The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday turned down a bid to further weaken campaign finance laws, but said it would consider the case of an Alabama death row inmate whose previous appeals were rejected due to a missed filing deadline for paperwork.
Corey R. Maples
, convicted in 1997 of killing two men after a night of boozing and drug use, argued that he had endured negligent legal representation from the outset, including two court-appointed attorneys who cautioned a jury it might appear they were "stumbling around in the dark."
During the appeals process, Maples got burned by two New York lawyers who left their firm without informing the defendant or the court, the Washington Post
reported. As a consequence, when the lower court sent notice of an unfavorable ruling, the law firm stamped the two missives, "Return to sender." In Alabama, a court clerk put the returned letters back in the case file and apparently left the matter at that. By the time Maples got the notice, a 42-day period for filing an appeal had passed.
The Alabama man is now represented by Gregory G. Garre, solicitor general under former President George W. Bush. Garre told the Supreme Court Maples' case "raises the shocking prospect that a man may be executed without any federal court review of serious constitutional claims due to a series of events for which all agree he was blameless, and notwithstanding the state's own failing in the purported default."
The high court justices agreed, and will consider Maples' appeal.
But, separately, the court said "no" to the Republican National Committee's attempt to end federal restrictions on how much a political party can spend in direct coordination with a candidate during campaigns. The RNC, joined by former Rep. Joseph Cao -- a Louisiana Republican who was defeated in November -- asserted that existing limits violated the organization's First Amendment rights.
The court wasn't convinced and declined to consider a claim that had already been thrown out by the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. Last June, the Supreme Court also let stand the 2002 McCain-Feingold law's ban on a political party's use of unregulated campaign cash -- so-called soft money.
The political community has closely tracked Supreme Court rulings in campaign finance complaints, the Post said, ever since the January 2010 opinion in the Citizens United
case opened the way for corporations and unions
to spend more freely on campaign advertising.