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.
Harold Martin, a former NSA contractor with a top secret security clearance was arrested in 2016 for taking home the equivalent of a half billion pages of physical and digital classified documents. He didn’t pass the materials on to anyone, just hoarded them compulsively in his home. Last week he pleaded guilty to one count in exchange for a nine-year sentence and having the remaining 19 charges dropped.
Martin’s lawyer, James Wyda, told the court, “His actions were the product of mental illness, not treason. . . . He is deeply remorseful.”
If I heard correctly, a couple times during the hearing Martin said, “It’s time to close the Pandora’s box.”
Celebrity screen actors Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, along with Loughlin’s husband Mossimo Giannulli, had a five-minute appearance before a federal magistrate judge in Boston on Wednesday. They, along with over thirty other parents, are facing charges in a nation-wide college admission fraud scandal.
It’s Monday, April 1st, and surprise! I’m not at the Court. I meant to be there but with so much to do before heading up to Boston for the celebrity college admissions scandal, and low expectations of any really momentous opinions, I choose to play hooky. Nevertheless, here’s an April Fools banner.
The big arguments last week were a pair of gerrymandering cases, Rucho v. Common Cause and Lamone v. Benisek, that never made it to network prime time because of the Jussie Smollett breaking news. Again with the celebrities!
Tuesday’s gerrymander arguments were bookended by Administrative Law arguments on Monday, PDR Network v. Carlton & Harris Chiropractic, . . .
. . . and on Wednesday, Kisor v. Wilkie.
We also had an Admiralty Law case, The Dutra Group v. Batterton, argued last week, and though I didn’t sketch the argument I felt it was time for a maritime themed banner.
Spring is coming – slowly – to DC as the Supreme Court begins its March sitting.
March is gerrymander month at the court this term with an argument on race-based redistricting in Virginia on Monday, and two more to be argued next week.
On Tuesday, the Court announced opinions is three cases. The first, dealing with maritime law, was of limited interest . . .
. . . but the second, Nielsen v. Preap, significantly expands a mandatory-immigration-detention without-bond statute.
To signal the seriousness of the decision Justice Breyer announced from the bench his dissent, joined by Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Kagan.
Since Breyer also announced the opinion in Cougar Den I did not bother to draw him again. The Court then heard argument in Cochise Consultancy v. U.S.
Wednesday’s argument, like Monday’s, involved a question of race. In Flowers v. Mississippi a local district attorney tried the same defendant six times for murder. The first two verdicts were overturned because of prosecutorial misconduct. The third was overturned because during jury selection the DA struck all African-Americans from the jury pool. The fourth and fifth trials resulted in hung juries which brings us to the case before the Court where Flowers was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of four people during the robbery of a furniture store in the town of Winona, Mississippi. At this sixth trial all but one of the six African-Americas jurors in the pool were struck leaving a jury of 11 whites and one black. The question before the Court is whether race was a factor when the prosecutor used his peremptory strikes in violation of the Court’s opinion in Batson v. Kentucky.
At the very end of the argument in Flowers, just as the lawyer for the petitioner was about to cede her time for rebuttal, Justice Thomas chimed in with a question breaking a three year silence.
Nattily dressed in a light grey double breasted suit with black tie and pocket square, Roger Stone appeared before judge Amy Berman Jackson today for a status hearing. Unlike his last appearance where he took the stand to attempt to explain his Instagram post of a photo of the judge with cross-hairs, today’s hearing was mainly routine. A trial date of November 5 was set, and Stone was sworn to abide by the new conditions – i.e. gag order – of his release. Next status conference is April 30.