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Old News or Yesterday’s Sketches Today

Overshadowed by yesterday’s affirmative action opinion in Schuette were arguments in two newsworthy cases, Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus, and ABC v. Aereo.

“Ministry of Truth” was the Orwellian label SBA List’s lawyer, Michael Carvin, used when referring to an Ohio law that makes it a crime to use false statement in an election campaign.

The lawyer for the State of Ohio reminded the Court that issue is not the constitutionality of the law, but whether plaintiffs can show harm.

The second case argued was about a company, Aereo, Inc., that stores broadcast TV programs, which it then makes available to consumers who pay for an individual “antenna”. The broadcast networks say this is simply a work around to avoid copyright.

The lawyer for Aereo, David Frederick, tried to convince the Justices that his client only “is attempting to entice consumers to replicate on the cloud what they can do at home at lower cap costs and more efficiency.”

“. . if all they have is a gimmick,” said Clement in rebuttal, “then they probably will go out of business and nobody should cry a tear over that.”

 

 

 

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Posted in Arguments, Supreme Court

Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action

On my way to the Supreme Court yesterday morning I read a Tweet that said it was unlikely the Court would announce any major opinion today since two big cases were scheduled for argument. Well, so much for the Twitter tea leaves.

Justice Kennedy announced the opinion in Schuette v.Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action saying, ” this case is not about . . . race-conscious admissions policies.” The 6-2 opinion approves a Michigan ban on the use of racial preferences in state university admissions.

In a fierce and lengthy dissent from the bench Justice Sotomayor castigated the majority opinion that “fundamentally misunderstands the nature of the injustice.”

Great quote from Garrett Epps in The Atlantic: Does anybody else think it could be a problem to put the question of minority rights to a majority vote in state initiatives?

I wonder what Cecilia Marshall, widow of the late Justice Thurgood Marshall, and her son, Thurgood “Goodie” Marshall Jr., thought of the Court’s decision?

 

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Posted in Opinions, Supreme Court

Argentina and POM Wonderful

The Supreme Court heard two cases today, the first day April’s two-week argument session after which the Court will only sit to deliver this term’s opinions.

The first case, Argentina v. NML Capital, concerns Argentina’s default on bonds the government issued in 1997, and stopped repayments when the domestic economy tanked in 2001. The issue before the Court is how far can creditors go in searching for assets.

The second argument, POM Wonderful v. Coca-Cola, is about truth-in-labeling. Was Coca-Cola guilty of false advertising under the Lanham Act when it labeled its product “Pomegranate Blueberry” even though it was mostly apple juice with only 0.3% pomegranate and 0.2% blueberry? POM Wonderful, which grows and sells pomegranate products, especially juice, thinks so.

The two sides certainly brought the heavy-hitters, former Solicitor General Seth Waxman and Stanford Law professor Kathleen Sullivan, to the lectern.

Though, not everyone found the arguments riveting.

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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).

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Posted in History, Supreme Court

Between Scylla and Charybdis

I neglected to post sketches from the March 31 arguments in Alice Corporation v. CLS Bank International. Here they are, better late than never.

Each day CLS Bank does about $5 trillion in transactions and uses a computer program to insure that everything balances out at the end of the day. Alice Corporation has a patent on an application that does the same thing by creating shadow accounts for all parties and not allowing transactions to go through unless all credits and debits balance out above zero.

The Court has previously held that natural processes (Mayo) and abstract ideas (Bilski) are not patentable. Is Alice Corporation’s patent really just the idea of solvency applied by a computer to balance the books?

Justice Breyer’s pharaohic hypothetical put it this way: “I mean, imagine King Tut sitting in front of the pyramid where all his gold is stored, and he has the habit of giving chits away.  Good for the gold, which is given at the end of the day.  And he hires a man with an abacus, and when the abacus keeping track sees that he’s given away more gold than he has in storage, he says, stop.”

On the other hand, software developers won’t have much incentive if their computer programs are unpatentable.

Again, Justice Breyer, “. . . there are a number of suggestions as to how to go between Scylla and Charybdis.  . . . I need to know what in your opinion is the best way of sailing between these two serious harms.”

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Goodbye Campaign Finance Reform

In an opinion that came as little surprise to anyone the Supreme Court today in McCutcheon v. FEC did away with aggregate limits on individual campaign contributions. Although the cap remains on individual contributions to a candidate, wealthy contributors are now free to give to as many candidates or political organizations as they please.

Dissenting, Justice Breyer responded to Chief Justice Roberts’ assertion that the possibility of circumventing the remaining base contribution limits are purely hypothetical and remote. “We react to (that claim) rather like Oscar Wilde reacted to Dickens’ depiction of the death of Little Nell. ‘One would have to have a heart of stone,’ said Wilde, ‘to read it without laughing.’”

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Posted in Opinions, Supreme Court

Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialities

Supporters lined up behind the owners of two family owned businesses, Anthony Hahn, second from right, and Dave Green, far right, on the lower level of the Supreme Court building this morning. They were waiting to hear arguments in two cases concerning Obamacare’s required contraceptive coverage by for-profit employers. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialities both embrace Christian principles that cause them to object to forms of contraception that they believe are tantamount to abortion.

It’s been a long day of lively arguments, lots of drawings, and even a little bit of snow, so forgive me if I forgo further comments and simply post the day’s sketches. There are links at the bottom to reporting on the arguments.

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Lyle Denniston’s argument recap here.

NYT story here.

WaPo story here.

And a must-read from Dahlia Lithwick here.

 

 

 

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Posted in Arguments, Supreme Court

Fraud-On-The-Market Theory, What’s That?

This morning before the Supreme Court convened to hear a securities fraud case I spotted lawyer David Boies, who would be arguing for the class action plaintiffs (here the respondents), standing by himself as if in reverie, gazing at the statue of Justice John Marshall. Unfortunately Tom Goldstein, another veteran of the Court, sketchbombed my drawing under the pretense of having a chat with Boies.

The argument itself, Halliburton v. Erica P. John Fund, was way over my head. Fraud-on-the-market theory? Price impact v. market efficiency ? Better that I leave it alone and just post my sketches.

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Posted in Arguments, Supreme Court

Lethal Force and the High-Speed Chase

Frigid temperatures this morning means that, no, I didn’t sketch that Carolina wren al fresco outside the Supreme Court. A friend took a picture of it yesterday in Ellicott City which I stole for this composition. So, sue me.

Do police officers who fire shots at a vehicle during a high-speed chase violate the Fourth Amendment by using “unreasonable” force?  Most of the Justices seemed not to think so, as long as the chase itself poses a danger.

Chief Justice Roberts: “is there any situation in which it would violate clearly established constitutional law for the police to use lethal force?”

Michael Mosley: “I hate to use television as an example, but perhaps the way the white Ford Bronco fled in the early 90′s that everybody saw on TV.”

The lawyer arguing for the daughter of the driver slain in the volley of shots fired by the police was peppered with questions from the bench, often incredulous or sarcastic.

Justice Scalia: “Okay, . . . You think it is clearly established law that you cannot shoot to kill a driver whose car is moving? Is that it?” 

Gary K. Smith: “If . . . “

Scalia: “Is that the principle you say is clearly established?”

Smith: “If doing so . . . “

Scalia: “My goodness, they do it all the time. You watch the movies . . . it happens all the time. Are these movies unrealistic? You cannot shoot to kill somebody in a moving car?”

Smith: “In a . . . “

Scalia: “And that is not just your view. It is, you say, clearly established law?”

The case is Plumhoff v. Rickard

 

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A Little Excitement at the Staid Court

SCOTUS in Snow
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.

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Posted in Arguments, Supreme Court
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