More SCOTUS Sketches From Last Week

I’m a little late getting these posted. The last week of arguments for the term was dominated by Wednesday’s Trump v. Hawaii, which I’ve already posted, but the justices also heard cases on Texas gerrymandering, Abbott v. Perez, and on the appointment of administrative law judges, Lucia v. SEC, as well as three others one of which saw Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein at the lectern.

The Court also announced opinions in three cases on Tuesday. In a departure from usual practice of having the more junior justice announce the first opinion, Justice Thomas announced  Oil States Energy Services followed by Justice Gorsuch with the opinion in SAS Institute. It turns out that Gorsuch’s opinion referred to Thomas’ thus the need to go out of order; both are patent cases. And finally on Tuesday, Justice Kennedy delivered his first opinion of the term in an Alien Torts Act case, Jesner v. Arab Bank.

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Trump v. Hawaii Sketches

On the last argument day of the term the Justices heard the challenge to Trump’s travel ban. Line sitters had been camped out on the sidewalk since Monday.

As expected the courtroom was packed. If you look closely at the above sketch you can see Lin-Manuel Miranda seated in the right side background (he’s the one with the goatee).

 

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Mueller Team’s Big Guns

At a Thursday hearing on Paul Manafort’s motion to dismiss criminal charges for acts committed prior to 2014 as beyond the scope of the Mueller’s investigation the Special Counsel’s Office brought out the heavy hitters including Deputy Solicitor General Michael Dreeben.

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CEO’s Testify At Anti-Trust Trial

The AT&T/Time Warner anti-trust trial before Judge Richard Leon culminated this week with testimony from the companies CEO’s.

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Tax Week At SCOTUS

In case you needed a reminder that this Tuesday was the tax filing deadline, which as it turned out was extended 24 hours because of an IRS computer glitch, the Supreme Court heard arguments in two tax related cases this week.

South Dakota v. Wayfair, argued on Tuesday, could impact anyone who buys or sells goods shipped to another state. Currently out-of-state retailers are not required to collect sales tax unless they have a physical presence in the buyer’s state. But in the brave new world of e-commerce and virtual stores a majority of justices may be prepared to reverse the Court’s earlier position.

The other tax case is more peripheral and limited to railroad pensions. Argued on Monday, Wisconsin Central Ltd. v. United States seemed to turn on the definition of “money.” Are railroads and their employees, who are covered under the Railroad Retirement Tax Act instead of Social Security, required to pay taxes on compensation received in the form of stock options? In other words, are stock options money? That led the justices to hypothesize about compensation in the form of bottles of wine, baseball tickets and bushels of wheat.

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Zwaan Song

Posing nonchalantly, one hand on the lectern, the other in his pocket, Alex van der Zwaan received a sentence of thirty days and $20,000. from judge Amy Berman Jackson. Zwaan, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, is the first person to be sentenced as a result of Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation.

Note that the person depicted in the above sketch is not van der Zwaan’s father, though he was present in the courtroom.

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Shackling and C-Plea Sentencing

Other cases argued at the Supreme Court this week included one from California, United States v. Sanchez -Gomez, about the routine shackling of defendants in court,  and Hughes v. United States, in which a defendant who entered into a so-called “C-Plea” promising a below guidelines sentence is eligible for a reduction when the guidelines are lated reduced.

Of course, it’s never that simple. In Sanchez-Gomez the question before the justices is also whether the 9th Circuit has authority to review, and in Hughes it’s about what kind of precedent applies from the Court’s earlier plurality decisions.

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Maryland Gerrymander

Sketches from yesterday’s desultory argument in Benisek v. Lamone.

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AT&T / Time Warner Anti-Trust Trial

A few sketches from opening statements in the huge anti-trust trial in which the Justice Department is trying to stop a merger of AT&T and Time Warner.

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Abortion, Speech, and . . . Contracts

It’s been awhile since the Supreme Court heard an abortion case, and while last Tuesday’s argument wasn’t exactly about abortion, it was.

In NIFLA v. Becerra the Court is considering a California law, the Reproductive Fact Act, that compels “crisis pregnancy centers” to provide information to clients including the availability of abortion. The pregnancy centers, whose real mission is pro-life/anti-abortion, say the act violates their First Amendment’s free speech rights.

 

The Constitution’s contracts clause was before the Court on Monday as the justices heard arguments in Sveen v. Melin about a state that law nullifies life insurance beneficiaries post-divorce. The dispute is between the children of Mark Sveen, who divorced four years before he died in 2011, and Sveen’s ex-wife, Kaye Melin.

If you’re wondering about Wednesday’s arguments, I wasn’t there. A snowstorm was rolling through and I, unlike the justices who are no snowflakes, decided not to chance the drive in from Baltimore.

 

 

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