Justices grant review in two criminal cases and a securities lawsuit against Slack



The Supreme Court on Tuesday morning added three new cases to its merits docket for the 2022-23 term. The justices considered all three cases – involving federal securities laws, the Sixth Amendment’s confrontation clause, and the proper remedy when a defendant is tried in the wrong place – at their private conference last week. Although the justices announced an initial set of new grants from that conference on Friday afternoon, Tuesday’s grants follow a recent pattern of issuing a second set of grants from the court’s final regularly scheduled conference of the year.

The justices agreed to review the case of Adam Samia – whom the federal government describes as a “hitman” who “committed an array of crimes worthy of a James Bond villain.” Samia was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for his role in the murder of Catherine Lee, a real estate agent in the Philippines.

At Samia’s joint trial with his two co-defendants, prosecutors relied in part on a confession from one of the co-defendants, Carl Stillwell, who identified Samia as the person who pulled the trigger. Prosecutors redacted Stillwell’s statement so that it did not use Samia’s name, and the presiding judge instructed the jury that it could only consider Stillwell’s statement in determining Stillwell’s guilt.

Samia was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. He came to the Supreme Court in August, asking the justices to decide whether admitting Stillwell’s redacted statement, when it immediately incriminated Samia, violated Samia’s right under the Sixth Amendment to confront the witnesses against him.

In Smith v. United States, the justices will take up the case of Timothy Smith, an Alabama software engineer and avid fisherman who was indicted for hacking into the website of Strikelines, a Florida company that identifies and sells the locations of artificial fishing reefs (which fisherman normally do not share).

Smith was tried in the Northern District of Florida, where the company was located; he was convicted on two of the three counts on which he was indicated and sentenced to 18 months in prison and a year of supervised release. Smith argued that he was tried in the wrong place, because he lives in Alabama and the website’s servers were in the Middle District of Florida.

On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit agreed with Smith that one of the counts on which he had been convicted had been tried in the wrong place. The question that the Supreme Court agreed on Tuesday to decide involves the remedy for that mistake. Smith contends that he should be acquitted on that count and cannot be retried anywhere, while the federal government counters (and the 11th Circuit ruled) that prosecutors can try him again somewhere else.

And in Slack Technologies v. Piriani, the justices agreed to decide whether, to bring a securities lawsuit alleging misstatements in a registration statement, a plaintiff must plead and show that he bought shares registered under the allegedly misleading statement. The question comes to the court in a lawsuit brought by Fiyyaz Piriani, who purchased 250,000 shares in the software and communications company in 2019. Piriani alleges that Slack’s registration statement was misleading because it did not disclose the generous terms of Slack’s agreements to compensate customers for service disruptions.

The justices’ next scheduled conference is on Jan. 6, 2023.

This article was originally published at Howe on the Court.

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