Of Course The Justices Don’t Do Politics

On Monday the Supreme Court heard a case on money, speech and unions. The argument in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association is over “agency fees” that public-sector unions, in this case the one representing California’s teachers, can charge non-members for negotiating on behalf of all workers. The non-union teachers in whose name the case was brought object to paying the fee because they say everything a government union negotiates is political, and therefor their First Amendment speech is hijacked.

Lawyer Michael Carvin argued the case for the petitioners – really for the Koch brothers funded Center for Individual Rights.

In the end, it appeared that a majority of the Justices will have no problem overturning the Court’s forty-year precedent.

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Motions Hearings Prior To Goodson Trial

Freddie Gray Trials

Two pre-trial motions hearings were held in Baltimore yesterday for Officer Caesar Goodson who faces the most serious charge, second degree murder, for the death of Freddie Gray. Goodson drove the van in which Gray was given a “rough ride,” shackled hand and foot without the benefit of a seat belt.

Freddie Gray Trials

During the first hearing Judge Barry Williams ruled that the trial will remain in Baltimore, and that the jury will not be sequestered but will be anonymous as in the trial of Officer Porter last month.

Freddie Gray Trials

At a second hearing on whether Officer Porter, who faces a new trial in June after last month’s mistrial, can be compelled to testify in Goodson’s trial Porter took to the witness box briefly and refused to answer questions put to him by Chief Deputy State’s Attorney Michael Schatzow.

Freddie Gray Trials

After Judge Williams ruled that Officer Porter can be called to testify under immunity defense lawyer Gary Proctor said that he would seek an injunction to file an appeal in Annapolis first thing Thursday morning. It is unusual, and possibly unprecedented, for a defendant facing trial to be granted immunity without a plea deal. If the Court of Appeals grants the injunction Goodson’s trial, which is to start on Monday, could be delayed.

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Yesterday’s Mistrial

The first prosecution in the death of Freddie Gray ended in a mistrial for Baltimore Police Officer William Porter yesterday. It wasn’t exactly unexpected since the jury had sent out a note the day before saying they were deadlocked.

Here are a few of the sketches I did leading up to the judge declaring a mistrial. I have not included the sketch of Judge Barry Williams because it missed the mark – I never did get a good likeness of the judge.

The sketch below was done Monday morning while standing in line to get into the courthouse, but I added the color yesterday and so I include it.

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Closing Statements In First Freddie Gray Trial

Just posting today’s sketches of closing arguments in the trial of Baltimore Police Officer William Porter, and calling it a day.



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Baltimore Police Officer Testifies In Own Defense

Officer William Porter, on trial for charges relating to the death of Freddie Gray, took the stand on the first day of his defense. I missed his direct testimony which began just as lawyers at the Supreme Court were wrapping up their arguments in a big affirmative action case. But I arrived at the Baltimore courtroom in time to witness the cross-examination by Chief Deputy State’s Attorney Michael Schatzow. Officer Porter impressed me as calm and forceful, and maybe even a little defiant. When Schatzow asked him if “stop snitching” was part of the Baltimore police culture Porter shot back, “Absolutely not. I’m actually offended that you would say something like that.”

The defense was done by the end of the week, and tomorrow closing arguments will be made. Then it will be up to the jury.

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The Court Revisits Affirmative Action On Campus

The Supreme Court yesterday heard arguments for the second time in the case of Abigail Fisher, a white student who claims she was denied admission to the University of Texas because of a policy that favored black applicants. Last time the Justices sent the case back to the circuit court, this time Justice Kennedy seemed to toy with the idea of sending it all the way back to the trial court; not likely.

You can read Lyle Denniston’s analysis here.

There’s also a lot of buzz today about Justice Scalia’s remark, “There are ­­those who contend that it does not benefit African ­Americans to get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less­ advanced school, … a slower ­track school where they do well.”

Opinion: White v. Woodall, No. 12-794

He probably meant that black students more often come from high schools where the curriculum is less demanding and may be unprepared for UT’s more rigorous course load. While it sounded racist to some, it’s more likely just Scalia being his bad un-PC self.



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It Was All About Voting

I prepared the banner you see above for SCOTUSblog because the Court was to hear arguments today in two voting related cases, Harris v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission and Evenwel v. Abbott. But I didn’t expect the trifecta that came with Justice Scalia’s opinion in a Maryland voting redistricting case, Shapiro v. McManus, especially since it was argued just last month. My lucky day.

Anyway, here are the sketches from today’s two argument:

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A Correction to Yesterday’s Sketches

Yesterday at the trial of Baltimore police officer William Porter I sketched what I believed were the victim’s mother and sister, but when Freddie Gray’s mother broke down sobbing and had to leave the courtroom I realized I had been mistaken. That is not Freddie Gray’s mother in the sketch, though I do think that is Gray’s sister with the white pom pom hat.

Here are the rest of yesterday’s sketches:

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First Freddie Gray Trial Gets Underway

This morning the press gathered in the Media Room before final jury selection.

The jury was empanelled in short order and opening statements were heard. Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby took a seat directly in front of a bench full of sketch artists, but maybe thought that wasn’t such a good idea and moved back a couple of rows just before Chief Deputy State’s Attorney Michael Schatzow began his opening statement.


Defense attorney Gary Proctor painted the jury a different picture of the defendant, Officer William Porter.


With opening statements completed, the State called their first witness, Officer , who trains police on how to identify and respond to possible medical conditions such as Freddie Gray’s.


The judge has kept the trial moving swiftly and promises to finish in just two weeks. We shall see.


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Jury Selection In First Of Freddie Gray Trials

Baltimore City police officer William Porter stood before a courtroom full of prospective jurors as his trial began. Porter is the first of six police officers to go on trial for the death of Freddie Gray.

After some preliminary questions were asked of the jury pool individual void dire moved into chambers so there was not much to sketch, especially as the jurors are not to be identified.

Freddie Gray Trials

Around half-past noon one of the jurors in the back of the courtroom stood up to get the bailiff’s attention. He pointed to the clock above his head, and then to his belly indicating that he felt it was time for lunch. He also motioned that he would like a cigarette break. Lucky for him the court soon adjourned for lunch.

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