Supreme Court Waters Down Voting Rights Act

A 5-4 divided Court today struck down a key section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, effectively putting the burden on victims of voter descrimination to seek relief. Chief Justice Roberts wrote for a majority that included Justices Thomas, Scalia, Kennedy and Alito.In a dissenting opinion joined by Justices Sotomayor, Breyer and Kagan, Justice Ginsburg wrote, “Hubris is a fit word for today’s demolition of the Voting Rights Act”.

Lyle Denniston’s take on the opinion is here.

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Posted in Opinions, Supreme Court

Fisher Fails to Finish ‘Firmative Action

On the first day of what promises to be a steamy week in Washington, at least outside the Supreme Court building, the Court announced its opinion in a long awaited affirmative action case, Fisher v. University of Texas. When the case was argued back in October it appeared that the University’s use of race as an admissions factor might be struck down.Instead, in an opinion by Justice Kennedy, the Court said such programs must meet the test of “strict scrutiny” as well as being“narrowly tailored”.

Surprisingly, for a case argued at the beginning of the term, there was but one dissenter in the 7-1 decision (Justice Kagan took no part), Justice Ginsburg.

 ”The Court rightly declines to cast off the equal protection framework …”, writes Ginsburg. “Yet it stops short of reaching the conclusion that (it) warrants.”

Justice Alito took a sip from his coffee cup.

 

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Posted in Opinions, Supreme Court

Motor Voter, Right to Silence and More

For a day without a real blockbuster it turned out to be an unusually busy one for me.

Among the Supreme Court decisions today was one that overturned an Arizona law requiring proof of citizenship in order to register to vote. In an opinion announced by Justice Scalia the Court found that the federal Motor Voter law preempts Arizona’s law.

In another opinion, this one from Justice Alito, the Court said that if you want to  preserve your right to remain silent you’ve got to speak up.

I also finished a couple sketches I had started earlier, the Great Hall . . . . . . . and General Suter, the Clerk of the Court, calling up admissions to the bar.

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Posted in Opinions, Supreme Court

Opinion on Gene Patent

Camera crews set up by the Supreme Court plaza on a steamy morning with thunderstorms, and even a possible derecho, forecast. Also in the forecast was the possibility of a major decision in one of the remaining twenty-three cases argued earlier in the term.

The Court did not dissapoint the court-watchers, delivering a far reaching opinion on the patenting of natural genes. In his opinion for the Court in Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics Justice Thomas said, “Myriad did not create anything.” However the Court also found that a synthetic version of the gene created by Myriad was patentable.

There now remain nineteen undecided cases.

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California Raisins and Ex Post Facto

No opinions today on any of the big Supreme Court cases everyone has been watching and waiting for, but we did get :SCOTUS opinion: Horne v. Dept. of Agriculture

 Horne v. Department of Agriculture, in which California raisin growers won the right to challenge the constitutionality of regulatory fees…….

….. and Peugh v. United States, where the Court agreed with Marvin Peugh that the longer sentence he received under U.S. Sentencing Guidelines that were revised upward after he committed his crime were an ex post facto violation.Justice Sotomayor: Peugh v. U.S

The Court also announce a third opinion, a class arbitration case, but I didn’t finish the sketch of Justice Kagan ….she sits so far away.

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DNA Sampling No Different Than Fingerprinting

SCOTUS opinion: Maryland v. King

In an opinion delivered by Justice Kennedy today the Supreme Court said that taking a DNA sample from a suspect is the same as fingerprinting someone upon arrest, and that the purpose is indentification of the suspectJustice Kennedy Maryland v. King  “When officers make an arrest supported by probable cause to hold for a serious offense and they bring the suspect to the station to be detained in custody taking and analyzing a cheek swab of the arrestee’s DNA is, like fingerprinting and photographing, a legitimate police booking procedure that is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment,” said Justice Kennedy.Justice Scalia: Maryland v. King

“That assertion taxes the credulity of the credulous,” said Justice Scalia in a dissent delivered from the bench. “In approving that suspicionless search, the Court has cast aside a bedrock rule of our Fourth Amendment …”

The case is Maryland v. King

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Coming Into The Backstretch …

… only 28 cases remain undecided.Justices Ginsburg's opinionDashing hopes of a long awaited decision on the affirmative action case, Fisher v. University of Texas, argued last October the Court today announced only two opinions of less interest. At least they weren’t unanimous.

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A Day Trip to Philly

Reading Market, PhiladelphiaI got a last minute call to go to Philadelphia to sketch the sentencing of abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell – a case I have not followed and therefore am thankfully unable to comment on – so I hit the road at 5:00 a.m. Arriving early I had a few minutes to do the sketch above before the courthouse openned.

After waiting several hours in the courtroom, sketching some of the evidence collected from Dr. Gosnell’s, the sentencing itself was very brief. Abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell is sentenced in Philadelphia courtroom

Sketch from Kermit Gosnell sentencing

Abortion clinic furniture in courtroom

You can read about it here.

 

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Kagan’s Roundup Ready and Breyer’s in a Sling

A couple sketches from the Supreme Court yesterday:Justice Kagan's opinion in Monsanto
Justice Kagan annouced the Court’s unanimous opinion supporting Monsanto’s patent rights on its herbicide resistant genetically altered Roundup Ready seed.

NYT’s Adam Liptak has the story here.

It was also Justice Breyer’s first appearance on the bench since breaking his shoulder in a bicycle mishap two weeks ago.Justice Breyer with arm in a sling

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Robel Philipos, Dzokhar Tsarnaev’s Friend

Sketch of Boston marathon bomber's friend, Robel Philipos, in court

Robel Philipos, arrested last week and charged with making false statements, appeared before a federal magistrate in Boston. Magistrate Judge Marianne B. Bowler allowed Philipos to go free on supervised bond. The above sketch shows Philipos with his lawyers and the magistrate as well as New York sketch and pleine-aire artist extraordinaire Jane Rosenberg in the right foreground.

Here are the rest of my sketches from today.

Tsarnaev's friend, Robel Philipos. with defense lawyers

Friend of Boston marathon bomber, Robel Philipos, led out of courtroom.

Friends of Robel Philipos in courtroom.

Funny story told to me by Jane: Philipos’ parents walked out of the courthouse with a young man not Robel, probably one of his friends pictured above. The cameras waiting outside assumed it was Robel and gave chase. Meanwhile, when the real Robel came to the front entrance accompanied by his lawyers the coast was clear. By the time the press caught on he was in the back seat of a car driving away.

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