Marinello v United States

Marinello sought review of the 2nd Circuit decision holding the government did not need to prove a nexus between violation of 26 USC 7212(a) and a specific tax administrative audit or other proceeding. The Court, resolving a circuit split, reversed. It holed that 7212(a) is best interpreted to require the nexus as it would otherwise criminalize virtually all interactions between the IRS and taxpayers in which the taxpayer sought an advantage, this nexus requirement is consistent with Court precedent on broadly worded prohibitions on interfering with the administration of justice, prevents elevating tax misdemeanors to felonies, is consistent with the context and overall purposes of the tax code, is supported by legislative history and leaving the narrowing to the executive branch opens the door to pursuit of vendettas. Thomas joined by Alito dissented arguing that 7212(a) applies to the whole tax code, record keeping and filing returns are part of the code and thus there is no nexus requirement, not the majority position is not supported by the text or court precedent and will allow the worst offenders to escape justice.

Ayestas v Davis

Ayestas sought review of the 5th Circuit decision affirming the denial of his motion for funding to investigate an ineffective assistance of counsel issue. The Court, with two justices concurring, unanimously reversed and remanded. The majority held that the underlying denial here was judicial as it was made by a district court judge as part of a civil habeas proceeding, the parties offered argument on both sides of the motion and thus the fact the motion was technically ex parte was not dispositive and there is no basis to conclude review of the denial should be in the admistrative office of the federal judiciary and the case is thus within the Court’s jurisdiction.  It held that motions for funding under 18 USC 3599(f) require a showing of reasonable necessity, the 5th Circuit applied a different more stringent standard of “substantial need” and compounded the error by requiring a showing of viable constitutional claim and thus reamd is necessary for analysis under the correct standard. Sotomayor, joined by Ginsberg, concurred in the majority analysis but wrote separately arguing Ayestas should receive funding because his ineffective assistance claim has potential merit given the failure of trial counsel to conduct an adequate mitigation investigation, Ayestas’ mental health and substance abuse issues and state post-conviction counsel’s similar failure to conduct an adequate investigation and the possibility of a life sentence when mitigation is weighed against the aggravating evidence presented at  sentencing.