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SCOTUS In The Cold

Even the turtles holding up the Bronze lamps on the Supreme Court plaza seemed to want to pull in their heads from today’s frigid temperatures.

Inside, the Justices heard arguments in two puzzling cases.The first, Paroline v. U.S., presented the Court with the problem of apportioning restitution to victims of child pornography. In this digital age, where the same image can be downloaded by many participants in the sexual exploitation of a child, to what extent is each viewer responsible for the humiliation and damage suffered?The lawyer for the victim, Utah law professor Paul Cassell, in this case insisted that each perpetrator should be responsible for the entire $3.4 million award. “You’re not claiming – or are you” asked Justice Kagan, “that she’s been victimized to the tune of $3.4 million as a result of this particular defendant’s offense?”

“He contributed to the entire amount,” said Cassell.

The second case, Abramski v. U.S., concerns the so-called “Straw Purchaser” law that is supposed to prevent sales to those not entitled to own firearms, such as convicted felons, by requiring gun dealers to have buyers fill out a form. The form asks, ”Are you the actual transferee/buyer of the firearm listed on this form?”Justice Breyer, pictured above on the left, known for often posing convoluted hypotheticals had an esoteric analysis of the term ‘Straw Purchaser’. “It comes from ‘straw bail’,” he told petitioner’s lawyer, RichardDietz, “where someone else put up the bail and it was called straw because the people who made a career of that used to wear straw in their shoes. Interesting.”

“He made that up,” Justice Scalia interjected.

Lyle Denniston’s analyses of the arguments are here, and here.

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The 35 Foot Abortion Clinic Buffer Zone . . .

. . . and the considerably larger Supreme Court chamber.A challenge to the Massachusetts law creating a 35 foot buffer zone around the entrance to abortion clinics, McCullen v. Coakley, was argued before the Supreme Court today. The last time the Court visited this issue was in 2000 when it approve a protective “bubble” for anyone entering a clinic. Catholic University law professor Mark L. Rienzi, pictured above, argued for the 77 year-old grandmother, Eleanor McCullen, who has stood outside a Boston Planned Parenthood clinic a couple days a week for the past ten years, or so.

Justice Scalia repeatedly made the point that “it’s a counseling case . . . not a protest case”, and that 35 feet was too far to hold a conversation. Justice Kagan seemed to agree when she said to Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Miller, “. . it’s more than a few feet. You know, 35 feet is a ways. It’s from this bench to the end of the court.” At this several in the courtroom started to scratch their heads. According to the visitor’s guide the courtroom measures 82 by 91 feet.

Lyle has the story here.

 

 

Posted in Arguments, Supreme Court Tagged with: , ,

Today’s Sketches

No single big story at the Supreme Court today. That will come tomorrow when the Court hears the first abortion argument it has considered in several years regarding the buffer zone around clinics in Boston. So tune in tomorrow.

In the meantime here a today’s sketches of one opinion, delivered by Justice Ginsburg, and the two morning arguments (there was a third argument in the afternoon – unusual these days – but I didn’t attend).Justice Ginsburg announced the opinion of the Court that Daimler, the parent company of Mercedes-Benz, could not be sued in California under the Alien Tort Act for crimes committed by its Argentinian subsidiary during that country’s “Dirty War”. I covered the arguments here.

The first argument, Executive Benefits v. Arkinson, about whether the power granted bankruptcy judges violates Article III of the constitution went in one ear and out the other, so you’ll have to read about it here. Same thing with the next argument, Brandt Revocable Trust v. U.S., although I did catch that it might have something to do with “Rails to Trails” and the possibility that someone might ride a bicycle through your house. SCOTUSblog’s Lyle Denniston recaps the argument here.

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

Recess Appointments Draws A Crowd (and so do I)

The Supreme Court chamber was packed today as lawyers argued, in NLRB v. Canning, the Constitution’s Article II clause on recess appointments. White House spokesman, Jay Carney, lately sporting a beard, sat on the same bench , though at different ends,as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

At the conclusion of the arguments, as spectators and lawyers exited and the lawyer for the next case to be argued took his place at the lectern Chief Justice Roberts said, “We’re still here”.

Below are a few more sketches from the argument.

You can read about it here.

Posted in Arguments, Supreme Court Tagged with: ,

No SCOTUS Sketches This Week

A family emergency has me out of town. I hope to be back at the Court next week. In the meantime here’s a doodle from the 2011 Term.SCOTUS sketch, 4/18/12

Posted in Arguments, Supreme Court Tagged with:

Gambling on Nevada Venue Not a Sure Thing

When professional gamblers Gina Fiore and Keith Gipson passed through the Atlanta airport on their way home to Nevada after a gambling trip to Puerto Rico a search of their bags turned up $97,000 in cash. The DEA was contacted and Fiore and Gipson were detained for questioning. They told Anthony Walden, a local police officer deputized as DEA agent, that they learned the cash legitimately at the gambling tables. Nevertheless the cash was seized and Walden told them that they would get it back once they provided proper documentation.

Upon their return to Las Vegas they sent the necessary documentation, but the DEA continued to hold on to the cash based on a questionable affidavit drafted by Walden. Eventually the money was returned and the gamblers filed a lawsuit against officer Walden in Nevada federal court.

The question before the Supreme Court at Monday’s argument in Walden v. Fiore is whether the court in Nevada has jurisdiction over an officer doing his job in Georgia and where should the case be tried. The above sketch shows Walden’s lawyer, Jeffrey S. Bucholtz, arguing that the case belongs in Georgia.

Tom Goldstein, on the other hand, argued that the injury occurred in Nevada and, as the Ninth Circuit concluded, should be tried there. He concluded by warning, “. . . if that’s not enough, you are closing the door absolutely to all internet cases . . . where someone sits at the computer and targets someone in another State.

 

Posted in Arguments, Supreme Court Tagged with: , ,

A Lively Argument on Government Prayer

Prayer at public government sessions was back before the Supreme Court this morning. It’s been thirty years since the Court last visited the issue when it ruled that it was constitutional for the Nebraska legislature to begin the day with a prayer. This time the prayer is at local government meetings of the Town of Greece, New York.

There was enough interest in the case for a group of law students spent the night in line outside the Court. Once they finally got their seat passes this morning, the Court’s cafeteria was a good place for a nap.Also in the cafeteria were several clergy, and I spied a group of nuns in the courtroom admiring the friezes, buttocks and all.

Attorney Thomas Hungar argued for the Town of Greece. As Hungar began Justice Kagan interrupted him to read an overtly Christian prayer from the record and asked if that would be permissible here at the Supreme Court.

University of Virginia law professor Douglas Laycock, representing the two women who are challenging the town’s prayer, Susan Galloway and Linda Stephens, was asked by Justice Alito to give an example of a prayer that would not offend anyone. “I don’t think it’s possible,” said Alito, “to compose anything that you could call a prayer that will be acceptable to all of these groups.” “You can’t treat everyone equally without getting rid of prayer altogether,” Laycock responded.

The case is Town of Greece v. Galloway

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

Chemical Weapons Prosecution Spurs Lively Argument

When Carol Anne Bond’s best friend gave birth to a baby fathered by her, Bond’s, husband, she sought revenge. She applied toxic chemicals to her friend’s mailbox, doorknobs, etc. She was caught on video surveillance and arrested, but the local authorities choose not to press charges. Instead she was charged in federal court under the Chemical Weapons Convention because she put postal workers at risk.

 

Arguing for Bond, Paul Clement told the justices that prosecutors had overreached; that the treaty should only apply to “warlike” uses of chemicals, and not to attempts to poison a “romantic rival”.

Solicitor General Verrilli had a harder time at the lectern trying to convince the Court to not put limits on the implementation of international treaties.

Among the many hypotheticals posed to the Solicitor General was a statement from Justice Alito that he and his wife had passed out “chemical weapons” to children -i.e., Halloween chocolate. Why, he asked, would that not fall under the Chemical Weapons Convention since the treaty bans any chemical harmful to animals as well as humans, and, he noted, “chocolate is poisonous to dogs”.

The case is Bond v. U.S.

Lyle Denniston covers the argument here.

Posted in Arguments, Supreme Court Tagged with: ,

Tradition vs. Transparency

My sketch of a panel discussion hosted by The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press on transparency – read cameras – in the Supreme Court that took place at The National Press Club this morning.

The panel, from right to left, was composed of Alan Morrisson, Pete Williams, Neal Katyal, Maureen O’Connor, Ken Starr and moderator Tony Mauro. They all pretty much agreed – with a teeny bit of reservation from Katyal – that cameras are inevitable and belong in the Supreme Court.

Posted in Supreme Court, Uncategorized Tagged with:

Miranda and Metaphysics

Scott Cheever, a long time user of crystal meth,  shot and killed an officer while high. At trial he used the defense that in his intoxicated state he could not have formed the “intent to kill” that would get him the death penalty.

He was found guilty and sentenced to death, but during the trial in state court the prosecution called to the witness stand a psychiatrist who had earlier examined the defendant under a federal court order, before the case was transferred to state court. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the state violated Cheever’s Fifth amendment right against self-incrimination by calling the psychiatrist to testify.

The question before the U.S. Supreme Court today, are statements made by a defendant during a court-ordered mental evaluation protected under the fifth amendment?

Several times during the argument reference was made to “peering into the defendant’s mind”.  Does it seem fair, as Cheever’s attorney, Neal Katyal, put it  “that the government can peer into someone’s mind and extract information . . . un-Mirandized . . . and have that used against them”?  . . . After all isn’t it just a little bit like cheating on your metaphysics final by looking into the soul of the boy sitting next to you ? . . . (apologies to Woody Allen)

By the end of the argument it wasn’t looking good for Scott Cheever as Justice Sotomayor asked his lawyer, “Mr. Katyal, assuming the incredulity of my colleagues . . . which way would you rather lose?

 

 

Posted in Arguments, Supreme Court Tagged with: , ,
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