Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A Challenge to Maryland v. Craig

Lawyers from Baker Botts in Washington, D.C., have filed a well-crafted petition for certiorari asking the Supreme Court to take another look at Maryland v. Craig, 497 U.S. 836 (1990), which allows child witnesses in certain circumstances to testify against an accused outside his presence by electronic means. The petition presents a conflict among states in interpreting Craig – some states treat potential trauma to the child as sufficient in itself to justify such a procedure; others require that the trauma threaten to impair the child’s ability to testify. More broadly, the petition asks the Court to overrule Craig.

In arguing for adoption of the testimonial approach in Crawford, Jeff Fisher as counsel for Crawford and I as a supporting amicus emphasized that to do so would not require the Court to rethink Craig; the issues were orthogonal. Similarly, in an amicus brief written a few years earlier on behalf of the ACLU in Lilly v. Virginia, 527 U.S. 116 (1999), Margaret Berger and I wrote, referring in part to Craig, “Our focus here is on when confrontation is necessary, not on what is required for confrontation.” That having been said, I think that the majority opinion in Crawford bears much more affinity to the dissent written on behalf of four justices in Craig than it does to the majority opinion in Craig. This cannot be altogether surprising: Justice Scalia wrote the majority opinion in Crawford and the dissent in Craig, and Justice O’Connor, the author of the majority opinion in Craig, was one of the two justices who did not join the majority opinion in Crawford. Not only does Craig rely heavily on Ohio v. Roberts, 448U.S. 56 (1980), which is now discarded, but the Craig majority opinion reflects a balancing approach to the confrontation right, reflective both of the Roberts era and of Justice O’Connor, while Crawford reflects a more categorical approach favored by its author.

There can be little doubt that Justice Scalia, whose Craig dissent was bitter and pungent, would like to see that decision overruled. Would he now have the votes to do so? Will the Court decide that this is the time to consider the issue? We’ll know before long.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Court denied cert on 5/14/07.