The Supreme Court of the United States announced one per curiam decision today:
Glebe v. Frost, No. 14-95: Respondent Joshua Frost helped two associates commit a series of armed robberies. Frost’s attorney, at closing argument, wanted to argue both that the State failed to meet its burden of proving that Frost was an accomplice, and that Frost acted under duress. The trial court, however, refused to permit Frost’s attorney to proceed with both defenses, contending that state law prohibited simultaneously making these alternative arguments. Frost’s attorney argued duress, and Frost was convicted. The Washington Supreme Court held that the trial court’s ruling violated the U.S. Constitution’s Due Process and Assistance of Counsel Clauses, but nonetheless sustained the conviction, arguing that this was not a structural error requiring automatic reversal, but a trial error that here was harmless. On habeas review, the Ninth Circuit instructed the District Court to grant relief. The Court today, however, reversed, holding that even if the trial court violated the Constitution, it was not clearly established that its mistake ranked as structural error.
The Court's decision is available here.
Today, the Court granted argument to be heard in the following two consolidated cases:
Bank of America, N.A. v. Caulkett, No. 13-1421 and Bank of America, N.A. v. Toledo-Cardona, 14-163: Section 506(d) of the Bankruptcy Code provides in relevant part that “[t]o the extent that a lien secures a claim against the debtor that is not an allowed secured claim, such lien is void.” In Dewsnup v. Timm, 502 U.S. 410 (1992), this Court held that section 506(d) does not permit a chapter 7 debtor to “strip down” a mortgage lien to the current value of the collateral. These consolidated cases present the question of whether section 506(d) permits a chapter 7 debtor to “strip off” a junior mortgage lien in its entirety when the outstanding debt owed to a senior lienholder exceeds the current value of the collateral.