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Maryland molestation case set for SCOTUS opener

van-grack.jpgThe Supreme Court will be packed for Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler and Assistant Public Defender Celia A. Davis when they argue the case of Maryland v. Shatzer before the justices.

The draw will not be the case itself, though it does present an intriguing right to counsel issue. Nor will most of the public be enticed primarily by the participants (with apologies to Mr. Gansler and Ms. Davis).

No, the attraction will be the date of the high-court showdown: Oct. 5, the first Monday in October. Not only will the day mark the opening of the Supreme Court’s 2009-2010 term but also, presumably, the first day on the bench for Sonia Sotomayor, President Barack Obama’s nominee to succeed former Justice David H. Souter, who retired this summer.

A Senate vote on Sotomayor’s anticipated confirmation is expected within the next few weeks.

Maryland v. Shatzer is scheduled to be the second case argued on that historic day.

In Shatzer, the state is appealing a Maryland Court of Appeals decision that threw out an accused child molester’s conviction because police questioned him nearly three years after he first requested an attorney. The Maryland court said the time span did not vitiate Michael Blaine Shatzer Sr.’s invocation of his right to counsel, and that police, years later, were barred from questioning him until an attorney was provided.