Justice Thomas was absent from the bench – “indisposed due to illness” said the Chief Justice after formally announcing the beginning of the new term.
The Justices then heard argument in the first case, Kahler v. Kansas, on whether states can abolish the insanity defense. Under a recent change to the “Guide for Counsel Arguing Cases” lawyers are now allowed two minutes, uninterrupted, to make their case before the justices jump in with questions. A light on the lectern briefly flashed before Justice Ginsburg jumped in with the first question of the term.
In addition to another morning argument, which I did not attend, the Court heard a rare afternoon argument in Ramos v. Louisiana on the requirement for state juries to reach unanimous verdicts.
In the new term’s first blockbuster the Supreme Court yesterday heard arguments in three cases of LGBTQ employment rights under Title VII.
Other than to observe that Justice Gorsuch seemed to be on the fence, “. . . It’s close, okay? We’re not talking about extra-textual stuff.”. . .
. . . and that Justice Ginsburg sported a bright red collar with matching earrings and scrunchie . . .
. . . I’ll let the sketches speak for themselves. ( Truth is, like walking and chewing gum, I find it difficult to listen and draw at the same time. )
Last Friday actress Felicity Huffman was sentenced to two weeks in prison, a $300,000. fine, and 250 hours of community service for paying to inflate her daughter’s SAT score.
At the same time Michael Flynn, Trump’s first National Security Advisor, was sitting in a courtroom, where among other matters a tentative date was set for his sentencing, John Bolton, the third person to occupy that position, was given the boot.
Time to come ashore and get back to work, reluctantly. In Boston last week for the latest episode of the Hollywood college admissions scandal, this time featuring Lori Loughlin and husband Mossimo Giannulli. They appeared before US magistrate judge M. Page Kelley for a Rule 44 hearing concerning possible conflicts in their representation by counsel. I expect to be back in Boston next week for the sentencing of Felicity Huffman who pleaded guilty in May, admitting she paid $15,000 to arrange for cheating on her daughter’s SAT test.
A generally quiet term concluded this week with opinions on two major issues before the Court, election district gerrymandering and the citizenship question on the 2020 census. There’s no question that it is now the Roberts Court with the Chief Justice replacing now retired Justice Kennedy as the deciding swing vote. Roberts wrote the opinions in both of the term’s blockbusters, siding with the conservatives on gerrymandering, but joining, at least in part, the liberal justices on the census question.
Here are some sketches from this last week. More sketches from the term are posted in my archive. I’m off to Ireland for a two week vacation so any print orders will have to wait until the end of July. Have a great summer!
Yesterday’s hearing before U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta on President Trump’s efforts to block a House committee’s subpoena for financial records is likely just the first skirmish in a lengthy battle to be fought in the courts.
Not a spy but still an agent is how the government portrayed Russian gun rights enthusiast Maria Butina who managed to establish close relationships with senior members of the National Rifle Association and the Republican Party.
From the government’s sentencing memo:
Butina was not a spy in the traditional sense of trying to gain access to classified information to send back to her home country. Acquiring information valuable to a foreign power does not necessarily involve collecting classified documents or engaging in cloak-and-dagger activities. Something as basic as the identification of people who have the ability to influence policy in a foreign power’s favor is extremely attractive to those powers. This identification could form the basis of other forms of intelligence operations, or targeting, in the future.
Butina received a sentence of eighteen months. With credit for time already served she will be ready for deportation back to Russia in approximately nine months.
April is the last argument siting of the Supreme Court. From now until the end of June the Justices will only sit to announces opinions, and no maybe a few dissents. After a fairly quiet term with no real blockbusters things picked up in this month. Last week the Court heard arguments in CENSUS, about the citizenship question on the 2020 census, and the week before there were arguments in Brunetti, about registering an “immoral” or “scandalous” trademark.
According to federal prosecutors 28 year-old Rondell Henry, inspired by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, planned a terrorist truck attack like the one in Nice, France that killed 84. It wasn’t a very well thought out plan. Henry stole a U-Haul in Alexandria and drove it to Dulles Airport in the early hours of March 27. Unable to get access to the airport he then drove to National Harbor to “get the largest number of casualties.” At National Harbor he broke into a boat and hid overnight. When he came back to the U-Haul police, who had the stolen vehicle under surveillance, arrested Henry. He soon confessed to the plot.