Sketches From This Week’s Added Opinion Days

Monday on the Supreme Court plaza was sizzling hot, Friday was not. In fact now, on the other side of the solstice, it’s drizzling and mild.

Into the home stretch now, the Court is adding opinion days to its regular June calendar of Monday sittings, and most of the cases remaining are biggies.

This week’s blockbusters were Carpenter v. United States, in which the Court ruled that a warrant is required for most cell phone data searches, and South Dakota v. Wayfair where the Court ruled that online and mail order businesses now need to collect sales tax on out of state purchases.

There were, of course, other opinions and if you’re wondering why I haven’t posted those here’s the reason: in the courtroom I roughly sketch each justice as they announce an opinion, or dissent, from the bench, but only complete the ones that are notable in some way, usually because it’s one everyone’s been waiting for. To complete and post every sketch of every justice announcing every opinion would be repetitive and boring.

Sometimes though, I’ll complete and post a drawing simply because I like it, or because of an interesting or humorous turn of phrase as when Justice Kagan, announcing the opinion in Lucia v. Security and Exchange Commission, described the petitioner as “an investment advisor who marketed a retirement savings strategy called ‘Buckets of Money.’”

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Gerrymander Side-Step on a Hot Day

Nothing is more welcome on a broiling summer day in DC than the cool marble halls inside the Supreme Court building . Outside, by the plaza, camera crews waited under beach umbrellas for reporters with news of the Court’s latest opinions.

Of the five opinions announced today the most anticipated were two partisan-gerrymander cases. There was optimism at the beginning of the term, when the first gerrymander case was argued in October, that the Justices might at last come up with a solution to the problem of political redistricting. But the Court left it to another day, another term. Both cases were returned to the District courts.

 

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Catching Up: Some SCOTUS Opinions

First things first, DC threw a parade last week to celebrate the home team Stanley Cup winners. Congratulations Washington Capitals!

Below are sketches of opinions announced in three major cases, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, and Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky

There are still nineteen argued cases to be announced before the summer recess begins at the end of June. Usually the most important, and difficult, opinions come down on the very last days.

 

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Catching Up: AT&T and a Leaker

I’ve been neglecting this blog lately, forgive me. Here are a couple of sketches from the past two weeks.

Depicted above is the conclusion of the months long AT&T / Time Warner anti-trust trial. Judge Leon delivered his decision approving the merger in the form of an opinion and strongly discouraged the government from pursuing an appeal.

Below is the initial appearance of James A. Wolfe, a long time staff member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Wolfe is charge with lying to the FBI about his relationships with reporters.

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Go Directly To Jail

Special Counsel Mueller’s team asked a judge on Friday to reconsider the conditions of Paul Manafort’s bail in light of additional charges relating to his attempts to influence potential witnesses. It surprised no one when judge Amy Berman Jackson revoked Manafort’s bail and sent him to jail, in fact I was hoping to see a toothbrush in his jacket pocket.

Manafort was not handcuffed as U.S. marshals escorted him out of the courtroom. Pity, it would have made a good image. He did however turn back and wave just before he exited the courtroom.

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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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