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Supreme Court: lab technicians must testify at trial; student strip search unconstitutional

In a ruling that will have a wide impact on prosecutors across the country, The Supreme Court has held that lab reports used as evidence by prosecutors in criminal cases are testimonial evidence, and therefore the lab technicians must be made available to testify at trial under the Confrontation Clause.

The 5-4 ruling came in the case of Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts.

In another major decision, the Court held that the strip search of a student by school officials searching for prescription pills violated the student’s constitutional rights. But because it is unclear whether that right was clearly established at the time, the school official who ordered the search is entitled to qualified immunity.

The complicated 6-justice majority opinion in Safford Unified School District v. Redding included partial dissents and concurrences by Justices Stevens, Ginsburg, and Thomas.

In Horne v. Flores, The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Arizona school and state officials in a complex dispute over the adequacy of English language instruction in the state’s schools. In a fairly rare move, Justice Stephen Breyer announced his dissent in the 5-4 decision from the bench.

In another 5-4 opinion, the Court ruled in Atlantic Sounding Co. v. Townsend that punitive damages are available in maritime cases alleging willful and wanton disregard of the maintenance and cure.

We will have much, much more on the Melendez-Diaz and Redding rulings on this blog and on Lawyers USA Online, so stay tuned.

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