A Banner Day for Fish Stories

The case of a Florida fisherman convicted under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act for destroying potential evidence – in this case red grouper – had the potential for comedy when the Supreme Court heard arguments today. To that end, I did my part. I regularly do a banner sketch for SCOTUSblog in the morning when I arrive at the Court, usually of the line on the plaza outside or of lawyers waiting to be admitted to the bar. This morning I tried something a little different.

Anyway, hope you like it. Below are a couple sketches from the argument. And here is a link to Lyle Denniston’s account of how it went – not so good for the government, I’m afraid.

The case is Yates v. U.S.

Posted in Arguments, Supreme Court Tagged with: , ,

Good Day in Court for TSA Whistleblower

When the Transportation Safety Administration decided to cut back on air marshals for overnight flights one of those marshals leaked the information to MSNBC. Congress was furious when the news broke and the TSA promptly withdrew the cutbacks.

Former air marshal Robert MacLean was fired when the agency learned that he was the source of the leak. MacLean then appealed under the Whistleblower Protection Act, but was turned down because the act does not protect disclosures “specifically prohibited by law”. But the fact is that MacLean never broke the law, only TSA rules, and so he won in the lower court.

The Supreme Court agreed to the government’s petition seeking a reversal, but today at argument that seemed unlikely.

 

Several justices pointed out that the act refers only to laws, not agency regulations. “So it is prohibited by regulations, let’s not play games,” Justice Antonin Scalia told deputy solicitor general Ian Gershengorn.

The lawyer for the former air marshal, Neal Katyal, had an easier time. “The facts,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor told him, “are very much in your favor here.”

 

 

 

Posted in Arguments, Supreme Court Tagged with: ,

Passport Case and Forgot to Turn the Clock Back

Trouble With The Clocks

As usual the Justices came to the bench at 10:00 sharp but the clock above them showed 8:00. The clock at the other end of the courtroom read noon, or midnight. Seems nobody remembered to turn the clocks back this weekend as we went off Daylight Saving Time.

“I’ll alert counsel that the clock behind you is not accurate” said Chief Justice Roberts. “You shouldn’t look at the clock anyway, but particularly not today”.

With that said, and as the hands on the clock faces continued to move in fits and starts, always out of time, the Court heard arguments in Zivotofsky v. Kerry.

The case, about a law passed by Congress in 2002 that orders the State Department to “record the place of birth as Israel” in the passports of American children born in Jerusalem, was first heard by the Supreme Court in 2011.

Lyle Denniston’s take on the argument is here.

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

Khatallah Back In Court For Additional Charges

Looking very much like an Old-Testament prophet, Ahmed Salim Faraj Abu Khatallah was arraigned Monday on 17 additional charges related to the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi.

Khatallah said nothing as he stood in a green jumpsuit with “Alexandria Inmate” stenciled on the back while his lawyer, federal public defender Michelle Peterson, entered for him a plea of not guilty.

No trial date has yet been set as the prosecutors say they need more time to gather and redact the “thousands and thousands of pages” and hundreds of hours of video before turning them over to the defense.

Posted in Courtroom Tagged with: , , ,

The Latest White House Fence Jumper

He scaled the fence but unlike the previous intruder three weeks ago Dominic Adesanya never made it all the way across the lawn and into the White House. He was stopped by Hurricane and Jordan, two Secret Service dogs with whom he fought until officers took him down.

Clearly deranged, his arm and fingers bandaged, Adesanya repeatedly tried to speak during his appearance before a federal magistrate. He resisted as he was led out of the courtroom.

Posted in Courtroom Tagged with: , ,

MS Drug Patent Argument

Usually trial courts are the exclusive finders of facts and appellate courts are limited to questions of law, but apparently that’s not necessarily the case when it comes to patent law. In a dispute between Teva Pharmaceuticals, which holds the patent on the very profitable multiple sclerosis drug Copaxone, and companies that want to begin marketing a generic version the trial court sided with Teva. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which reviews patent cases, however, looks at all elements of a patent claim as legal issues, including the factual conclusions of the trial court and reversed.

Even though Teva’s patent expires in September of next year the amount of money at stake is huge – in the billions. Also at stake is a shift of power from the Federal Circuit.

The case is Teva Pharmaceuticals v. Sandoz

Here are my sketches and a link to Lyle’s SCOTUSblog analysis of the argument.

Posted in Arguments, Supreme Court Tagged with: ,

I Am Not An Anti-Dentite . . .

. . . nor do I have anything against teeth whitening. I suppose it is an important case, North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners v. FTCabout whether state licensing boards made up of private professionals may violate anti-trust laws, and the argument was lively, but I’ll just post my two sketches and a link to Adam Liptak’s article and call it a night.

Liptak’s NYT story here.

Posted in Arguments, Supreme Court Tagged with: , ,

Black Aggie and the Doomsday Binder

I didn’t expect to have much fun covering two days of a trial relating to the government’s 2008 bailout of AIG, but I was mistaken.

It was fascinating to hear former Fed. chairman Bernanke describe the near financial collapse as more severe than the great depression of the 1930’s, and that there exists a “doomsday book”, a collection of emergency documents and memoranda outlining the central bank’s powers, that Timothy Geithner carried around in a 2-inch binder.

Even better was coming across the statue of Black Aggie in the courtyard of the building housing the Federal Circuit and Court of Federal Claims. Black Aggie used to reside at Druid Ridge cemetery in the Baltimore suburb of Pikesville. She sat over the tomb of Union Army general and publisher of the Baltimore American newspaper Felix Agnus until the mid 1960’s when the family gave the statue to the Smithsonian. For years Black Aggie was the subject of ghostly lore and attracted midnight visitors who trampled the gravesite to sit in her lap.

 

As forty-three year resident of Baltimore who loves his adopted city I can’t help feeling a little resentful at DC’s acquisition.

Back to the AIG trial, on the face of it this effort by Maurice “Hank” Greenberg to sue the government for saving AIG’s ass seems pretty preposterous. He doesn’t seem to acknowledge that the point of the bailout wasn’t to benefit AIG shareholders but to avoid the freezing of global insurance markets and financial meltdown. Greenberg’s legal team is led by super-lawyer David Boies, but I hope this is one time Boies loses.

Here are the rest of my sketches from my two days at the Court of Federal Claims. Note in the unfinished sketch the shelves full of binders on each side of the courtroom.

 

 

Posted in Courtroom, History Tagged with: , , , , ,

The Long and Short of Prison Beards

Arkansas prisons limit the length of inmates’ beards to a quarter inch. One of those inmates, a Muslim whose faith requires a full beard, tried to compromise by only growing his beard to a half inch but that was still too long for the warden. Contraband might be concealed in the half-inch beard, or the inmate could change his appearance to evade detection by shaving the beard.

None of those arguments were even considered plausible by the justices when the case, Holt v. Hobbs, was argued today. Justice Alito suggested using a comb on the beard “to see if a SIM card – or a revolver – falls out.” And Scalia asked why not take a photo of the inmate before he grows the beard?

“You’re really just making your case too easy”, the chief justice told petitioner’s lawyer, Douglas Laycock pictured above.

Arkansas Deputy Attorney General David A. Curran didn’t have much to show why the courts should defer to the bureau of prisons.

All bets are that the Court votes 9-0; not even close to a close shave.

 

 

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

In Other Supreme Court News . . .

While the big news today was the denial of all same-sex marriage ban petitions the Court also heard its first argument of the term, Heien v. North Carolina, a Fourth Amendment “reasonable” search case from the home town of Andy Griffith: Mt Airy, North Carolina.

In April, 2009, Sheriff’s Deputy Matt Darisse – pictured above with beard (and dislexically id’d) as he waited in line for a seat in the courtroom this morning – was working “criminal interdiction” on Highway 77 when he pulled over a vehicle for having a stop light out. After asking permission to search the vehicle officers found a baggie of cocaine and the owner of the car, Nicholas Heien, was arrested along with the driver.

It turns out, however, that North Carolina law only requires “a stop lamp on the rear of the vehicle” and since Heien’s car still had one good light the stop was illegal, and the cocaine “fruit of the poisonous tree.”

The question is whether the search was reasonable. After all, most of us would expect two working stop lights to be the law, and were surprised to learn otherwise (at least in NC). On the other hand ignorance of the law is no excuse for most defendants, so why should a police officer be allowed a mistake when enforcing the laws?

Not much has yet been published on today’s argument, and I have to confess that I get most of my information after the fact from what I read. I find it very difficult to draw and at the same time follow the thread of the argument; must be different parts of the brain – plus my wife says I’m hard-of-hearing. I did manage to pick up that Justice Scalia was never satisfied with the answer he got form petitioner’s lawyer, Jeffrey Fisher.

Above is my best drawing of the day, I think. Great subject.

Posted in Arguments, Supreme Court Tagged with: , , ,
2013_Blawg100Honoree_300x300
TWITTER @courtartist

Blog Updates

Enter your name and email below to receive blog updates via email.