Scotus: Oral Arguments On Florida v. Powell Look Too Close to Call

Yesterday, I attempted to play “sports commentator” and said that Florida v. Powell. After watching another quarter in the case (oral arguments), I still think it is too close to call. According to SCOTUS blog, it still sounds like a coin toss.

During oral arguments, Justice Sonia Sotomayor openly expressed what some of her colleagues may have been thinking silently: that perhaps police can’t be trusted to make warnings explicit unless they are required to do so. In Tampa, she said, the officers “chose to obfuscate a little bit and be less specific. Shouldn’t we assume that that is an intent to deceive or perhaps to confuse?” Justice Kennedy suggested that a narrowing of the required warning would be widely imitated. It also led Justice Sotomayor to suggest it may mean something that there is a split in lower courts on whether the Tampa approach adequately conveyed the scope of a suspect’s rights. That ambiguity, she suggested, might be a basis for the Court now to provide some clarity. Justice Breyer was concerned that a suspect would assume it meant a right to talk a lawyer only before questioning began, and not to have the lawyer present throughout.

On the other side, Justice Ginsburg and Justice Roberts seemed concerned that the FBI warnings favorably commented on by the
Miranda Court did not have a specific warning that counsel would be appointed during question. Justice Scalia scoffed at the idea that an individual would alter his/her decision to confess based on this. Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr also schemed skeptical. Justice Thomas didn’t ask any questions but is presumably in the state’s court. Stay tuned folks; it is going to be close.