Alabama Redistricting

After the 2010 census Alabama redrew its voting map with the result that some districts became more white/Republican and others more black/Democratic. Two groups, the Alabama Legislative Black Caucus and the Alabama Democratic Conference challenged the state’s redistricting plan saying that the plan “packed” predominantly African American districts on the basis of race.

It’s a complicated and unusual case where the sides historically arguing racial quotas have switched. Rather than attempt to explain the argument, I’ll just post my pictures and refer the reader to Richard Hansen’s analysis on SCOTUSblog.

” . . the so-called “crab claws” that the parties describe that extend out from the district capture African American populations.” -Solicitor General Verrilli

 

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“Everyone Loves Cell Phones . . .

. . . Nobody likes towers, apparently.” said Justice Breyer during yesterday’s argument in T-Mobile South v. City of Roswell.

The city council of Roswell, Georgia – which has more cell towers than square miles – denied a request by T-Mobile to erect a cell phone tower in a residential area. No reason for the decision was given in the city’s letter of denial though the meeting minutes were supplied within a few weeks.

T-Mobile’s lawyer told the Court that the explicit reasons “supported by substantial evidence contained in a written record” should accompany the city’s decision.

The Solicitor General’s lawyer said that it is sufficient that the reasons for the denial may be found in the minutes.

And the lawyer for the City of Roswell suggested an interesting approach in that he supported the SG’s argument that the reasoning can be found in the minutes but added that the letter of denial was not actually the decision. The decision by the city council, he argued, was not taken until the minutes were approved. The earlier letter of denial was merely a notification.

There was, of course, much more to the argument than what I’m capable of reporting. For more see Miriam Seifter’s analysis on SCOTUSblog.

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A Made For TV Kidnapping

Philadelphia-kidnap-courtroom-sketch-Delvin-Barnes141106

When Delvin Barnes snatched a Philadelphia woman off the street Sunday night it was recorded by surveillance cameras. And when he later used the victim’s ATM at a bank and a convenience store it was again on camera.

Barnes is a bad guy. There was already a warrant for his arrest for an October abduction in Virginia of a 16 year-old girl who escaped naked, doused in bleach and gasoline. He appeared by closed-circuit TV in Baltimore county district court yesterday before being extradited to Virginia to face attempted murder and rape charges.

When he arrived in Virginia he was “perp-walked” through a crowd of reporters shouting questions to which he responded with vulgar words of language. It made for great TV.

True, the story was also interesting for the way the authorities used GPS to track Barnes car – the dealer who sold him the vehicle had the GPS device installed because of Barnes’ bad credit – but what really made this a prime-time story was all the video. I’m afraid my sketch, which was in fact partly drawn from a video screen, got left on the cutting-room floor so to speak.

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A Banner Day for Fish Stories

The case of a Florida fisherman convicted under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act for destroying potential evidence – in this case red grouper – had the potential for comedy when the Supreme Court heard arguments today. To that end, I did my part. I regularly do a banner sketch for SCOTUSblog in the morning when I arrive at the Court, usually of the line on the plaza outside or of lawyers waiting to be admitted to the bar. This morning I tried something a little different.

Anyway, hope you like it. Below are a couple sketches from the argument. And here is a link to Lyle Denniston’s account of how it went – not so good for the government, I’m afraid.

The case is Yates v. U.S.

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Good Day in Court for TSA Whistleblower

When the Transportation Safety Administration decided to cut back on air marshals for overnight flights one of those marshals leaked the information to MSNBC. Congress was furious when the news broke and the TSA promptly withdrew the cutbacks.

Former air marshal Robert MacLean was fired when the agency learned that he was the source of the leak. MacLean then appealed under the Whistleblower Protection Act, but was turned down because the act does not protect disclosures “specifically prohibited by law”. But the fact is that MacLean never broke the law, only TSA rules, and so he won in the lower court.

The Supreme Court agreed to the government’s petition seeking a reversal, but today at argument that seemed unlikely.

 

Several justices pointed out that the act refers only to laws, not agency regulations. “So it is prohibited by regulations, let’s not play games,” Justice Antonin Scalia told deputy solicitor general Ian Gershengorn.

The lawyer for the former air marshal, Neal Katyal, had an easier time. “The facts,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor told him, “are very much in your favor here.”

 

 

 

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Passport Case and Forgot to Turn the Clock Back

Trouble With The Clocks

As usual the Justices came to the bench at 10:00 sharp but the clock above them showed 8:00. The clock at the other end of the courtroom read noon, or midnight. Seems nobody remembered to turn the clocks back this weekend as we went off Daylight Saving Time.

“I’ll alert counsel that the clock behind you is not accurate” said Chief Justice Roberts. “You shouldn’t look at the clock anyway, but particularly not today”.

With that said, and as the hands on the clock faces continued to move in fits and starts, always out of time, the Court heard arguments in Zivotofsky v. Kerry.

The case, about a law passed by Congress in 2002 that orders the State Department to “record the place of birth as Israel” in the passports of American children born in Jerusalem, was first heard by the Supreme Court in 2011.

Lyle Denniston’s take on the argument is here.

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Khatallah Back In Court For Additional Charges

Looking very much like an Old-Testament prophet, Ahmed Salim Faraj Abu Khatallah was arraigned Monday on 17 additional charges related to the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi.

Khatallah said nothing as he stood in a green jumpsuit with “Alexandria Inmate” stenciled on the back while his lawyer, federal public defender Michelle Peterson, entered for him a plea of not guilty.

No trial date has yet been set as the prosecutors say they need more time to gather and redact the “thousands and thousands of pages” and hundreds of hours of video before turning them over to the defense.

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The Latest White House Fence Jumper

He scaled the fence but unlike the previous intruder three weeks ago Dominic Adesanya never made it all the way across the lawn and into the White House. He was stopped by Hurricane and Jordan, two Secret Service dogs with whom he fought until officers took him down.

Clearly deranged, his arm and fingers bandaged, Adesanya repeatedly tried to speak during his appearance before a federal magistrate. He resisted as he was led out of the courtroom.

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MS Drug Patent Argument

Usually trial courts are the exclusive finders of facts and appellate courts are limited to questions of law, but apparently that’s not necessarily the case when it comes to patent law. In a dispute between Teva Pharmaceuticals, which holds the patent on the very profitable multiple sclerosis drug Copaxone, and companies that want to begin marketing a generic version the trial court sided with Teva. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which reviews patent cases, however, looks at all elements of a patent claim as legal issues, including the factual conclusions of the trial court and reversed.

Even though Teva’s patent expires in September of next year the amount of money at stake is huge – in the billions. Also at stake is a shift of power from the Federal Circuit.

The case is Teva Pharmaceuticals v. Sandoz

Here are my sketches and a link to Lyle’s SCOTUSblog analysis of the argument.

Posted in Arguments, Supreme Court Tagged with: ,

I Am Not An Anti-Dentite . . .

. . . nor do I have anything against teeth whitening. I suppose it is an important case, North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners v. FTCabout whether state licensing boards made up of private professionals may violate anti-trust laws, and the argument was lively, but I’ll just post my two sketches and a link to Adam Liptak’s article and call it a night.

Liptak’s NYT story here.

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