United States Army Corps of Engineers v Hawkes Co. Inc.

Corps sought review of the 8th Circuit holding that Corps determinations of whether waters on property are waters of the United States are final actions reviewable under the Administrative Procedures Act. The Court, with one justice conjuring in part and in judgment, affirmed. It held that the determinations were final as legal consequences flowed form the determinations such as a safe harbor against civil penalties for past acts or the denial of such protection. It held there was no adequate alternative to review as landowner would need to either act without a permit and risk massive fines or expend effort and incur large expenses to get a permit. Kennedy, joined by Thomas and Alito, added a concurrence arguing that the government position that Corps determinations are not binding on the Environmental Protection Agency is troubling as it exposes landowners to crushing fines for inadvertent violations thus intruding on landowners’ use of their property. Kagan added a congruence arguing the agreement between Corps and the EPA makes the determination final as it protects the landowner for five years if the determination is no jurisdiction over the water on the land. Ginsberg concurred in part and in judgment arguing that no reliance should be placed on the agreement and that the determination here has an immediate and practical impact and is thus final.

Johnson v Lee

Johnson sought review of the 9th Circuit’s decision holding California’s procedural bar to raising issues on collateral review that could have been raised on direct appeal inadequate to bar federal review. The Court summarily reversed holding the California rule was firmly stablished having been announced in 1953 and its holding reaffirmed in cases shortly before Lee’s appeal and was regularly followed as evidenced by eh California supreme Court’s repeated citation to the 1953 case establishing the rule. The Court also noted the California rule is similar to those followed in both federal and all state systems. It also rejected the 9th Circuit’s reasoning holding that state court practice of deciding cases on merits when a procedural bar may apply does not make the bar inadequate and federal court do not have authority to require state courts to write their opinions in a certain way to avoid federal habeas review.

Lynch v Arizona

Lynch sought review of the Arizona Supreme Court decision affirming his death sentence even though his future dangerousness was at issue and the jury was not told about life without parole option. The Court 6-2 summarily reversed. The per curium majority held that Court precedent required the jury to be informed that Lynch was ineligible for parole, failure to do so was error and the possibility of executive clemency or future legislative change does not alter the requirement to inform. Thomas, joined by Alito, dissented arguing that the jury here was told what sentences were available and the majority here now imposes a magic words test that furthers the error of requiring the jury to be informed about parole in the first place.