The Supreme Court of the United States issued decisions in three cases today:

Bank Markazi v. Peterson, No. 14-770:  When Congress enacted the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012, one provision of that Act, 22 U.S.C. §8772, made assets held at a New York bank for Bank Markazi, the Central Bank of Iran, available for postjudgment execution to partially satisfy judgments in separate actions by over 1,000 victims of terrorist acts sponsored by Iran.  Section 8772 specifically identified as available for execution, “the financial assets that are identified in and the subject of proceedings in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York in Peterson et al. v. Islamic Republic of Iran et al., Case No. 10 Civ. 4518 (BSJ) (GWG), that were restrained by restraining notices and levies secured by the plaintiffs in those proceedings.”  When the judgment holders pursued these assets, Bank Markazi contended that §8772 violated separation-of-powers, because Congress had directed a particular result in what was an already pending enforcement proceeding.  The District Court rejected that argument, and the Second Circuit affirmed.  The Court today likewise affirmed, holding that §8772 does not transgress constraints placed on Congress and the President by the Constitution, and observing that Congress may amend the law and make the change applicable to pending cases, even when the amendment is outcome determinative.

The Court's decision is available here

Harris v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Comm’n, No. 14-232:  Arizona’s independent redistricting commission (“Commission”), redrew the State’s legislative districts after the 2010 census.  The initial plan had a maximum population deviation from absolute equality of districts of 4.07%, but the revised plan adopted by the Commission had an 8.8% deviation.  That plan was approved on a 3-to-2 vote, with the two Democrats and one Independent in the majority, and the two Republican members dissenting.  This revised plan was approved by the Department of Justice as consistent with the Voting Rights Act.  A group of State voters then challenged the redistricting plan, alleging that the districts are insufficiently equal in population.  The District Court found for the Commission.  Today, the Court affirmed, holding that because the maximum population deviation between the largest and smallest district is less than 10%, the challengers could not simply rely upon the numbers to show that the plan violates the Constitution, and they were also unable to adequately support their contentions with other evidence. 

The Court's decision is available here

Molina-Martinez v. United States, No. 14-8913:  Petitioner Saul Molina-Martinez was sentenced by the District Court to the lowest end of what it believed to be the applicable Federal Sentencing Guidelines range.  It was not until briefing before the Fifth Circuit that Molina-Martinez noticed and raised that the District Court had applied a Guidelines range higher than the applicable one.  Under Fifth Circuit precedent, if a defendant’s ultimate sentence fell within what would have been the correct Guidelines range, as was the case here, the defendant must identify “additional evidence” on appeal to show that the incorrect Guidelines range did in fact affect the sentence.  The Fifth Circuit found that Molina-Martinez had failed to meet that standard here.  The Court today reversed, holding that a defendant sentenced under an incorrect Guidelines range should be able to rely on that fact to show a reasonable probability that the district court would have imposed a different sentence under the correct range, and that probability is all that is needed to establish an effect on substantial rights for purposes of obtaining relief under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 52(b).

The Court's decision is available here.