The Impact of Melendez-Diaz on North Carolina

I was on vacation last week, and the buzz around Melendez-Diaz — see this prior post for the basics — was partly drowned out by the sound of the waves crashing on the beach. But only partly, because Melendez-Diaz is a big case, with significant implications for North Carolina, and questions about it were still burning up my email. Fortunately, I have a new stock answer to all those questions: read this paper. It’s an extensive analysis of the impact of Melendez-Diaz on North Carolina, by my colleague Jessie Smith. It’s thorough, it’s terrific . . . and it acknowledges that there are significant areas of uncertainty, including how Melendez-Diaz affects the practice of Lab Analyst A testifying based on a review of Lab Analyst B’s work.

One further tidbit about Melendez-Diaz: the Supreme Court just granted certiorari in a case called Briscoe v. Virginia, which raises issues that are very similar to those decided in Melendez-Diaz. Some — including the sharp folks at SCOTUSblog in this post — think that the four Melendez-Diaz dissenters are hoping to revisit the case with Judge Sotomayor replacing Justice Souter and perhaps tipping the scales in the other direction. Maybe so, but with no clear indication of how Judge Sotomayor would view the case if confirmed, lawyers in the trenches have to treat Melendez-Diaz as exactly what it is: the law.