Seated in a wheelchair, wearing a green “Alexandria Inmate” jumpsuit, Paul Manafort appeared before Judge T.S. Ellis for sentencing after his tax and bank fraud convictions last summer. Facing a possible sentence of roughly 20 years, Manafort got off easy with just 47 months. Next Wednesday Manafort is scheduled to appear in DC before Judge Amy Berman Jackson for sentencing on two counts of conspiracy to which he pleaded in September; each count carries a maximum sentence of five years.
After sketching Justice Ginsburg’s return to the bench on the first day of the Court’s February sitting I wimped out the second day because of a little bit of snow. I’m not nearly as tough as RBG. I’m also way more lazy which is why I’m only now getting it together to lump all the rest of February’s sketches into this one post.
Last week’s argument calendar started off with a First Amendment public-access TV case, Manhattan Community Access Corp. v. Halleck . . .
On Tuesday an argument on the constitutionality of a sex-offender law, United States v. Haymond . . .
. . . and lunch.
The big argument of a quiet month came on Wednesday in The American Legion v. American Humanist Association, an establishment clause case over a giant cross shaped WWI memorial in Bladensburg, Md, just outside DC.
Also on Wednesday, Justice Kagan had the opinion in a major death penalty case, Madison v. Alabama.
And, as if we needed further proof that RBG is no slouch, Justice Ginsburg on Monday announced her second and third opinions since returning to the bench, one of which was a case that she participated in through the briefs and argument transcript while recuperating from cancer surgery at home.
Appearing strong as ever, Justice Ginsburg returned to the bench yesterday for the first argument of the February sitting. Sitting more upright – she’s usually hunched over and hard to see – Justice Ginsburg asked the very first question during arguments in Returned Mail, Inc. v. USPS. She continued to participate actively; as The Wall Street Journal’s Jess Bravin tweeted, “RBG Electrifies Courtroom with Questions on Estoppel and Issue Preclusion!”
Ex-Trump campaign adviser and self-described dirty trickster Roger Stone made his first appearance yesterday before the judge in charge of his case. Judge Amy Berman Jackson said she is considering a gag order but that it wouldn’t prevent the parties from commenting about “immigration, foreign relations, or Tom Brady”.
No trial date set, but the prosecution is looking to October. Next status hearing scheduled for March 14.
A little disappointed that Stone didn’t flash the Nixon victory gesture in the courtroom, though he did for the cameras outside the courthouse.
A circus was expected but it turned out to be a routine, though well attended, fifteen minute arraignment. Stone will be back in court on Friday for a hearing before judge Amy Berman Jackson.
The indictment and early morning arrest of Roger Stone overshadowed Paul Manafort’s appearance in a DC courtroom yesterday. Manafort chose not to be there but judge Amy Berman Jackson insisted he attend the hearing over his lack of cooperation with the Special Counsel.
Leaning heavily on a cane as he walked into the courtroom, his hair a bit more gray, Manafort is looking old and tired.
The hearing will continue next week but under seal, behind closed doors so no sketches. However, on Tuesday Roger Stone will be at the DC courthouse for arraignment, and I wouldn’t want to miss that.
January has been a bit of a snooze at the Supreme Court but I did get to learn about the Dormant Commerce Clause ( Tennessee Wine & Spirits Retailers v. Blair ).
There was plenty of other news from the Court today: cert denial in a school prayer case, cert granted in a Second Amendment case to be heard next term, stay grants in a pair of transgender cases, and action on the Mueller mystery grand jury subpoena. But from the bench just one 9-0 opinion from Justice Thomas in a patent case.
Below are some sketches from some of last week’s arguments and opinions. Fingers crossed that Justice Ginsburg will be back on the bench after the mid-winter break.
Justice Ginsburg was absent from the bench this week, recovering from recent surgery. She will continue to work from home next week, participating in the cases argued through transcripts and the briefs. Her odds of making a full recovery are good, and I’m looking forward to seeing her back on the bench for the February sitting.
No blockbusters this week. I sketched three of the arguments, one each day. Monday’s focused on whether the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act applies to law firms acting as “debt collector” in nonjudicial foreclosures; exciting stuff.
Of more interest, at least to this sketch artist, and something I could make into a SCOTUSblog banner was Tuesday’s Indian treaty argument.
Several members of the Crow Tribe were present in the courtroom to for the arguments in Herrera v. Wyoming.
Interesting that Samuel Enemy-Hunter, pictured here in the right background, was allowed to wear tribal head-dress in the courtroom while in November, when Carpenter v. Murphy was argued, court personnel made an official of the Muscogee Creek Nation remove his.
And finally, I had no idea that Wednesday’s argument, Franchise Tax Board of California v. Hyatt, was such a big deal but evidently for constitution nerds, whom I admire, this case is their meat and potatoes.
A crowd of supporters showed up for what was expected to be a lenient sentencing for former national security advisor Michael Flynn, some no doubt hoping the judge would criticize the government for coming close to entrapment. But in an unexpected twist Judge Sullivan, who is known for holding government officials to a higher standard, instead focused his ire on the defendant.
“He was a high-ranking government official, advising the president of the United States,” Sullivan said. “I’m not hiding my disgust, my disdain, for this criminal offense.”
After repeatedly rebuking Flynn and having him admit on the record that he knew when he lied to the FBI that he was breaking the law, Judge Sullivan recessed the hearing so that Flynn could consult with his lawyers and decide if he wanted to continue with sentencing and almost certainly go to jail or continue cooperating with the government in the prosecution of his former business partners, and face sentencing at a later date. Flynn chose to postpone sentencing.
Russia is just as gun crazy as the U.S. so why not make connections and alliances with the NRA as a way to influence American policy? It was a good plan and Maria Butina sounded proud of her efforts as she entered a plea of guilty in federal court this week. Her answers to the judge’s questions were remarkably rapid and crisp, almost as if she were responding to a drill sergeant.