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Sketches of announcement of Supreme Court opinions

Final Week For Supreme Court?

The Court announced opinions in three more cases today, two of which are sketched below. I think that leaves eight, or nine if you count the two cell-phone search cases separately. More opinions on Wednesday and Thursday, and the possibility that the final opinion(s) won’t come until next Monday.

Justice Scalia announced a knobbly opinion in Utility Air v. EPA, from which both sides have claimed a win. And the Chief Justice, below, had the opinion in Halliburton v. Erica P. John Fund on certification of a class action in securities fraud.

SCOTUSblog’s videographer, Fabrizio di Piazza, took this beatific photo of me this morning working on the sketch you see at the top of the post.

Sketching_photo

Thanks Fabri !!!

 

 

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. . . And Three More Thursday

Opinions in some of the less prominent cases continue to trickle out of the Supreme Court as each day a few more cameras set up outside the court in anticipation of the big ones.

Of the three opinions announced from the bench today the most noteworthy was Lane v. Franks, concerning the First Amendment rights of a community college employee who was fired after testifying at the corruption trial of a state legislator who had been on the community college’s payroll for a no-show position. Justice Sotomayor said public employees should not have to choose between “the obligation to testify truthfully and the desire to avoid retaliation and keep their jobs.”

There are about ten cases still undecided, most of them biggies.

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Three Opinions Today . . .

. . . thirteen yet to come (counting the two cell-phone search cases as one).

In Argentina v. NML Capital the Court sided with investors seeking to locate Argentina’s overseas assets in order to collect on bonds that went into default. Justice Scalia wrote for the majority while Justice Ginsburg, pictured here on the right, was the sole dissenter.

Justice Kagan, above, had the opinion in Abramski v. U.S., a case concerning “straw purchasers” of firearms. And Justice Thomas, below,  announced the unanimous opinion in Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus that state laws criminalizing false statements made about a candidate in an election can be challenged on First Amendment grounds even before anyone is actually prosecuted.

 

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David 2, Goliath 1

Little POM Wonderful scored a victory at the Supreme Court yesterday allowing it to go ahead and sue giant Coca-Cola for misleading consumers into believing that its pomegranate-blueberry drink might actually contain more than just 0.5 percent of the juices. The result was not unexpected; during arguments in April, Justice Kennedy asked the lawyer for the Real Thing, “Is it Coke’s position that national uniformity consists in labels that cheat the consumers like this one did?”

The case is POM Wonderful v. Coca-Cola, and I’m going to go have a Coke.

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“Chemical Carol” Not Guilty Under Treaty

Infuriated that her husband had sexual relations with her best friend, Carol Anne Bond smeared toxic chemicals she obtained at work and over the internet on her rival’s home and car. The chemicals were plainly visible, turning orange on contact with metal, and the object of her anger suffered, in all, only a minor burn to her thumb. Unfortunately for Bond, she also put the chemical on a mailbox which led to federal charges under the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act of 1998. Fortunately for the Constitution the Supreme Court decided that the prosecution may have been a little over-zealous.

“The use of something as a ‘weapon’ typically connotes an instrument of . . . combat,” said Chief Justice Roberts in his opinion. “But no speaker in natural parlance would describe Bond’s feud-driven act of spreading irritating chemicals on Haynes’s door knob and mailbox as ‘combat’.” . . . “Nor do the other circumstances of Bond’s offense – an act of revenge born of romantic jealousy, meant to cause discomfort, that produced nothing more than a minor thumb burn – suggest that a chemical weapon was deployed in Norristown, Pennsylvania.”

Roberts also points out that unlike John Singer Sargent’s 20 by 8 foot painting of blinded mustard-gassed soldiers on a WWI battlefield, “There are no life-sized paintings of Bond’s rival washing her thumb.”

The case is Bond v. United States

 

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Sketches of Two Opinions

The Supreme Court is now in that final stretch of the October 2013 Term when it remains, after all cases have been argued, to issue opinions before recessing at the end of June. Today the Court announced its decisions in four cases, two of which I sketched below.

Justice Kennedy delivered the opinion in Hall v. Florida, ruling that an IQ score one point above the threshold should not be enough to make someone eligible for the death penalty.

And in a case where the Secret Service was sued for moving protesters opposed to President Bush further away than another group supporting the president the Court sided with the Secret Service. Justice Ginsburg had the opinion in Wood v. Moss.

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The Come To Jesus Court

I used to have a naive belief that the courts were there to protect the rights of individuals and minorities but a couple of recent Supreme Court decisions show how mistaken I was. Two weeks ago in Schuette, and yesterday in Town of Greece, Justice Kennedy has come to the defense of the poor put-upon, oppressed by a hypersensitive minority, majority.

In a deeply divided plurality opinion the Court endorsed prayer at town-board meetings even if they almost exclusively invoked the name of Jesus – after all the town is majority Christian – as long as they don’t ” . . . threaten damnation, or preach conversion”.

All you others, stop whining.

Garrett Epps has it very well here.

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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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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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“Don We Now Our Gay Apparel . . . “

. . said Justice Scalia as he delivered the opinion in Sandifer v. U.S. Steel, explaining the use in this case of the somewhat archaic terms “don” and “doff”, as in “a well bred gentleman still doffs his hat to a lady”.In this case the union had an agreement with U.S. Steel that “time spent in changing clothes at the beginning or end of each workday” would not be compensated. The petitioners argued that they weren’t changing clothes, but donning and doffing protective gear. The Court did not go as far as U.S. Steel wanted and say “everything that a person wears” is clothing, but everything else is “de minims non curate lex”*.

* Trans.: the law does not take account of trifles

There once was a lawyer named Rex
With minuscule organs of sex.
        Arraigned for exposure,
        He maintained with composure,
"De minimis non curat lex."

 

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