Year: 2011

Big Brother is Watching

The Supreme Court struggled with privacy rights in the digital age during arguments on warrantless GPS tracking. SC111108wide_Leckar

DC police investigating a nightclub owner, Antoine Jones, in a drug case put a tracking device on his car and tracked its movements every ten seconds for a month. Stephen C. Leckar, shown above, argued the case for Jones. SC111108_Breyer

Justice Breyer told the government’s lawyer, Deputy Solicitor General Michael Dreeben, “if you win this case, then there is nothing to prevent the police or the government from monitoring 24 hours a day the public movement of every citizen of the United States…..sounds like ‘1984.’” SC111108_Dreeben

“The court should address the so-called ‘1984’ scenarios if they come to pass, rather than using this case as a vehicle for doing so,” replied Dreeben.

Huff Post’s Mike Sacks has the full story here.





Posted in Arguments, Supreme Court Tagged with: ,

Passport Case or Foreign Policy?

When the parents of  two-year-old Jerusalem-born Menachem Zivotofsky submitted a passport application for their son who has U.S. citizenship they were told that they could not designate “Israel” as the place of birth.

The case pits the State Department against an Act of Congress that says that a U.S. citizen born in Jerusalem shall “record the place of birth as Israel.” SC111107_Lewin

In arguments at the Supreme Court today the lawyer for the parents , Nathan Lewin, said “it’s a passport law.”

Solicitor General Donald Verrilli took the position that it’s a “political question” about who controls foreign policy, congress or the president? SC111107_Verrilli

Bob Barnes reports on a “supremely funny moment” here.







Posted in Arguments, Supreme Court Tagged with: ,

Eyewitness Reliability and Due Process

Identification by an eyewitness is notoriously unreliable and yet has a powerful influence on jurors. Testimony that has been intentionally influenced by the police or prosecutor may be barred, but what if the circumstances surrounding the identification were suggestive, but unintended?

The case is Perry v. New Hampshire.  The witness identified Barion Perry as a “tall black man” she saw standing next to a police officer in a dark parking lot, and Perry was convicted of theft based partly on her testimony.

As public defender Richard Guerriero argued to exclude any unreliable witness ID, the Justices seemed unlikely to expand the umbrella of due process. SC111102_Guerriero

Richard Guerrierro, arguing for petitioner Perry, is pictured above as Scalia asks, “Why is unreliable eyewitness identification any different from unreliable anything else? So shouldn’t we look at every instance of evidence introduced in criminal cases to see if it was reliable or not?”

Pictured below is New Hampshire Attorney General Michael A. Delany, who had an easier time of it. SC111102_Delany

HuffPost’s Mike Sacks does a great job of reporting it here.




Posted in Arguments, Supreme Court Tagged with: ,

Bad Plea Bargain Advice

Some sketches from today’s Supreme Court arguments in two cases of ineffective assistance of counsel during plea bargainning.

Anthony Cooper shot a fleeing woman in the legs. His lawyer advised him to reject the prosecutor’s offer of a reduced sentence in exchange for his plea of guilty telling him, erroneously, that because the wounds were below the waist he would be shielded from a charge of attempted murder.

The case is Lafler v. Cooper. Pictured above is Michigan Solicitor General John J. Bursch.  Below is the attorney arguing for Cooper, Valerie R. Newman. SC111031_Newman

In the second case, Missouri v. Frye, the defendant, charged with driving without a license was never told of a plea offer of 90 days, and wound up with a three year sentence.

Although a number of Justices seemed sypathetic to the poorly represented defendants. they questioned whether a real remedy was possible. Even the attorney representing Mr. Frye, Emmett D. Queener, conceeded, “There is never going to be a perfect remedy for any of these violations, I don’t believe”. SC111031_Queener

Huffington Post’s Mike Sacks has the “textualism” angle here.


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Go Tigers!

Moving beyond courtroom into the wider arena of reportage drawing, here are a few sketches from Tuesday night’s Tigers/Rangers game at Comerica Park. Tigers111011_Comerica




Posted in Uncategorized Tagged with: ,

“Dude, Your Pants Are On Fire!”


Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, aka the underwear bomber, entered the courtroom on the first day of his trial dressed in a grand boubou (I know that in english speaking Nigeria it’s simply called a gown, but I like the french better), looking at no one in particular.

It was expected that Abdulmutallab, who is acting as his own attorney, might deliver an opening statement to the jury, but the defense instead chose to reserve that option for later in the trial.


In the government’s opening Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Tukel pointed to the defendant saying, “..this defendant. He had a mission… for al-Qaida. His sole reason for being on Flight 253 was to blow it up… ”

Abdulmutallab111011_TukelThe above sketch shows Abdulmutallab, seated left, with assisting counsel Anthony Chambers as prosecutor Jonathan Tukel addresses the jury.


After ninety minutes of guiding the jury through the events of Flight 253 on Christmas day, 2009 the government calls its first witness, passenger Michael Zantow.  Zantow testifies that about thirty seconds after hearing a loud pop that sounded like a firecracker a passenger yelled, “Man…dude, your pants are on fire!”

The next day, in a suprise move Abdulmutallab pled guilty to all charges. Unfortunately it caught us off guard and we missed it, but you can read about it here.


Posted in Courtroom Tagged with: , ,

The Ministerial Exception

Who is a minister?

Cheryl Perich was a “called teacher” at Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School. She took medical leave in 2004 after being diagnosed with narcolepsy.  After being treated and cleared to return to work by her doctors she was told by the school that her position had been filled and was asked to submit her resignation. Instead Ms Perich threatened to sue under the American with Disabilities Act and was fired.

The ministerial exception in the ADA allows churches to require employees to conform to the religion’s tenets, and a basic tenet of the Lutheran Church is that disputes are resolved in the church, not the courts.

But because she only spent forty-five minutes out of her seven hour school workday on religious activities the Sixth Circuit held that Perich was not a ministerial employee, and thus her firing did not fall under the “ministerial exception”.


Justice Sotomayor asks the lawyer for the church, Douglas Laycock, about “a teacher who reports sexual abuse to the government and is fired because of that reporting.” She adds, grimly, “We know from the news recently that there was a church whose religious beliefs centered around sexually exploiting women and, I believe, children.”


When former Solicitor General Walter Dellinger, here representing the teacher, tells the Court that the ministerial exception should not be offered to those employees who perform “important secular functions”, Chief Justice Roberts responds: “That can’t be the test! The pope is a head of state carrying out secular functions. Those are important. So he is not a minister?”

WaPo story here.





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Last Week’s News Today

Better late than never, here are some sketches from last Friday’s hearing where Judge Walton found that the double jeopardy bar is so high that despite his misgivings the government should be allowed to retry Roger Clemens. Clemens110902_Anttanasio

Defense attorney Michael Anttanasio, pictured above gesturing toward the government, said prosecutors had a “win-at-all costs mentality”  when they precipitated a mistrial earlier this summer. Clemens110902_Goodhand

Judge Reggie Walton questioned one of the government lawyers about picking up the tab for their mistake.  “Obviously it cost Mr. Clemens a lot of money, Walton said. “Should the United States have to cough up the money for that?”


WaPo story here.



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Swing and a Mistrial


Just as the Roger Clemens trial was settling into its first full day of testimony the judge called a foul….and Clemens walked.Clemens110714_Judge

As prosecutor Steve Durham stood at the podium Judge Reggie Walton said, “Government counsel can’t do what it thinks it can get away with. Any first year law student should know that.” Clemens110714_Durham

NYT has the story here.

And below are a few additional quick sketches I did in the courtroom today.





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Opening Statements in Roger Clemens Trial


During his opening statement prosecutor Steve Durham showed jurors a photograph of several objects that included syringes, drug vials and three cotton balls – objects he said that had traces of both human growth hormone and Roger Clemens’ DNA. Clemens110713_Durham

“Mr. McNamee saved needles and cotton balls that he used to inject Mr. Clemens – he never completely trusted this man,” Durham told the jury.  Brian McNamee is Clemens former trainer, and now his chief accuser.Clemens110713_Hardin
Clemens’ attorney Rusty Hardin, a colorful Texas lawyer who likes to remind the jury that he once lived in DC and saw Roberta Flack here, told the jury that the evidenced had to have been manufactured by McNamee. “They have no corroborating evidence of McNamee,” Hardin said, and after an exhaustive investigation “they still didn’t have anything to connect him to steroids except Brian McNamee.”

WaPo story here.

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