A dazzling fall morning on the Supreme Court plaza as spectators line up for oral arguments.
One of those arguments, Shapiro v. McManus, was about whether a lawsuit challenging Maryland redistricting should be decided by a three-judge panel. It’s a bit technical and I won’t attempt to explain. The New York Time’s Adam Liptak reports on the argument here.
Be sure to read to the end of Liptak’s article for the exchange between Maryland Assistant Attorney General Steven Sullivan and Justice Scalia on the topic of “little green men and extraterrestrials”.
“. . . under the laws of any State relating to aggravated sexual abuse, sexual abuse, or abusive sexual conduct involving a minor or ward . . . “
Today’s argument in Lockhart v. United States turned on what Congress meant in a statute so poorly drafted Justice Alito gives it a “D”.
The petitioner in this case, Avondale Lockhart, was caught in a child pornography sting and pleaded guilty. At sentencing he faced a mandatory minimum ten-year enhancement because of a previous state conviction for attempted rape of his girlfriend. Lockhart argues that the sentencing enhancement only applies if the prior conviction was for an offense “. . . involving a minor or ward”, and that in the language quoted above “aggravated sexual abuse” and “sexual abuse” are qualified in the same as “abusive sexual conduct”.
The lower courts, of course, found otherwise.
It sounded like a lively and perplexing argument, and I hear form some of the reporters present that Lockhart may win to some degree.
As arguments were about to begin today Chief Justice Roberts reminded lawyers of Chief Justice Rehnquist’s admonition to not look up at the courtroom clock. The reason, not the same as Rehnquist’s, was that the two clocks in the courtroom were showing different times, neither of which was correct, and the minutes hands were moving in stops and starts. It seems that, just like last year, setting the Court’s clocks back an hour at the end of Daylight Saving is no easy matter.
The Court heard two interesting arguments, neither of which I’ll comment on since I’m about as good at explaining as the Court is at setting a clock.
The first argument, Foster v Chatman :
. . . and the second argument, Spokeo v. Robins :
Last week seems like a long time ago. I’ve been busy with some personal business – all good – and never got around to posting the sketches from last weeks arguments in Montgomery v. Louisiana and Hurst v. Florida.
The first argument concerned inmates who as juveniles were automatically sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. The Court three years ago, in Miller v. Alabama, ruled that although juveniles could receive a life sentence it couldn’t be automatic. The issue here is whether that applies retroactively.
The second argument looked at the role of juries in determining sentence in Florida death penalty cases.
A couple sketches from Tuesday’s Supreme Court argument in Ocasio v. U.S.. The case case involves members of the Baltimore police who received kickbacks for steering business to Majestic Auto Repair. Arriving on the scene of an auto accident the officer would encourage the driver of a damaged vehicle to have it towed to Majestic. In exchange officers would receive a $150. referral fee, later upped to $300.
One of the officers, Samuel Ocasio, who was convicted of conspiracy under the Hobbs Act for obtaining of property “from another, with his consent, . . . under color of official right”, appealed, arguing that the statute requires that the alleged conspirators agree among themselves to obtain property “from another”—that is, from someone outside the conspiracy. Since the bribe came from Majestic, and they were part of the conspiracy, there was no conspiracy, so the argument goes.
Not sure the Justices bought it
The Supreme Court began its new term on a beautiful fall morning much appreciated after several grey days of wind and rain.
The argument heard was a case in which a woman, Carol Sachs, who while traveling on a Eurail Pass had suffered a horrible injury while boarding a train in Austria, is seeking to sue the European railway in U.S. courts. Under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act such a lawsuit is barred except in commercial dealings. Because she bought her ticket in the United States, Sachs argues that her case falls under that exception.
SCOTUSblog’s analysis of the argument is here
Didn’t have a chance to post yesterday’s sketches of two major Supreme Court decisions, Texas Dept. of Housing v. Inclusive Communities and King v. Burwell.
The big one, of course, was Obamacare and for the second time Chief Justice Roberts authored an opinion the saved Affordable Health Care.
I scanned the wide-shot before filling in the foreground with watercolor, and I think I like the result. Maybe I’ll continue this way, plus I’m naturally lazy and it’s less work.
And below is Justice Kennedy announcing his opinion reaffirming the Fair Housing Act ban on unintentional discrimination.
Gay-rights lawyers were seated in the first rows close to the bench when the opinion in Obergefell v Hodges was announced by Justice Kennedy. As it became clear that they had won big, that the Court had recognized a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, smiles broke out, backs were patted, and, once the Justices had left the bench, hugs all around.
Four decisions from the Supreme Court today included an opinion, Kimble v. Marvel, that quoted Spider-Man creators Stan Lee & Steve Ditko (Amazing Fantasy, No.15, “Spider-Man”, 1962), and a takings case, Horne v. Department of Agriculture, brought by California raisin growers.
In announcing the California raisins case from the bench Chief Justice Roberts said,“The Constitution does not allow the government to take your car without just compensation if it promises to return the quarters it finds in the seats.”
The Court returns Thursday and Friday with more decisions, at which time it will truly be the bottom of the ninth with the possibility of extra innings next week.
No major decisions from the Supreme Court yesterday meant that a slight gaffe by Justice Scalia got a bit more ink, or is it pixels?
At the end of announcing the Court’s opinion in Kerry v. Din, Scalia referred to Justice Ginsburg, one of the dissenters, as “Justice Goldberg”. “Sorry about that, Ruth,” said Scalia who continued to smile and appear red-faced as the Court moved to admissions to the bar.
Mark Walsh has written about it here in SCOTUSblog.