SCOTUS In The Cold

Even the turtles holding up the Bronze lamps on the Supreme Court plaza seemed to want to pull in their heads from today’s frigid temperatures.

Inside, the Justices heard arguments in two puzzling cases.The first, Paroline v. U.S., presented the Court with the problem of apportioning restitution to victims of child pornography. In this digital age, where the same image can be downloaded by many participants in the sexual exploitation of a child, to what extent is each viewer responsible for the humiliation and damage suffered?The lawyer for the victim, Utah law professor Paul Cassell, in this case insisted that each perpetrator should be responsible for the entire $3.4 million award. “You’re not claiming – or are you” asked Justice Kagan, “that she’s been victimized to the tune of $3.4 million as a result of this particular defendant’s offense?”

“He contributed to the entire amount,” said Cassell.

The second case, Abramski v. U.S., concerns the so-called “Straw Purchaser” law that is supposed to prevent sales to those not entitled to own firearms, such as convicted felons, by requiring gun dealers to have buyers fill out a form. The form asks, ”Are you the actual transferee/buyer of the firearm listed on this form?”Justice Breyer, pictured above on the left, known for often posing convoluted hypotheticals had an esoteric analysis of the term ‘Straw Purchaser’. “It comes from ‘straw bail’,” he told petitioner’s lawyer, RichardDietz, “where someone else put up the bail and it was called straw because the people who made a career of that used to wear straw in their shoes. Interesting.”

“He made that up,” Justice Scalia interjected.

Lyle Denniston’s analyses of the arguments are here, and here.

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The 35 Foot Abortion Clinic Buffer Zone . . .

. . . and the considerably larger Supreme Court chamber.A challenge to the Massachusetts law creating a 35 foot buffer zone around the entrance to abortion clinics, McCullen v. Coakley, was argued before the Supreme Court today. The last time the Court visited this issue was in 2000 when it approve a protective “bubble” for anyone entering a clinic. Catholic University law professor Mark L. Rienzi, pictured above, argued for the 77 year-old grandmother, Eleanor McCullen, who has stood outside a Boston Planned Parenthood clinic a couple days a week for the past ten years, or so.

Justice Scalia repeatedly made the point that “it’s a counseling case . . . not a protest case”, and that 35 feet was too far to hold a conversation. Justice Kagan seemed to agree when she said to Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Miller, “. . it’s more than a few feet. You know, 35 feet is a ways. It’s from this bench to the end of the court.” At this several in the courtroom started to scratch their heads. According to the visitor’s guide the courtroom measures 82 by 91 feet.

Lyle has the story here.

 

 

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Today’s Sketches

No single big story at the Supreme Court today. That will come tomorrow when the Court hears the first abortion argument it has considered in several years regarding the buffer zone around clinics in Boston. So tune in tomorrow.

In the meantime here a today’s sketches of one opinion, delivered by Justice Ginsburg, and the two morning arguments (there was a third argument in the afternoon – unusual these days – but I didn’t attend).Justice Ginsburg announced the opinion of the Court that Daimler, the parent company of Mercedes-Benz, could not be sued in California under the Alien Tort Act for crimes committed by its Argentinian subsidiary during that country’s “Dirty War”. I covered the arguments here.

The first argument, Executive Benefits v. Arkinson, about whether the power granted bankruptcy judges violates Article III of the constitution went in one ear and out the other, so you’ll have to read about it here. Same thing with the next argument, Brandt Revocable Trust v. U.S., although I did catch that it might have something to do with “Rails to Trails” and the possibility that someone might ride a bicycle through your house. SCOTUSblog’s Lyle Denniston recaps the argument here.

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Recess Appointments Draws A Crowd (and so do I)

The Supreme Court chamber was packed today as lawyers argued, in NLRB v. Canning, the Constitution’s Article II clause on recess appointments. White House spokesman, Jay Carney, lately sporting a beard, sat on the same bench , though at different ends,as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

At the conclusion of the arguments, as spectators and lawyers exited and the lawyer for the next case to be argued took his place at the lectern Chief Justice Roberts said, “We’re still here”.

Below are a few more sketches from the argument.

You can read about it here.

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Chubby Jihad Jane

Colleen LaRose, aka Jihad Jane, appeared in a Philadelphia courtroom this morning to be sentenced for her part in a plot to murder Dutch artist Lars Vilks for his cartoon depicting the prophet Muhammad as a dog. She appears to have put on a few pounds during her four years of incarceration; she was considerably slighter when she plead guilty back in March 2010.

LaRose, who became involved with the muslim community over the internet and later converted to Islam apologized to Chief Judge Petrese B. Tucker.She told the judge, “I was in a trance and I couldn’t see anything else,” she said. “I don’t want to be in jihad no more.”

Reuters story here.

 

 

 

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No SCOTUS Sketches This Week

A family emergency has me out of town. I hope to be back at the Court next week. In the meantime here’s a doodle from the 2011 Term.SCOTUS sketch, 4/18/12

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” What A Maroon ! “

Hip-Hop tweeting Tea-Party Republican congressman Trey Radel (third from right) pleaded guilty to cocaine possession in DC Superior Court this morning and was given a suspended sentence and one year probation. He is on the record, having voted in the House, in support of drug testing food stamp recipients.

You can read about it here.

 

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Life, Plus Life, Plus Five Years

“The scope, the callousness, the depravity of your crimes, are almost unfathomable,” Judge Denise Casper told Whitey Bulger before passing sentence. “The testimony of human suffering that you and your associates inflicted on others was at times agonizing to hear and painful to watch,” she said as the families of his victims sat on the right side of the courtroom.She then ordered Bulger, who throughout the two-day sentencing has sat facing forward making no eye contact with the public seated behind him, to stand for sentencing. “You are hereby committed to the Bureau of Prisons for the term of life,” said the judge.And this is probably the last we’ll see of Whitey Bulger.

Boston Globe story here.

 

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Victims Speak at Bulger Sentencing

At the beginning of the two day sentencing for Boston mobster Whitey Bulger the government asked for life, plus life for machine guns, plus five years for other guns. Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Kelly said, “he is going to spend the rest of his miserable life in jail.”Then it was time for the relatives of Bulger’s victims to speak up.

Sean McGonagle, “My father was no Boy Scout, but he was a better man than you’ll ever be.

Whitey Bulger sentencingTom Angeli, “We feel robbed every day”.

Whitey Bulger sentencing

Marie Mahoney, “We got you, you rat.”

Whitey Bulger sentencingBulger was not convicted in the murder of Bill O’Brien’s father four days before the birth of the junior O’Brien. “I really got nothing out of this trial. I got more questions than answers.”

Whitey Bulger sentencing

Patricia Donahue said that Whitey killed her husband “while a corrupt FBI agent watched.”

Whitey Bulger sentencing

Meredith Rakes, “The healing can begin. The nightmare is over, the pain stops here.”

 

Whitey Bulger sentencing

Tim Connors, “Your legacy is already cemented as a rat.”

Whitey Bulger sentencing

Pat Callahan, “You won’t even turn around and look at us?”

Whitey Bulger sentencingKathleen Nichols, “I believe he is evil.”

Whitey Bulger sentencingTheresa Bond, “Mr. Bulger, can you look at me?” ( Whitey Bulger kept his head down throughout ) “I can’t judge you.”

Whitey Bulger sentencingSteve Davis, “You piece of shit, look at me”

Whitey Bulger sentencingDavid Wheeler, “Shame on you Mr. Bulger, for all your notoriety you are a punk.” Referring to his father’s murder, Wheeler  said that the FBI was “as responsible  . . . as the defendant here sitting before you.”

Sentencing proper will take place tomorrow.

NYT story here.

 

 

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Tsarnaev Hearing On Motions

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was not in the courtroom today as his defense team, pictured above, argued before Judge George A. O’Toole, Jr. on a motion lift the “Special Administrative Measures”, or SAMS, that interfere with this defendant communicating with his lawyers. Other issues discussed today concerned change of venue and whether the death penalty will be sought for the accused Boston marathon bomber. The government asked to set a trial date sometime next fall, but the judge opted to wait until those other issues are decided.

Andrew Cohen’s story on SAMs is here.

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