Trump's new Supreme Court justice could weigh death penalty dispute in first days on the job

Trump's new Supreme Court justice could weigh death penalty dispute in first days on the job
© Greg Nash

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: 'I will not let Iran have nuclear weapons' Rocket attack hits Baghdad's Green Zone amid escalating tensions: reports Buttigieg on Trump tweets: 'I don't care' MORE’s new Supreme Court nominee could kick off their first week on the job hearing arguments on a death penalty case.

The court’s public information office on Monday released the calendar for arguments in the first month of the court’s new term starting in October. 


On the second day of the term, the justices are scheduled to hear a case challenging whether a state can execute a prisoner whose mental disability leaves him with no memory that he committed murder or whether the death penalty should be barred in this case by the Eighth Amendment's protections against cruel and unusual punishment.

The case centers on Alabama death row inmate Vernon Madison, who suffers from vascular dementia and memory loss after numerous severe strokes. 

Madison was slated to be executed on Jan. 25, but the court agreed to stay his execution.

Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch said they would have denied the request. It takes at least five justices to agree to a stay petition.

The court calendar release comes just hours before President Trump is expected to announce his nominee to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.

The fight over the vacant seat is teed up to be a vicious and costly battle. Outside conservative groups, including the Judicial Crisis Network, are planning to spend a million dollars lobbying to get Trump's second nominee confirmed to the bench.

There's a lot a stake, as Trump's nominee could cement the court's conservative majority for a generation. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBolton emerges as flashpoint in GOP debate on Iran On The Money: Treasury rejects Dem subpoena for Trump tax returns | Companies warn trade war about to hit consumers | Congress, White House to launch budget talks next week | Trump gets deal to lift steel tariffs on Mexico, Canada Schumer calls on McConnell to hold vote on Equality Act MORE (R-Ky.) has said he plans to hold a confirmation vote on Trump's nominee this fall.

The term starts Oct. 1 with a dispute over the government's designation of private land as a protected critical habitat for an endangered frog that lives elsewhere.

That case centers on roughly 1,500 acres of privately owned timberlands in Louisiana that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service protected for the endangered dusky gopher frog, which is located in Mississippi. 

Weyerhaeuser Co., which owns timberlands, is challenging the designation. The company argues the frog hasn’t lived on the property for decades and can’t without radical changes to the way the land is being used.

On Oct. 10, the court will weigh whether immigrants convicted of crimes are exempt from mandatory detention during removal proceedings if they aren’t immediately detained by immigration officials after being released from criminal custody.