When anthrax started showing up in the mail shortly after 9/11 it was detected in the Supreme Court as well. The Court kept to its schedule by moving a few blocks away to convene in the D.C. Circuit’s ceremonial courtroom.
I’d been looking for this sketch for several years thinking it had been lost, but in fact had matted and framed it for exhibit and never returned it to the files. I found last week while moving stuff to storage. It shows Solicitor General Ted Olson arguing in Adarand Constructors v. Mineta. Seated in the foreground are NYT’s Linda Greenhouse, left, and NPR’s Nina Totenberg.
CNN story on the Court’s move is here.
Notables of the civil rights movement sat in the audience as the Supreme Court yesterday heard arguments in a major challenge to the Voting Rights Act, Shelby County v. Holder.
From 1965 when President Johnson signed it into law to the election of the first African-American president, the Voting Rights Act has been the most important and successful civil rights law ever passed. So successful that a slim majority of the Court seem to think that its most important part, Section 5, is so outdated it’s no longer constitutional.
Justice Scalia,below, to Solicitor General Verrilli on why the were no votes against the 2006 reauthorization in the Senate, “I think that’s attributable to a phenomenon that has been called the perpetuation of racial entitlements.”
Bob Barnes has WaPo story here.
Maryland and 27 other states have laws that permit the taking of a DNA sample, usually by cheek swab, at the time of arrest, much like fingerprinting a suspect. Maryland’s high court vacated the conviction of Alonzo King whose DNA, taken during an unrelated arrest in 2009, linked him to a 2003 rape. On Tuesday the Supreme Court heard arguments in Maryland v. King.
NYT’s Adam Liptak writes about it here.
I drew this from a great little scale model of the courtroom on exhibit on the ground floor of the Supreme Court building. For something like this you have to get a head start. I’ll finished up on argument day.
Chief Justice Roberts stopped by the press room Tuesday morning to welcome back reporters. He said the Court would be announcing quite a few opinions, so be prepared to work through lunch.
Below are sketches of arguments the Court heard in Bowman v. Monsanto.
Monsanto sells its brand of genetically engineered soybean seed to farmers with the stipulation that they will not replant the crop seed. Indiana farmer Vernon Bowman abided by Monsanto’s rules when he planted his first crop, but for a second late-season crop he decided to plant seed purchased from a grain elevator figuring much of it would seed grown from Monsanto’s Rounup resistant strain. He was right, but Monsanto sued.
Bowman’s lawyer, Mark Walters, had a hard time convincing Justices that once Monsanto sold its seed the patent was exhausted. ”The Exhaustion Doctrine permits you to use the goods that you buy,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor said. “It never permits you to make another item from the item that you bought.”
Monsanto’s lawyer Seth P. Waxman said the company “never would have produced what is, by now the most popular agricultural technology in America” if the patent had been so easily exhausted.
WaPo story here.
A large group of lawyers from the National LGBT Bar Association were introduced by Paul Smith before being sworn in to the bar of the Supreme Court.
Openly gay lawyers practice before the Supreme Court, but yesterday marks the first time lawyers have been identified as LGBT Bar members at the ceremony. The times they are a changing.
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Clerk Willam K. Suter gives an informal, even entertaining, orientation to lawyers about to be sworn to the bar of the Supreme Court. This morning he pointed to the adjacent bench where the press would soon be taking their seats and said, “the press sits over here, so keep your hands on your wallets”.
General Suter – he is a former Army major general – will be retiring at the end of this term after 22 years as Clerk of the Supreme Court.
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The Supreme Court heard arguments yesterday in City of Arlington, Texas v. FCC, a case concerning the deference due an agency in interpreting the statute that it administers and more specifically in this case whether it can determine its own jurisdiction. (Am I starting to sound like a lawyer yet?)
Thomas Goldstein, pictured above, argued for the petitioner. Solicitor General Verrilli, shown seated, responded for the FCC.
NYT story here.
A group of Navy lawyers picked the right day, yesterday, to be sworn in to the Supreme Court bar. The first case argued, Levi v. United States, involved a malpractice and medical battery suit against a Navy surgeon. But first, the Court had an opinion to announce that might have touched on Admiralty law, but didn’t.
In Lozman v. Riviera Beach the Supreme Court ruled that a houseboat is not a vessel subject to maritime law. In his opinion Justice Stephen Breyer noted that not every floating structure is a vessel. “To state the obvious, a wooden washtub, a plastic dishpan, a swimming platform on pontoons … or Pinocchio (when inside the whale) are not ‘vessels’”, Breyer said, “even if they are ‘artificial contrivances’ capable of floating, moving under tow, and incidentally carrying even a fair-sized item or two when they do so.”
The Court also heard arguments in a “takings” case, Koontz v. St. Johns River, of which I’ve posted a sketch below.
Not sure why the lawyer for the petitioner looks so happy. According to Lyle the argument did not seem to go his way.
Lyle Denniston’s take on the “takings” case here.
The first argument at the Supreme Court this morning, and what I expected would be the subject of this post, was a potentially historic case, Alleyne v. United States. But near the end of the second argument, as I was finishing my sketches of the first, an unfamiliar voice was heard from the bench. After nearly seven years of remaining silent during arguments Justice Thomas was speaking!
It wasn’t a question for the lawyer at the lectern, more of an aside. And what Thomas actually said is in dispute. Something about the competence of Yale or Harvard Law graduates?
WSJ’s Jess Bravin has the historic story here.