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First Monday in October

The Supreme Court began the October 2013 term with a new Clerk and a not so good argument.

The new Clerk of the Court, Scott Harris can be seen standing on the left as the Justices take the bench.

The first argument of the new term, an age discrimination case from Illinois, ran into trouble right from the beginning when Justices began to question whether the case should even be before them. The lower circuit court, it seems, should not have ruled before the matter was brought to trial.

The last words from respondent’s lawyer, after being admonished by Justice Scalia, were, “we could have done a better job”.

Lyle Denniston has the story here.

 

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Posted in Arguments, Supreme Court

Getting Ready for SCOTUS

Brennan Center Supreme Court Preview

Here’s a little sketch of a panel discussing the upcoming Supreme Court term at NYU’s Brennan Center in DC. Pictured, left to right, are The Atlantic’s Andrew Cohen, SCOTUSblog’s Amy Howe, University of Baltimore Professor Garrett Epps and Nicole Austin-Hillery, Director and Counsel of the Brennan Center.

 

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Posted in Supreme Court

Tsarnaev’s Pals Arraigned

 The two friends of Boston marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev who removed a backpack and laptop from his dorm room after seeing his picture broadcast were arraigned in federal court Tuesday.Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov are charged with obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct. The entire proceedings took about five minutes, but fortunately there was time to get some sketches started before the defendants entered the courtroom. Tazhayakov’s family were seated in the front row with a toddler in tow who was exploring the strange surroundings. To calm the child down her mother began nursing. It was touching.

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Posted in Courtroom

Jesse Jackson Jr Sentenced

 Jesse Jackson Jr plucked tissue after tissue from a box on the lectern as he wiped away tears while addressing the court at his sentencing yesterday.

 Jackson’s wife Sandra was also sentenced for her part in the theft of $750,000. in campaign funds.

Judge Amy B. Jackson sentenced Jesse to 30 months, and Sandra got 12. They’ll be allowed to serve their prison terms consecutively so that their children have a parent at home.

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Posted in Courtroom

No Sign of Remorse at Tsarnaev Arraignment

 Boston Marathon bombing suspect slumped in his chair, smirked and generally seemed to display an attitude in court today. The only sign of the injuries he suffered during his capture was a cast or bandage on his hand.

The hearing wasn’t scheduled until 3:30 p.m., but a line had already formed by early morning.

We were allowed in the courtroom early and so had time to work on background, which helped since the arraignment proper lasted less than ten minutes.To each count Tsarnaev responded, “not guilty”.

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Posted in Courtroom

Big Wins For Gay Marriage

On the last day of the its term the Supreme Court today handed twin victories to the cause of marriage equality.

If there was an empty seat in the courtroom I couldn’t see it.

Justice Kennedy had the first opinion, U.S. v Windsor, in which the Court found the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.And of course Justice Scalia read a lenghty dissent.

The second victory for same-sex marriage was by default in an opinion by Chief Justice Roberts where the Court found that the petitioners in support of California’s Proposition 8 lacked standing, thereby allowing the lower court’s ruling to stand.

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Posted in Opinions, Supreme Court

Supreme Court Waters Down Voting Rights Act

A 5-4 divided Court today struck down a key section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, effectively putting the burden on victims of voter descrimination to seek relief. Chief Justice Roberts wrote for a majority that included Justices Thomas, Scalia, Kennedy and Alito.In a dissenting opinion joined by Justices Sotomayor, Breyer and Kagan, Justice Ginsburg wrote, “Hubris is a fit word for today’s demolition of the Voting Rights Act”.

Lyle Denniston’s take on the opinion is here.

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Posted in Opinions, Supreme Court

Fisher Fails to Finish ‘Firmative Action

On the first day of what promises to be a steamy week in Washington, at least outside the Supreme Court building, the Court announced its opinion in a long awaited affirmative action case, Fisher v. University of Texas. When the case was argued back in October it appeared that the University’s use of race as an admissions factor might be struck down.Instead, in an opinion by Justice Kennedy, the Court said such programs must meet the test of “strict scrutiny” as well as being“narrowly tailored”.

Surprisingly, for a case argued at the beginning of the term, there was but one dissenter in the 7-1 decision (Justice Kagan took no part), Justice Ginsburg.

 ”The Court rightly declines to cast off the equal protection framework …”, writes Ginsburg. “Yet it stops short of reaching the conclusion that (it) warrants.”

Justice Alito took a sip from his coffee cup.

 

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Posted in Opinions, Supreme Court

Motor Voter, Right to Silence and More

For a day without a real blockbuster it turned out to be an unusually busy one for me.

Among the Supreme Court decisions today was one that overturned an Arizona law requiring proof of citizenship in order to register to vote. In an opinion announced by Justice Scalia the Court found that the federal Motor Voter law preempts Arizona’s law.

In another opinion, this one from Justice Alito, the Court said that if you want to  preserve your right to remain silent you’ve got to speak up.

I also finished a couple sketches I had started earlier, the Great Hall . . . . . . . and General Suter, the Clerk of the Court, calling up admissions to the bar.

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Posted in Opinions, Supreme Court

Opinion on Gene Patent

Camera crews set up by the Supreme Court plaza on a steamy morning with thunderstorms, and even a possible derecho, forecast. Also in the forecast was the possibility of a major decision in one of the remaining twenty-three cases argued earlier in the term.

The Court did not dissapoint the court-watchers, delivering a far reaching opinion on the patenting of natural genes. In his opinion for the Court in Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics Justice Thomas said, “Myriad did not create anything.” However the Court also found that a synthetic version of the gene created by Myriad was patentable.

There now remain nineteen undecided cases.

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Posted in Opinions, Supreme Court
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