Bench Memos

Summary Reversal of Ninth Circuit Judge Reinhardt

In a unanimous per curiam opinion today in Wong v. Belmontes, the Supreme Court summarily reversed the ruling by a divided Ninth Circuit panel that a murderer who had been sentenced to death received ineffective assistance of counsel during the sentencing phase of his trial.  The Ninth Circuit opinion was written by arch-activist Judge Stephen Reinhardt and was joined by Judge Richard Paez.  In dissent was Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain.

As Orin Kerr on the Volokh Conspiracy points out, that’s the third time in this same case that the Supreme Court has reversed or vacated a ruling by Reinhardt.  (Each ruling was joined by Paez and was over O’Scannlain’s dissent.)

Ever defiant of the Supreme Court as he makes his wayward rulings, Reinhardt has declared, “They can’t catch them all.”  He’s undoubtedly right about that, but at least the justices haven’t given up.

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