Supreme Court Litigation Clinic Gets Third Win

March 8, 2010

The Supreme Court has ruled in favor of a client of the Law School's Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, the third victory for the clinic out of four cases decided by the court.

Bloate v. United States involved the federal Speedy Trial Act, which sets a limit on the number of days that can elapse between the time a defendant is charged and brought to trial.

Supreme Court Litigation Clinic
The 2009-10 Supreme Court Litigation Clinic with clinic instructors Dan Ortiz, Mark Stancil and Jim Ryan (George Rutherglen and David Goldberg not pictured). Students in the 2008-09 clinic worked on the cert petition for Bloate v. United States.

In a 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court ruled today that Taylor James Bloate's right a speedy trial was violated, a position that Supreme Court Clinic instructor Mark Stancil argued in November.

"The decision is significant in several respects," Stancil said. "Most importantly, it vindicates Congress's clearly expressed intent on an issue that arises in the vast majority of federal criminal cases that go to trial."

Bloate was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm and with possessing cocaine base with intent to distribute. He argued that the 28 days allotted for the preparation of his pretrial motions put the government over the 70-day speedy trial limit.

Federal courts of appeals had previously split on the question of whether such time counts against the clock. The Speedy Trial Act specifically addresses the exclusion of time relating to pretrial motions, and it declares that only the time between filing and disposition of the motion should be excluded from the speedy trial calculation.

"The decision is especially gratifying because eight of the ten circuits that had decided the question had ruled in the government's favor," Stancil said."The Supreme Court concluded, by a wide margin, that longstanding principles of statutory interpretation mattered more than reaching an outcome that might, in an individual case, benefit a criminal defendant."

In February, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a fifth clinic case, Kevin Abbot v. United States of America, which will be argued in October or November.

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