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Black Aggie and the Doomsday Binder

I didn’t expect to have much fun covering two days of a trial relating to the government’s 2008 bailout of AIG, but I was mistaken.

It was fascinating to hear former Fed. chairman Bernanke describe the near financial collapse as more severe than the great depression of the 1930’s, and that there exists a “doomsday book”, a collection of emergency documents and memoranda outlining the central bank’s powers, that Timothy Geithner carried around in a 2-inch binder.

Even better was coming across the statue of Black Aggie in the courtyard of the building housing the Federal Circuit and Court of Federal Claims. Black Aggie used to reside at Druid Ridge cemetery in the Baltimore suburb of Pikesville. She sat over the tomb of Union Army general and publisher of the Baltimore American newspaper Felix Agnus until the mid 1960’s when the family gave the statue to the Smithsonian. For years Black Aggie was the subject of ghostly lore and attracted midnight visitors who trampled the gravesite to sit in her lap.

 

As forty-three year resident of Baltimore who loves his adopted city I can’t help feeling a little resentful at DC’s acquisition.

Back to the AIG trial, on the face of it this effort by Maurice “Hank” Greenberg to sue the government for saving AIG’s ass seems pretty preposterous. He doesn’t seem to acknowledge that the point of the bailout wasn’t to benefit AIG shareholders but to avoid the freezing of global insurance markets and financial meltdown. Greenberg’s legal team is led by super-lawyer David Boies, but I hope this is one time Boies loses.

Here are the rest of my sketches from my two days at the Court of Federal Claims. Note in the unfinished sketch the shelves full of binders on each side of the courtroom.

 

 

Posted in Courtroom, History Tagged with: , , , , ,

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U.S. v. Rock 'n Roll, No. 2776

My contribution to 2776: The Album. You may have seen the liner notes in last week’s New Yorker or  heard Neko Case’s track, “These Aren’t The Droids”.

Posted in History, Supreme Court, Uncategorized Tagged with: ,

Professor Abraham and the Justices

Marcia Coyle had the idea for this drawing of UVa professor Henry J. Abraham and the eight chief justices who served during his lifetime, so far (Abraham is 92).

Posted in History, Supreme Court Tagged with: , ,

From the Dustbin: SCOTUS Anthrax Scare

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When anthrax started showing up in the mail shortly after 9/11 it was detected in the Supreme Court as well. The Court kept to its schedule by moving a few blocks away to convene in the D.C. Circuit’s ceremonial courtroom.

I’d been looking for this sketch for several years thinking it had been lost, but in fact had matted and framed it for exhibit and never returned it to the files. I found last week while moving stuff to storage. It shows Solicitor General Ted Olson arguing in Adarand Constructors v. Mineta. Seated in the foreground are NYT’s Linda Greenhouse, left, and NPR’s Nina Totenberg.

CNN story on the Court’s move is here.

Posted in Arguments, History, Supreme Court Tagged with: ,

McMahon’s Drawings of the Emmett Till Murder Trial

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The blog Today’s Inspiration this week posted a fascinating 1968 Famous Artists Magazine interview with artist-reporter Franklin McMahon who died last March. It is worth a read. McMahon was one of the greatest practitioners of visual journalism. He knew how to find a story and sell it to editors. As far as I know the only trial he covered was the 1955 trial for the murder of Emmett Till. The images posted here are from that trial.

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This is McMahon’s sketch of Till’s uncle, Mose Wright, pointing to one of the defendants in the courtroom.
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And this is the same moment serruptitiously captured from a different angle by photographer Ernest Withers.

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Posted in History Tagged with: ,

Welcome Back, Aggie

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One of the sketch artists I most admire, Aggie Whalen Kenny, was visiting the Supreme Court this week. Aggie used to sketch the Court regularly for ABC and CBS back when I was still wet behind the ears. Now if only Don Juhlin would show up!

Oh, in case you were wondering, she’s sketching the riveting arguments in Gabelli v. SEC.

Posted in History, Supreme Court Tagged with: ,

RIP John Payton

One of the nation’s greatest civil rights attorneys NAACP Legal Defense Fund president John Payton passed away yesterday.  SC030401wide_PaytonHe is shown here arguing before the Supreme Court in Gratz v. Bollinger, April 1, 2003.

In Memoriam

Posted in Arguments, History, Supreme Court Tagged with: , , , , ,

The Warren Court

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A work in progress: recreation of two cases arising from sit-in protests at a segregated lunch counter and a restaurant in Columbia, SC in the early sixties. On the bench, left to right, are Justices Byron White, William Brennan, Tom C. Clark, Hugo Black, Chief Justice Earl Warren, William O. Douglas, John M. Harlan, Potter Stewart and Arthur Goldberg. At the lectern is Constance Baker Motley, and behind her, L-R, are Jack Greenberg, Matthew J. Perry and, peeking out the corner, Ralph S. Spritzer. The lawyer for the City of Columbia, David W. Robinson, is seated to the left of the lectern.

Posted in Arguments, History, Supreme Court Tagged with: , ,

The Cheese and the Worms in Bologna

These are sketches of historian Carlo Ginzburg being interviewed by artist Jorge Satorre in Bologna. Ginzburg is the author of that seminal work of microhistory, Il fromaggio e i vermi, The Cheese and The Worms. Menocchio110929_Satorre_Ginsburg

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Posted in History Tagged with: , ,

From The Dustbin: Roarin’ Oren v. Snepp

Snepp780621_judge“The facts won’t make any difference” roared Judge “Roarin’ Oren” Lewis as Frank Snepp’s ACLU lawyer, Mark Lynch, attempted to make an argument. You won’t find that statement in the hearings transcript though, as it, along with many other prejudicial remarks by the judge, was expunged from the record. Snepp780620Frank Snepp, a former CIA analyst in Saigon during the Vietnam War, was facing trial for failing to get approval from the Agency, as per an agreement he had signed, before publishing his book “Decent Interval” which criticized the U.S. Government’s helicopter evacuation of Saigon from the embassy rooftop. Snepp110520_TurnerThe driving force behind Snepp’s prosecution, which the Justice Department was reluctant to bring, was the new Director of the CIA, Admiral Stansfield Turner, who was outraged that Snepp had broken his secrecy agreement. Turner later admitted under cross-examination that he had never read the agreement signed by Snepp.

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After two days of hearings Snepp was denied a jury trial, and Judge Lewis entered a judgement in favor of the U.S., ordering Snepp to relinquish all royalties and advances from the book and enjoining him from ever speaking about anything relating to his CIA employment without prior review by the agency. The case was appealed all the way to the Supreme Court where the government won roundly. Snepp110520_defense
BTW that’s a young Alan Dershowitz slumped in his chair on the left.

 

Posted in Courtroom, History Tagged with: , , ,
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