This week, we’re studying civil liberties, which is about the individual freedoms guaranteed to us under the U.S. Constitution.
One of these, found in the 14th Amendment, says you can’t be deprived of your property without “due process of law.” How does that apply in the real world?
Two Colorado residents, Shannon Nelson and Louis Alonzo Madden, were convicted on sexual assault charges. Both defendants later had their convictions overturned, and both asked the court for a refund of certain fees they paid which Colorado charges only to those who are convicted.
The Colorado Supreme Court ultimately ruled that the state could keep the money, and that Nelson and Madden should have to “prove their actual innocence by clear and convincing evidence” under the state’s Exoneration Act in order to get their money back.
Can Colorado do that?
This year, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide this question in a case called Nelson v. Colorado. The Court heard oral arguments from both sides on January 9, but (as of when I’m writing this assignment) the justices have not yet issued a ruling.
Write an essay (our usual 2 – 5 page, double-spaced) about Nelson v. Colorado. What are the key issues involved? How do you think the Court will rule? If you were on the Supreme Court, how would you rule, and why?
Submit in Word. Cite your sources.
The SCOTUS Blog is always a good place to start when you’re looking at a Supreme Court case: http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/nelson-v-colorado/ (Links to an external site.)
USA Today covered the oral arguments in this case: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2017/01/09/supreme-court-colorado-conviction-acquittal-court-costs-restitution/96345736/ (Links to an external site.)
Atlantic Magazine has some good analysis: https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/01/can-states-make-people-pay-even-when-their-convictions-are-overturned/512360/ (Links to an external site.)
This issue is bigger than just Colorado: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/26/us/politics/charged-a-fee-for-getting-arrested-whether-guilty-or-not.html?_r=0 (Links to an external site.) (Links to an external site.)
Tired of just reading about it? Listen to the Washington Post‘s podcast: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2016/12/22/cato-podcast-on-nelson-v-colorado-and-the-presumption-of-innocence/?utm_term=.09b054e49b3d (Links to an external site.)
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