Indian tribal rights led the Supreme Court’s docket today. In one case, the Court held that the federal Bankruptcy Code abrogated the sovereign immunity of tribal governments. And in another, this time upholding tribal rights, the Court held upheld the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), with its arguably discriminatory provision requiring the placement of foster or adoptive Indian children with Indian caretakers. Justice Gorsuch, perhaps the Court’s most interested and knowledgeable member concerning tribal rights and interests, was the lone dissenter in the bankruptcy case and provided a unique historical perspective in a scholarly concurrence in the ICWA case. Finally, a unanimous Court held that the Constitution allows the retrial of a defendant who had been tried in an improper venue before jurors drawn from the wrong district. Three interesting and detailed opinions, none reflecting any major division in the Court, though perhaps Justices Thomas and Alito might seem to live on an island of their own.
We have previously discussed (here and here) the complex issues surrounding the resumption of jury trials during the COVID-19 pandemic. We cautioned that the various experimental efforts to resume jury trials taking place in courts around the country were likely to meet with a host of practical and jurisprudential problems. A few weeks later, it appears that our assessment was, if anything, too optimistic. Many of the states that had been taking first steps toward resuming jury trials in some form are now shutting down those experiments because of the spike in COVID-19 cases that is ...
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