Trump v. Hawaii Sketches

On the last argument day of the term the Justices heard the challenge to Trump’s travel ban. Line sitters had been camped out on the sidewalk since Monday.

As expected the courtroom was packed. If you look closely at the above sketch you can see Lin-Manuel Miranda seated in the right side background (he’s the one with the goatee).

 

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Mueller Team’s Big Guns

At a Thursday hearing on Paul Manafort’s motion to dismiss criminal charges for acts committed prior to 2014 as beyond the scope of the Mueller’s investigation the Special Counsel’s Office brought out the heavy hitters including Deputy Solicitor General Michael Dreeben.

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CEO’s Testify At Anti-Trust Trial

The AT&T/Time Warner anti-trust trial before Judge Richard Leon culminated this week with testimony from the companies CEO’s.

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Tax Week At SCOTUS

In case you needed a reminder that this Tuesday was the tax filing deadline, which as it turned out was extended 24 hours because of an IRS computer glitch, the Supreme Court heard arguments in two tax related cases this week.

South Dakota v. Wayfair, argued on Tuesday, could impact anyone who buys or sells goods shipped to another state. Currently out-of-state retailers are not required to collect sales tax unless they have a physical presence in the buyer’s state. But in the brave new world of e-commerce and virtual stores a majority of justices may be prepared to reverse the Court’s earlier position.

The other tax case is more peripheral and limited to railroad pensions. Argued on Monday, Wisconsin Central Ltd. v. United States seemed to turn on the definition of “money.” Are railroads and their employees, who are covered under the Railroad Retirement Tax Act instead of Social Security, required to pay taxes on compensation received in the form of stock options? In other words, are stock options money? That led the justices to hypothesize about compensation in the form of bottles of wine, baseball tickets and bushels of wheat.

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Zwaan Song

Posing nonchalantly, one hand on the lectern, the other in his pocket, Alex van der Zwaan received a sentence of thirty days and $20,000. from judge Amy Berman Jackson. Zwaan, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, is the first person to be sentenced as a result of Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation.

Note that the person depicted in the above sketch is not van der Zwaan’s father, though he was present in the courtroom.

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Shackling and C-Plea Sentencing

Other cases argued at the Supreme Court this week included one from California, United States v. Sanchez -Gomez, about the routine shackling of defendants in court,  and Hughes v. United States, in which a defendant who entered into a so-called “C-Plea” promising a below guidelines sentence is eligible for a reduction when the guidelines are lated reduced.

Of course, it’s never that simple. In Sanchez-Gomez the question before the justices is also whether the 9th Circuit has authority to review, and in Hughes it’s about what kind of precedent applies from the Court’s earlier plurality decisions.

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Maryland Gerrymander

Sketches from yesterday’s desultory argument in Benisek v. Lamone.

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AT&T / Time Warner Anti-Trust Trial

A few sketches from opening statements in the huge anti-trust trial in which the Justice Department is trying to stop a merger of AT&T and Time Warner.

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Abortion, Speech, and . . . Contracts

It’s been awhile since the Supreme Court heard an abortion case, and while last Tuesday’s argument wasn’t exactly about abortion, it was.

In NIFLA v. Becerra the Court is considering a California law, the Reproductive Fact Act, that compels “crisis pregnancy centers” to provide information to clients including the availability of abortion. The pregnancy centers, whose real mission is pro-life/anti-abortion, say the act violates their First Amendment’s free speech rights.

 

The Constitution’s contracts clause was before the Court on Monday as the justices heard arguments in Sveen v. Melin about a state that law nullifies life insurance beneficiaries post-divorce. The dispute is between the children of Mark Sveen, who divorced four years before he died in 2011, and Sveen’s ex-wife, Kaye Melin.

If you’re wondering about Wednesday’s arguments, I wasn’t there. A snowstorm was rolling through and I, unlike the justices who are no snowflakes, decided not to chance the drive in from Baltimore.

 

 

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This Week’S SCOTUS Sketches

A very busy week at the Court beginning with arguments in Janus v. AFSCME, one of the biggies in which the justices, now that are nine, are expected to deal a blow to public sector unions and their right to collect fees from non-members.

On Tuesday the Court heard arguments in two interesting cases, United States v. Microsoft, and Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach.      

The first of Tuesday’s arguments concerned emails stored on servers located in Ireland and whether a warrant served on Microsoft could reach the content of those emails.

The second argument on Tuesday saw the return of Fane Lozman, the gadfly of Riviera Beach. Remarkably, this is the second time Lozman has brought a case against the City of Riviera Beach all the way to the Supreme Court. During the 2012-2013 term the Court considered Lozman’s petition, and ruled in his favor, after the city took possession of his “house-boat” under admiralty law and sank it. This time around, Lozman is arguing for his First Amendment protect speech after being removed from a city council meeting and arrested in retaliation for his statements during the public-comments portion of the meeting.

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend Wednesday’s arguments in Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky, Really sorry I missed that one, but I had to go sketch Manafort’s arraignment on a superseding indictment.

 

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