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.
Paul Manafort, Trump’s one-time campaign chair, who last week received a 47 month prison sentence from U.S. District judge T.S. Ellis in Alexandria, Va, today appeared in a DC courtroom to be sentenced by judge Amy Berman Jackson on two counts to which he pleaded last fall. Manafort sat in a wheelchair as he had during last week’s sentencing, but this time he was dressed in a dark suit and purple tie instead of a green “Alexandria Inmate” jumpsuit.
Judge Jackson sentenced Manafort to an additional 43 months, though 30 months are to run concurrently with his Virginia sentence effectively sending him to prison for seven and-a-half years.
Seated in a wheelchair, wearing a green “Alexandria Inmate” jumpsuit, Paul Manafort appeared before Judge T.S. Ellis for sentencing after his tax and bank fraud convictions last summer. Facing a possible sentence of roughly 20 years, Manafort got off easy with just 47 months. Next Wednesday Manafort is scheduled to appear in DC before Judge Amy Berman Jackson for sentencing on two counts of conspiracy to which he pleaded in September; each count carries a maximum sentence of five years.
After sketching Justice Ginsburg’s return to the bench on the first day of the Court’s February sitting I wimped out the second day because of a little bit of snow. I’m not nearly as tough as RBG. I’m also way more lazy which is why I’m only now getting it together to lump all the rest of February’s sketches into this one post.
Last week’s argument calendar started off with a First Amendment public-access TV case, Manhattan Community Access Corp. v. Halleck . . .
On Tuesday an argument on the constitutionality of a sex-offender law, United States v. Haymond . . .
. . . and lunch.
The big argument of a quiet month came on Wednesday in The American Legion v. American Humanist Association, an establishment clause case over a giant cross shaped WWI memorial in Bladensburg, Md, just outside DC.
Also on Wednesday, Justice Kagan had the opinion in a major death penalty case, Madison v. Alabama.
And, as if we needed further proof that RBG is no slouch, Justice Ginsburg on Monday announced her second and third opinions since returning to the bench, one of which was a case that she participated in through the briefs and argument transcript while recuperating from cancer surgery at home.
Appearing strong as ever, Justice Ginsburg returned to the bench yesterday for the first argument of the February sitting. Sitting more upright – she’s usually hunched over and hard to see – Justice Ginsburg asked the very first question during arguments in Returned Mail, Inc. v. USPS. She continued to participate actively; as The Wall Street Journal’s Jess Bravin tweeted, “RBG Electrifies Courtroom with Questions on Estoppel and Issue Preclusion!”
Ex-Trump campaign adviser and self-described dirty trickster Roger Stone made his first appearance yesterday before the judge in charge of his case. Judge Amy Berman Jackson said she is considering a gag order but that it wouldn’t prevent the parties from commenting about “immigration, foreign relations, or Tom Brady”.
No trial date set, but the prosecution is looking to October. Next status hearing scheduled for March 14.
A little disappointed that Stone didn’t flash the Nixon victory gesture in the courtroom, though he did for the cameras outside the courthouse.
A circus was expected but it turned out to be a routine, though well attended, fifteen minute arraignment. Stone will be back in court on Friday for a hearing before judge Amy Berman Jackson.
The indictment and early morning arrest of Roger Stone overshadowed Paul Manafort’s appearance in a DC courtroom yesterday. Manafort chose not to be there but judge Amy Berman Jackson insisted he attend the hearing over his lack of cooperation with the Special Counsel.
Leaning heavily on a cane as he walked into the courtroom, his hair a bit more gray, Manafort is looking old and tired.
The hearing will continue next week but under seal, behind closed doors so no sketches. However, on Tuesday Roger Stone will be at the DC courthouse for arraignment, and I wouldn’t want to miss that.
January has been a bit of a snooze at the Supreme Court but I did get to learn about the Dormant Commerce Clause ( Tennessee Wine & Spirits Retailers v. Blair ).
There was plenty of other news from the Court today: cert denial in a school prayer case, cert granted in a Second Amendment case to be heard next term, stay grants in a pair of transgender cases, and action on the Mueller mystery grand jury subpoena. But from the bench just one 9-0 opinion from Justice Thomas in a patent case.
Below are some sketches from some of last week’s arguments and opinions. Fingers crossed that Justice Ginsburg will be back on the bench after the mid-winter break.