The Supreme Court on Monday morning added two new cases to the merits docket for the 2022-23 term. The new grants came on a list of orders issued from the justices’ private conference last week.
The justices agreed to hear the case of Texas inmate Rodney Reed, who was sentenced to death for the 1996 rape and murder of Stacey Stites. After his efforts to obtain federal post-conviction relief were unsuccessful and the state asked to set an execution date, Reed tried to have DNA testing conducted on several items, discovered on or near Stites’ body and in the truck that she often drove. A state trial court turned him down, prompting Reed to file a federal civil rights lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Texas law governing post-conviction DNA testing.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit ruled that Reed had brought his civil rights lawsuit too late, because he should have filed it within two years of the trial court’s denial of his request for DNA testing. Reed came to the Supreme Court last fall, asking the justices to review that ruling. He noted that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit has adopted a different rule, in which the statute of limitations only begins to run when all state-court litigation denying the request for DNA testing, including any appeals, has finished. After considering the case at eight consecutive conferences, the justices agreed to weigh in.
The justices also will take up the case of Robert Mallory, a longtime employee of Norfolk Southern Railway Co. who developed colon cancer. Mallory sued the railroad in a state court in Pennsylvania, seeking to hold the company liable for his exposure to asbestos and other toxic chemicals that he says caused his cancer. The state court dismissed the case, agreeing with the railroad that it lacked jurisdiction over the company. The state court rejected Mallory’s contention that the company had agreed to be sued in Pennsylvania when it registered to do business in the state.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld that decision, holding that the Pennsylvania law requiring corporations to consent to suit to do business is unconstitutional. Noting that corporations frequently require consumers to enter into contracts that require them “to litigate disputes with businesses in often-distant tribunals,” Mallory came to the Supreme Court in February, asking the justices to hear his case – which they agreed to do on Monday.
Both of the cases granted on Monday will likely be argued in the fall. The justices will meet again for another private conference on Friday, April 29.
This post is also published on SCOTUSblog.