After a slippery sloppy commute on a snowy morning a couple of quiet hours listening to patent law arguments seemed like a good opportunity for a snooze. I was sketching on auto-pilot as the first argument, Octane Fitness v. Icon Health & Fitness, was concluding when a loud voice coming from the back of the courtroom startled me out of my somnolence. “Corporations are not people, money is speech. Overturn Citizens United.” shouted a young man before Court security officers whisked him away.
He was later identified as Noah Newkirk and charged with making “a harangue or oration . . . in the Supreme Court Building.” I think this may be him. The young man, it turns out, is Noah Kia Newkirk, a member of a group called 99Rise.org whose aim is to “get big money out of American politics.” It appears his outburst was in part staged for a video camera that was smuggled into the courtroom. The video shows that this is not the first time this group has captured the Court on camera. Footage at the beginning is from McCutcheon v. FEC, a campaign Finance case argued in October and yet to be decided. It also turns out that the footage at the beginning, though labeled McCutcheon v. FEC, is actually from arguments in Burt v. Titlow, another case argued the same day.
I initially sketched him with a moustache and goatee, but on reflection I think he just had a heavy five o’clock shadow. It all happened very fast and I am not possessed of a photographic memory. Not a very good drawing.
Anyway, here are a couple sketches from the argument that I managed to finish. I think they are more successful.
The lawyer for a home mortgage loan fraudfeasor (I learned a new word today) had a number of colorful hypotheticals tossed at him by the Justices as they tackled a question of restitution. Here’s what he had to juggle, starting with Justice Breyer who is the Talmudic scholar of hypotheticals:
Breyer: “Mrs. Smith, I have a bridge I’d like to sell you.”. . “But I also gave her my valuable Babe Ruth bat.”
Alito: “Suppose what the person who perpetrated the fraud returns is a truckload of tomatoes . . . and by the time the tomatoes can be sold they’re all rotten.”
Scalia: “You’re really confusing me. I . . I . .both the baseball bat and the truckload of tomatoes?”
Even before the Justices took the bench for what might have, mistakenly, seemed like a blockbuster argument on global warming – there was even a demonstrator in polar bear costume on the plaza – the spotlight shifted to the Court’s decision not to hear two NRA challenges to gun regulation laws.
Today’s case, actually six different lawsuits rolled into one, was not about the Environmental Protection Agency‘s power to regulate greenhouse gases. That was settled seven years ago in Massachusetts v. EPA. The arguments heard by the Justices today focused on the EPA’s “tailoring rule” under which the agency adjusts, or tailors, the threshold at which certain pollutants must be regulated.
Under the Clean Air Act limits were established for stationary sources of pollution such as factories and refineries, but the limits for those traditional pollutants like sulfur and nitrous oxides, 100-250 tons per year, are much too low for greenhouse gases which are emitted in much higher volumes.
It is interesting that the usually pro-regulation side supporting the EPA was today arguing for less regulation, saying that applying the limits, without tailoring, would mean regulating every mom & pop factory and overburden an already overburdened bureaucracy. The EPA’s opponents, on the other hand, hope that overturning the rule and expanding regulation to include small sources will cause a backlash against the agency.
Courtartist is me, Arthur Lien. I've been sketching the courts since 1976, and for most of that time the U.S. Supreme Court has been my regular beat. I've been working almost exclusively for NBC News since 1980.
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