Circuit Split on Victims' Rights:

Check out this Tenth Circuit decision interpreting the expedited review provisions of the Crime Victims' Rights Act.

The Act provides for appellate review that is stunningly quick by the standards of the justice system -- "The court of appeals shall take up and decide such application [for mandamus] forthwith within 72 hours after the petition has been filed." One question this raises is whether the review is the normal appellate review, in which the appellate court reviews the trial court's decision for legal error without any deference to the trial court's legal judgment, or the normal mandamus review, which is considerably more deferential to the trial court. The Second and Ninth Circuit read the statute as mandating the nondeferential "de novo" standard; the Tenth Circuit has just expressly disagreed with those circuits, and went for the deferential standard.

If the Tenth Circuit doesn't rehear the case en banc, this sort of circuit split might well trigger Supreme Court review. The sentencing hearing at which the victims wanted to participate is scheduled for Jan. 14, and if that proceeds on schedule, then it's possible that the victims' challenge might become moot; but my tentative sense is that if need be the hearing can be postponed precisely to avoid such mootness, since speedy trial rights don't apply to the timing of sentencing. I'd love to hear what others think about this procedural question, though, and about the certworthiness of this case more broadly.

Thanks to How Appealing and Prof. Doug Berman (Sentencing Law and Policy) for the pointer.