While the big news a the Supreme Court today was the decision in Snyder v. Phelps, arguments in another of this term’s big cases was being heard : Ashcroft v. Al-Kidd.
Abudulla al-Kidd, formerly Lavni T. Kidd, was born and raised in the U.S. and converted to Islam while in college. He has never had ties to any terrorist organization, yet in 2003 he was arrested as he was about to board a plane for Saudi Arabia where he planned to study. He was held as a material witness for fifteen days, but never asked to testify, nor was he ever charged with a crime. Al-Kidd filed suit against then Attorney General John Ashcroft, saying that the the improper use of the material witness statute violated his Fourth Amendment rights.
Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal barely touched on the Fourth Amendment, arguing that the Attorney General should have absolute immunity from such suits.
Found the story on CP ( The Canadian Press ) here.
A few chuckles at the Court yesterday ( see Dahlia Lithwick’s story in Slate ), so I thought I’d post a couple doodles I did as the Justices announced their opinions.
In his opinion in Staub v. Proctor Hospital Justice Scalia said it was a “cat’s paw case”.
He was quoting the Seventh Circuit’s Judge Posner, but the reference is to a fable by Jean de La Fontaine.
And Chief Justice Roberts, to explain why the Court unanimously found that AT&T does not posses personal privacy, even if it is a person, cited the distinct meanings of “corn” and “corny”, and “crank” and “cranky” ( see “Crafty Craft & Squirrel Squirrels” ). He concluded his opinion by saying, “We trust that AT&T will not take it personally”.
For the record, Justice Scalia does not posses a cat’s paw and the Chief Justice did not hold up an ear of corn.
Justice Ginsburg today announced the opinion of the Court in three cases testing “honest services” statutes, the most notable of which is the case of Enron’s Jeffrey Skilling. A unanimous Court found that laws proscribing the fraudulent deprivation of “the intangible right of honest service” are unconstitutionally vague, and must be limited to bribery and kickback schemes (you can now go ahead and give that lucrative public contract to your brother-in-law, just don’t ask for your share).
Is this what was augured when the wheel fell off the cart?
For more on how this may affect the Blagojevich trial go here.
Rough sketches of Justices announcing yesterday’s opinions.
In an opinion announced today by Justice Kennedy the Supreme Court prohibits the sentencing of juveniles to life in prison without the possibility of parole if the crime does not involve murder. What this means for the 129 prisoners in state and federal penitentiaries convicted as minors and sentenced to life w/o parole is a chance to show that they are “fit to rejoin society”, but no guarantee that they will ever be freed. And from now on every juvenile convicted of a “non-homicide” crime may not be sentenced to life at the outset, but must have the possibility of release; they can still be sentenced to a very long term guaranteeing their incarceration into old-age.
WaPo story here.
In an exception to it’s 1981 decision in Edwards v. Arizona where the court found that once a suspect asks for a lawyer police may not come back after a “break in custody” and resume the questioning if the suspect then waives his Miranda rights. In today’s opinion the court found that if the interval between interrogations is substantial Edwards does not suppress a confession.
Justice Scalia’s opinion is here.
“It is a
jolt to the legal system when you overrule a precedent.” Chief Justice Roberts at his 2005 confirmation hearings
Overturning its own precedents the Supreme Court yesterday removed limits on corporate campaign spending citing the First Amendment free speech rights of corporations.
In dissenting from the majority in Citizens United v. FEC Justice Stevens wrote “Under the majority’s view, I suppose it may be a First Amendment
problem that corporations are not permitted to vote, given that voting
is, among other things, a form of speech.”
Dahlia Lithwick has the story here.
“It was an extraordinary 23-minute-long scene at the Supreme Court this
morning as Justice Antonin Scalia read from his majority opinion in D.C. v. Heller
and then Justice John Paul Stevens read from his unusually pointed
dissent. Both cast aspersions on each other’s interpretation of the
Second Amendment and relevant precedents, and spectators were left with
a lot of reading to do to determine what the justices actually decided.”
-Tony Mauro, The BLT: The Blog of LegalTimes
I’ve quoted Tony Mauro’s BLT posting because he’s done such a great job of capturing the atmosphere in the Supreme Court yesterday during the announcement of opinions in the historic Second Amendment case, D.C. v. Heller. His peripheral observations remind me that sometimes I need to stop drawing that one Justice or lawyer, and take the time to look around: don’t just draw, sit there.
I urge the reader to follow this link, and read Tony’s complete post.
The U. S. Supreme Court today delivered the last of its opinions for the October 2006 term. The sketch shows Justice Breyer reading his dissent in the school desegregation cases.
WaPo has the story here.
In an opinion by Justice Kennedy (on the left in sketch) the Supreme Court today upheld the federal ban on certain late-term, so-called “partial birth”, abortions. Justice Ginsberg (right) read her dissenting opinion, joined by Justices Stevens, Souter and Breyer.
Washington Post story here.
Lyle Denniston has an in depth post on ScotusBlog here.