The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) will hold a weekly conference this Friday, during which two cases will be considered which we will have our eyes on.

The losing party in a federal appeal can petition the SCOTUS to consider their case. An application for consideration is called a Writ of Certiorari. Each year, the SCOTUS receives thousands (approximately 8000) Writs of Certiorari and decides to hear only approximately 1% (one percent) of the cases it considers. This consideration process takes place at ‘conferences’ where the Justices get together and decide which cases to hear.

If they do not select a case, (deny certiorari) the ruling of the appellate circuit stands. If they select a case (grant certiorari) the SCOTUS will hear the case and the result could mean a different outcome. More important than the result for the parties in the case, is the fact that a SCOTUS decision becomes binding precedent for all federal circuits.

We are closely watching two cases that are being considered in conference this Friday, November 30; Boyd v. Washington and Prison Legal News v. Jones.

In Boyd the Court would consider: Whether the requirement of frequent, in-person reporting renders an offender-registration law punitive, such that applying the law retroactively violates the ex post facto clause. This case is important to us because it addresses the ex post facto argument in the context of “next generation” sex offender laws. It is also important for us to watch because it asks the question whether frequent, in-person, registration (in the case of Boyd, weekly, in-person, trips to the registration office) is punishment. A decision in this case will have a impact on our in-person challenge.

In Prison Legal News, the Court would consider: Whether the Florida Department of Corrections’ blanket ban of Prison Legal News violates a petitioner’s First Amendment right to free speech and a free press. The Florida Department of Corrections has banned Prison Legal News, an award-winning monthly publication featuring content directed to the specialized interests of inmates, from all Florida prison. No other state or federal prison system has banned PLN on the basis of unsubstantiated “safety concerns”. This case is important to us for several reasons. First, many of our loved ones (or ourselves) are unnecessarily being denied access to an important publication. Second, our State seems to like to pass laws based on unsubstantiated “safety concerns” and the ability to violate constitutional rights based on unsubstantiated “concerns” directly impacts our cause. And finally, Prison Legal News has been a close ally of the Florida Action Committee. PLN’s parent company, Human Rights Defense Center, Inc., was one of the ONLY organizations to point out the discrimination contained in Amendment 4.

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