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Law School Case Brief

Maryland v. King - 567 U.S. 1301, 133 S. Ct. 1 (2012)


To warrant a stay of a judgment of a state's highest court, an applicant must demonstrate (1) a reasonable probability that the Supreme Court of the United States will grant certiorari, (2) a fair prospect that the Court will then reverse the decision below, and (3) a likelihood that irreparable harm will result from the denial of a stay.


Maryland's DNA Collection Act, Md. Pub. Saf. Code Ann. §2-501 et seq., authorized law enforcement officials to collect DNA samples from individuals charged with but not yet convicted of certain crimes, mainly violent crimes and first-degree burglary. In 2009, police arrested defendant Alonzo Jay King, Jr., for first-degree assault. When personnel at the booking facility collected his DNA, they found it matched DNA evidence from a rape committed in 2003. Relying on the match, the State charged and successfully convicted King of, among other things, first-degree rape in Maryland state court. A divided Court of Appeals of Maryland overturned King's conviction, holding the collection of his DNA violated the Fourth Amendment because his expectation of privacy outweighed the State's interests. Maryland applied to the Supreme Court of the United States for a stay of that judgment pending disposition of its petition for a writ of certiorari.


Was the State entitled to a stay of judgment?




To warrant that relief, Maryland was required to demonstrate (1) "a reasonable probability" that Supreme Court of the United States will grant certiorari; (2) "a fair prospect" that the Court will then reverse the decision below, and (3) "a likelihood that irreparable harm [will] result from the denial of a stay."

To begin, there was a reasonable probability the Court would grant certiorari. The state court's decision conflicted with decisions of the Courts of Appeals of the United States for the Third and Ninth Circuits as well as the Virginia Supreme Court, which upheld statutes similar to Maryland's DNA Collection Act. The split implicates an important feature of day-to-day law enforcement practice in approximately half the states and the federal government. Indeed, the state court had direct effects beyond Maryland: Because the DNA samples Maryland collected may otherwise be eligible for the Federal Bureau of Investigation's national DNA database, the decision rendered the database less effective for other states and the federal government. These factors made it reasonably probable that the Court would grant certiorari to resolve the split on the question presented. In addition, given the considered analysis of courts on the other side of the split, there was a fair prospect that the Court would reverse the state court's decision. 

Finally, the decision subjected Maryland to ongoing irreparable harm. "[A]ny time a State is enjoined by a court from effectuating statutes enacted by representatives of its people, it suffers a form of irreparable injury." Collecting DNA from individuals arrested for violent felonies provided a valuable tool for investigating unsolved crimes and thereby helping to remove violent offenders from the general population. Crimes for which DNA evidence was implicated tend to be serious, and serious crimes cause serious injuries. That Maryland could not employ a duly enacted statute to help prevent such injuries constituted irreparable harm.

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