Wednesday, May 09, 2018

U.S. v. Mikhel (9th Cir. - May 9, 2018)

When the Ninth Circuit summary of the opinion itself spans to the seventh page of the slip opinion, you know you're going to be reading a long opinion.  When the opinion starts with an extensive table of contents, that only confirms that it's going to be really long.  And when you're already in the triple digit page numbers and you've still got twenty-some single-spaced pages to read; well, you're pretty much exhausted.

Not surprisingly, the opinion's very comprehensive.  It's a federal death penalty case, which is rare, so one can understand why the panel's opinion is so detailed.  Plus, it's a horrifying case, and involves a group of foreign (Russian and Lithuanian) nationals who kipnap, hold for ransom, and kill a bunch of wealthy people and their associates.  Ultimately dumping each of their victim's bodies off a bridge in the New Melones Reservoir outside Yosemite National Park.

The time between oral argument and publication of the (unanimous) opinion isn't very long -- four months.  But the time it takes to get there is, as usual, expansive.  The murders were in 2001 and 2002.  The conviction and sentence were in early 2007.  And yet here we are, a full decade-plus later, and the Ninth Circuit only now resolves the direct appeal.  With the inevitable rehearing petition, Supreme Court petition, and federal habeas proceedings yet to come.

Still, you've got to be impressed by the opinion, if only by its length.  It's almost the size of a full-length book.  That's a pretty healthy work product.  Which I assume Judge Bybee didn't entirely draft on his own.  Some very hard work -- over a period of years, most likely -- by a bevy of personnel in chambers.