, probably prescribes some remedy, the execution is delayed a couple of weeks, and the guy gets an Imam in the execution chamber. Where’s the harm?

I mean, the state’s position is facially discriminatory. They solve the problem of a Christian chaplain in the room by employing one, but everyone else can just fuck off if they want a non-Christian spiritual advisor? How is that not a religious preference?

Edit: Of course it’s the 11th Circuit, not the 5th. Not sure where that came from!


Without seeing the full court’s opinion and having more information, it’s not really possible to know how well Kagan shreds the claim.

Does anyone have a link to the full case file? I couldn’t find anything.


Yeah, I think the decision is stupid. Rush the process to get the imam there. The prisoner is going to be executed. Is it that hard to show a bit of compassion?

It also just creates bad PR for our justice system. Muslim denied rights, etc. It’s just dumb to allow this to be a problem and take up time in the courts.


I haven’t found it either, but Kagan’s dissent describes the timeline and sequence of events and causes for that sequence. There’s no reasonable argument that the guy waited until the last minute.

Edit: Is it possible there’s no majority opinion because there isn’t one? It’s just a majority vote to vacate the stay?


There’s a couple of issues here. First, the SCOTUS is generally predisposed not to delay executions. Arguments like “Well, what’s the harm of a short delay while you review this?” could be made for pretty much any last minute appeal.

In this particular case, a lower court made a finding of fact that Ray should have known about the paperwork requirements for his imam. Appeals courts are generally very reluctant to overturn findings of fact, because that’s not really their job. The Eleventh Court thought this warranted an exception, but the SCOTUS disagreed.


This, from Alabama’s argument, is breathtaking:

The Eleventh Circuit’s holding that the State had favored one denomination over another might make sense if the State allowed only Christians to bring their preferred spiritual advisors into the execution chamber, but the State forbids anyone who is not employed by ADOC into the execution chamber.

The law of Alabama in its infinite majesty permits Christians and Muslims alike to have a state employee Christian minister in their execution chamber. Equality!


Disagreed with what? If the 11th circuit court can overturn a finding of fact, then they can. Let them do their job.


I think his point is that the legal language is neutral with respect to religion.

Disagreed that this warranted an exception. Courts are supposed to follow precedent, just because they can do something doesn’t mean they should.


But not in the application. The state employs a Christian minister so that he is available to Christians, but makes no accommodation of any kind to non-Christians, then argues that everyone has the same access to the Christian. It isn’t a neutral practice.

Even the last-minute criticism is off base. If they only permit employees in the chamber, then there isn’t any accommodation they can offer no matter how much time he gives them.


They do make accommodations, but the request for accommodation has to be made in a timely manner.


Even the last-minute criticism is off base. If they only permit employees in the chamber, then there isn’t any accommodation they can offer no matter how much time he gives them.

Have they ever let a non-employee in the room? Have they ever hired an Imam as an accommodation? I’m guessing the answer is ‘no’. In their own briefs, the state says the accommodation they make is to remove the Christian minister.


You are arguing that the state should have hired a Muslim chaplain with the authority to enter the execution chamber. Which is probably true, and the court probably would have agreed if someone were asking for that.

But that’s not what Ray asked for, and not what the court was deciding. Ray wanted a non-employee in the chamber, of his own choosing. Which the state won’t allow.

And the court was not even deciding whether the state should allow non-employees into the chamber. Because that decision would take some time for both sides to argue.

What the court was deciding was whether it was very likely that Ray’s argument would succeed. That’s the only basis for granting a stay. And I have to say that the state probably has decent reasons for only allowing employees in the chamber. Maybe they are wrong, but they aren’t obviously wrong. And if so, Ray’s petition fails.


Well I’d say those reasons probably include giving Christians a spiritual adviser and allowing them to tell Muslims to pound sand. This is freaking Alabama. I had to double check to make sure that his religion wasn’t the reason they were executing him in the first place.


I’m going to hazard a guess that California had similar rules about non-employees.

Again, I agree that Alabama should hire non-Christian chaplains. But nobody was asking for that in this case.


I don’t think they need to hire non-Christian chaplains but they should have an easily navigated process that allows them into the chamber when requested. Never underestimate the infrastructure that a state will set up in order to maintain racist or hate-based policies.

As far as California goes, they rarely execute anyone at all. Last one was in 2006. I can’t find anything on their actual rules though.


Not explicitly. I’m arguing that the state’s law and practice are facially discriminatory, that the court has an obligation to address that, and that they are not limited to agreeing with the inmate’s preferred remedy.

The court could e.g. exclude all spiritual advisors from the chamber, whether they are employed by the state or not.


Sure, someone could argue that. But that would take months or years to decide, and it was way beyond the scope of this hearing.


I know this isn’t directly relevant to whether the Imam should have been allowed in the room with Ray, or just into the witness chamber (where he was, in fact, admitted), but Dominique Ray was exactly the sort of person who should be executed.

He raped and murdered a 15 year old. His defense was that the other guy was the primary aggressor (the other guy said it was all Ray’s idea). Ray was already in jail for a double murder. Those victims were 13 and 18.

Unless you’re against the death penalty in all cases, this isn’t a sympathetic complainant. Having his imam be one room away while he died doesn’t seem too high a price.


Nor would it be for white Christian child rapist murderers. So really, those details are irrelevant to the question here.


Do you like this decision? Agree with it, I mean?