As explained by SCOTUSblog, the petitioner's death has raised an interesting procedural conundrum in a criminal case pending before the United States Supreme Court, Claibourne v. U.S. (docket no. 06-5618). The case was fully briefed and argued before the petitioner was killed. Last week, petitioner's counsel, the federal public defender for the Eastern District of Missouri, filed a motion asking the Court either to decide the case anyway due to the widespread importance of the legal questions involved, or to grant expedited review of another case raising the same legal questions (which relate to the interpretation of the federal sentencing guidelines). Procedurally, a petition for review has already been filed in the proposed substitute case, but the Court has not yet acted on it. The federal public defender's office says that the substitute case could be very quickly briefed and prepared for decision because the petitioner is represented by the same attorneys.
Yesterday, the Supreme Court dismissed the Claibourne case as moot, but has not yet ruled on the request for expedited review of the other case.
This case presents an interesting example of how to potentially deal with the death of a party in an appellate proceeding in a court of last resort, in which the legal issues tend to be of widespread importance and to recur in many other pending cases.