I’m really falling behind here and would be at the Court today if it weren’t for thirty inches of snow filling the alley where my car is entombed. It’s appropriate that the first snowfall of the season came on the same day as an Alaska case, Sturgeon v. Frost, about a moose hunter’s right to use a hovercraft on federal land was argued.
Also argued last Wednesday was a Nebraska case originating from a dispute over a tribe’s ability to tax liquor sales in a town within the borders but not part of the reservation. I didn’t sketch the argument, but this spectacular spectator in the very back of the courtroom caught my eye . . .
On Tuesday two cases were argued (Monday was the MLK holiday). In the first, Heffernan v. City of Paterson, a Paterson, NJ police detective was demoted after being mistakenly perceived as supporting a challenger to the incumbent mayor during an election campaign. Jeffrey Heffernan, a twenty-year veteran of the police force, was seen picking up a lawn sign for his mother who supported the mayor’s opponent. Had Heffernan been picking up the sign for himself and put it on his own lawn, as a government employee he would have been protected from retaliation by his boss. But because everyone agrees that he was in fact neutral in his support of candidate Heffernan may have no recourse under the First Amendment.
The second of Tuesday’s arguments, Americold Realty Trust v. Conagra Foods, is beyond my ability to explain. It involves the “citizenship” of certain trusts and how they are, or are not, like partnerships or corporations. Fascinating stuff . . . for lawyers.
Moving into a new house can be very stressful, and we’re in the middle it. So forgive me if I just lump together all the sketches from Tuesday’s one argument, Molina-Martinez v. US, and Wednesday’s two, Bank Markazi v. Peterson and Puerto Rico v. Sanchez Valle.
On Monday the Supreme Court heard a case on money, speech and unions. The argument in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association is over “agency fees” that public-sector unions, in this case the one representing California’s teachers, can charge non-members for negotiating on behalf of all workers. The non-union teachers in whose name the case was brought object to paying the fee because they say everything a government union negotiates is political, and therefor their First Amendment speech is hijacked.
Lawyer Michael Carvin argued the case for the petitioners – really for the Koch brothers funded Center for Individual Rights.
In the end, it appeared that a majority of the Justices will have no problem overturning the Court’s forty-year precedent.
Two pre-trial motions hearings were held in Baltimore yesterday for Officer Caesar Goodson who faces the most serious charge, second degree murder, for the death of Freddie Gray. Goodson drove the van in which Gray was given a “rough ride,” shackled hand and foot without the benefit of a seat belt.
During the first hearing Judge Barry Williams ruled that the trial will remain in Baltimore, and that the jury will not be sequestered but will be anonymous as in the trial of Officer Porter last month.
At a second hearing on whether Officer Porter, who faces a new trial in June after last month’s mistrial, can be compelled to testify in Goodson’s trial Porter took to the witness box briefly and refused to answer questions put to him by Chief Deputy State’s Attorney Michael Schatzow.
After Judge Williams ruled that Officer Porter can be called to testify under immunity defense lawyer Gary Proctor said that he would seek an injunction to file an appeal in Annapolis first thing Thursday morning. It is unusual, and possibly unprecedented, for a defendant facing trial to be granted immunity without a plea deal. If the Court of Appeals grants the injunction Goodson’s trial, which is to start on Monday, could be delayed.