Heien v North Carolina

Heinen moved to suppress drugs found in his SUV arguing the officer who pulled the vehicle over made a mistake of law as to whether one brake light or two were required. The North Carolina trial court denied the motion and North Carolina appellate courts eventually affirmed holding reasonable mistakes of law can form the basis of reasonable suspicion. The Court, 8-1 with a concurrence added, affirmed. The majority held that mistakes of law like mistakes of fact can provide reasonable suspicion so long as the mistake is objectively reasonable. The majority cited to customs cases in the 19th century excusing mistakes of law in seizure cases and a 1979 case declaring unconstitutional ordinances can provide the basis for arrest unless the unconstitutionality was paten ion the face of the statute. Here, it was unclear whether one or two brake lights were required, thus, the mistake of law, if any, was reasonable. Justice Kagan joined by Ginsberg added a concurrence arguing that subjective intent in these cases is irrelevant and the standard to meet in these cases will be higher than in qualified immunity cases as the statutory issue must be ambiguous and require hard interpretive work. Justice Sotomayor dissented arguing that law is fixed in meaning and an officer’s reasonableness in making a seizure is to be measured against eh law. She noted that all but one circuit to rule on the issue reject mistakes of law as part of reasonableness analysis and there will be no consequences for an officer who makes an mistake of law given qualified immunity and the good faith exception to the exclusionary rule.

Dart Cherokee Basin Operating Company, LLC v Owens

Dart removed Owen’s class action to federal court. It did not include proof of the amount in controversy. Relying ion 10th Circuit precedent, the district court remanded for failure to prove jurisdiction. The 10th Circuit affirmed and denied en banc review. Resolving a circuit split, the Court, 5-4 reversed. The majority held that under the “short and plain statement standard”, which is imported from the pleading requirements for complaints, a good faith statement of amount is sufficient particularly as Congress added a procedure to resolve any issue involving amount by allowing challenges then proof form both sides. The majority also held that there was no jurisdiction impediment to hearing the case as the 10th Circuit considered the issue, effectively adopted the requirement to submit proof with the removal notice and there is no realistic possibility the issue will be raised again. Justice Scalia, joined by Kennedy, Kagan and Thomas except to the last sentence (which confessed error in an earlier case) dissented arguing there was no jurisdiction to hear the case as the only issue to review was the decision to not hear a discretionary appeal and there is no indication the denial was motivated by the error of law the majority identifies rather than practical concerns over a quick decision making timeline or other permissible reasons. Justice Thomas added a dissent arguing there is no basis to review the case because there is no case to review given the application asserts no grievance, it seeks no redress and does not even require an adverse party.