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Michael Phelps In Court For DUI

Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps pleaded guilty in a Baltimore courtroom yesterday to driving under the influence. He was stopped for speeding in the Fort McHenry tunnel about 1:40 a.m. September 30 after leaving the Horseshoe Casino.  District Judge Braverman gave Phelps a one year suspended sentence that now hangs over the 29 year-old swimmer should he slip up. Phelps had a previous DUI ten years ago in Wicomico county.

Phelps’ lawyer, Steven A. Allen, told the court that the swimmer attended a 45-day in-patient treatment in Phoenix and is continuing after-treatment at a facility in Towson. “Mr. Phelps has not been treated differently because of his celebrity status.” Mr. Allen said,  “He has really stood up to what has occurred, accepted responsibility and, of course, there is a level of humiliation involved,”

Phelps was accompanied in court by numerous supporters including Ray Lewis and, of course, his mom.

Boston Marathon Bomber Back In Court

The last time Dzhokhar Tsarnaev appeared in court, at his arraignment in July 2013, he looked and sounded quite different. He was wearing a bright orange jumpsuit, his left hand was bandaged and his face swollen from injuries he suffered during the manhunt that followed the Boston Marathon bombing. He spoke with a Russian accent and displayed a certain arrogance or swagger, at least it appeared that way to me. Yesterday was a different story. He was dressed in a dark zip-up sweater, shirt and belted chinos. He seemed quietly interested in what was happening, speaking softly to the judge when questioned. The Russian accent was gone even though an interpreter was present just in case.

All signs point to the trial beginning with jury selection on January 5, as scheduled, though the defense is still asking for a delay. It’s sure to be a long and emotional trial.

I sketched the scene outside the courtroom before the doors opened. There was a tall woman in a long fur coat who talked incessantly with whoever would listen to her. I didn’t pay attention to what she was saying. But later, at the conclusion of the hearing as Tsarnaev was being led from the courtroom, this same woman started shouting in Russian.

It turns out she is the mother-in-law of Ibragim Todashev, who was killed by the FBI under very odd circumstances. At one time Todashev was, along with Dzhokhar’s brother Tamerlan, a suspect in a bizarre murder in the Boston suburb of Waltham. There’s a lot to the story that has yet to be explained.

Two Opinions and Multi District Litigation

Here are some sketches from Tuesday at the Supreme Court.

 

The Court heard arguments in Gelboim v. Bank of America Corp., a case from the Second Circuit which turned down an appeal of a case in a Multi District Litigation because the other consolidated cases were still pending, at least that’s what I think it may be about. It’s complicated.

Opinions in two cases were also announced. Warger v. Shauers, about the admissibility of one juror’s testimony about another juror’s statements (above), and Integrity Staffing Solutions v. Busk, about compensation for employees who have to go through security screen after completing their shift (below).

All Aboooard . . . the Amtrak Limited

The Supreme Court today heard arguments testing the regulatory authority of Amtrak, a quasi-private for-profit company created by congress in 1970 to prop up passenger rail service. The tracks are owned by the rail-freight companies but Amtrak gets priority to keep its trains on time.

The case is Department of Transportation v. Association of American Railroads. You can read Lyle Denniston’s reporting on the argument here.

The Ambiguous Pregnancy Discrimination Act

United Parcel Service came to the Supreme Court this morning to argue that it is pregnancy-blind, that it treats expectant female employees the same as any other employee injured off the job.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act 1978 says, “. . women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions shall be treated the same for all employment-related purposes as other persons not so affected but similar in their ability or inability to work.” The language sounds plain and the intent of the law obvious, but when applied it seems to be ambiguous.

When Peggy Young became pregnant and her doctor ordered her to not lift heavy objects she asked her employer, UPS, to put her on light-duty. Instead UPS placed her on unpaid leave, so she sued.

Young’s lawyer, University of Michigan law professor Samuel Bagenstos, argued that UPS made accommodations for three similar groups: those injured on the job, those covered by the Americans With Disabilities Act and employees whose driving licenses were suspended or revoked.

“Well, Ms Halligan, for the democratic process to work as it should, the PDA has to be given a fair reading,” said Justice Kagan. “And what we know about the PDA is that it was supposed to be about removing stereotypes of pregnant women as marginal workers.”

The lawyer for UPS, Caitlin Halligan, was questioned aggressively by Justices Ginsburg and Kagan. They asked so many questions that it was hard to get a sketch of Halligan since she was turned away when facing the two justices.

Lyle Denniston’s SCOTUSblog analysis of the argument is here.