- 50th Anniversary
- Online Edition
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- Donahue Lecture Series
The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees criminal defendants the right to a public trial. This right, although fundamental, is not absolute. The Supreme Court has held that a criminal defendant’s public-trial right extends to pretrial proceedings including suppression motions and voir dire of potential jurors. Moreover, several circuit courts considering the matter have concluded that the right to a public trial also includes jury-selection proceedings and omnibus hearings. State courts, especially Massachusetts courts, have followed suit in finding structural error when the courtroom is closed during voir dire, jury selection, or trial.
The Sixth Amendment also guarantees a defendant’s right to be tried by an impartial jury. An impartial jury comprised of the defendant’s peers aims to prevent overzealous prosecution and biased judges. Jury-selection proceedings protect criminal defendants by finding an impartial cross section of the community. This cross section is derived from a panel of prospective jurors, called a venire. . .
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution embodies one of the country’s founding principles—separation of church and state—by prohibiting Congress from enacting laws that either respect a religious establishment or prohibit the people’s free exercise of religion. Analysis of issues arising under violation of the Establishment Clause consists of numerous, competing tests presented by the Supreme Court. In Doe ex rel. Doe v. Elmbrook School District, the Seventh Circuit considered two such tests and held that an unacceptable amount of religious endorsement and coercion occurred when high school graduation ceremonies were held inside a church. . .
The Sherman Antitrust Act (Sherman Act) prohibits businesses from contracting, combining, and conspiring to restrain trade or commerce. Reverse-payment-patent-settlement agreements between brand-name and generic pharmaceutical companies—whereby a brand-name-patent holder pays its generic competitor to drop a pending patent suit and refrain from producing its generic drug for a definite period of time—are generally subject to antitrust review under the Sherman Act. In In re K-Dur Antitrust Litigation, the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit considered whether reverse-payment agreements between Schering-Plough Corporation (Schering) and its generic competitors Upsher-Smith Laboratories (Upsher) and ESI Lederle (ESI) amounted to an unreasonable restraint on trade. Parting with other circuits that more recently addressed the issue, the court expressly rejected the common scope-of-the-patent test and held that reverse-payment agreements between a pharmaceutical patent holder and a potential generic competitor constitute a prima facie violation of the Sherman Act’s proscription against unreasonable restraints on trade. . .
When a party to litigation destroys relevant evidence, the judge may issue sanctions under the court’s inherent and statutory authority to punish spoliation of evidence. The adverse inference sanction permits or compels the jury to conclude the destroyed evidence would have harmed the party responsible for its loss. In Bull v. United Parcel Service, Inc., the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit confronted the issue of whether the production of copies in lieu of original documents constitutes spoliation of evidence, and whether such action warrants the harsh sanction of dismissal, or a lesser sanction such as an adverse inference. The Third Circuit held that Bull spoliated evidence by producing copies in place of originals because the authenticity of such documents cannot be evaluated; dismissal of the plaintiff’s claim, however, was determined too harsh a sanction. . .
Article III of the United States Constitution extends federal judicial power to all cases arising under admiralty and maritime jurisdiction. The Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA) in turn provides the exclusive, albeit monetarily limited, maritime remedy for wrongful deaths that take place on the “high seas beyond 3 nautical miles from the shore of the United States.” In Helman v. Alcoa Global Fasteners, Inc., the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit considered, as a matter of first impression, whether DOHSA applied to, and thus preempted other available claims arising from, a fatal helicopter accident that occurred approximately nine and a half nautical miles off the California coastline. Finding little interpretive significance in the term “high seas,” the Ninth Circuit held that DOHSA becomes unconditionally operative seaward of three nautical miles from U.S. shores. . .