In his opinion for the Court finding that former Attorney General John Ashcroft could not be sued for improper use of the material witness law in the detention of Abudulla al-Kidd, onetime University of Idaho football star, born Lavoni T. Kidd, Justice Scalia wrote :
“Qualified immunity gives government officials breathing room to make reasonable but mistaken judgments about open legal questions, when properly applied it protects all but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law.
“Ashcroft deserves neither label.”
In a unanimous decision the Justices did not rule on the Fourth Amendment issue of unreasonable search and seizure, an area that acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal barely touched on during oral arguments in March.
The case is Ashcroft v. al-Kidd.
Lyle Denniston’s take on SCOTUSblog is here.
In the first of Arizona’s recently enacted laws aimed at curbing illegal immigration the Supreme Court supported the rights of states to pass laws such as the Legal Arizona Workers Act which withdraws licensing from businesses that employ illegals.
The opinion, written by Chief Justice Roberts, turned on whether the Arizona law is a “licensing law” that escapes the federal preemption doctrine.
The case is Chamber of Commerce, et al. v. Whiting, et al.
Another Arizona law, one that gives police the authority to detain and arrest anyone suspected of being an unlawful alien, is working it’s way to the Supreme Court.
Andrew Cohen writes about all of it here.
The Supreme Court today upheld the release of over 30,000 prisoners in California as one remedy for overcrowding. Justice Kennedy delivered the opinion in the bitterly divided, 5-4, case : Brown v. Plata ( formerly Schwarzenegger v. Plata when argued November 30, 2010 ).
As is becoming more common in cases where there is sharp disagreement Justice Scalia read his pungent – adjective stolen from NYT’s Liptak – dissent from the bench as Kennedy – on the right below – stared straight ahead.
Andrew Cohen has written about the Court’s decision and the long simmering issue of growing prisoner population here.
“The facts won’t make any difference” roared Judge “Roarin’ Oren” Lewis as Frank Snepp’s ACLU lawyer, Mark Lynch, attempted to make an argument. You won’t find that statement in the hearings transcript though, as it, along with many other prejudicial remarks by the judge, was expunged from the record. Frank Snepp, a former CIA analyst in Saigon during the Vietnam War, was facing trial for failing to get approval from the Agency, as per an agreement he had signed, before publishing his book “Decent Interval” which criticized the U.S. Government’s helicopter evacuation of Saigon from the embassy rooftop. The driving force behind Snepp’s prosecution, which the Justice Department was reluctant to bring, was the new Director of the CIA, Admiral Stansfield Turner, who was outraged that Snepp had broken his secrecy agreement. Turner later admitted under cross-examination that he had never read the agreement signed by Snepp.
After two days of hearings Snepp was denied a jury trial, and Judge Lewis entered a judgement in favor of the U.S., ordering Snepp to relinquish all royalties and advances from the book and enjoining him from ever speaking about anything relating to his CIA employment without prior review by the agency. The case was appealed all the way to the Supreme Court where the government won roundly.
BTW that’s a young Alan Dershowitz slumped in his chair on the left.
A few sketches from today’s arguments ( which can be heard here ) in Liberty University v. Geithner and Virginia v. Sebelius, both cases concerning the individual mandate in the new Obama-sponsored health care law.
Pictured below : Mathew Staver, the attorney for Liberty University arguing before the Fourth Circuit three-judge panel.
Judge Andre Davis :
Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal and Judge Diana Gribbon Matz :
Judge James Wynn :
Andrew Cohen’s intelligent analysis can be found here.