The lawyer for a home mortgage loan fraudfeasor (I learned a new word today) had a number of colorful hypotheticals tossed at him by the Justices as they tackled a question of restitution. Here’s what he had to juggle, starting with Justice Breyer who is the Talmudic scholar of hypotheticals:
Breyer: “Mrs. Smith, I have a bridge I’d like to sell you.”. . “But I also gave her my valuable Babe Ruth bat.”
Alito: “Suppose what the person who perpetrated the fraud returns is a truckload of tomatoes . . . and by the time the tomatoes can be sold they’re all rotten.”
Scalia: “You’re really confusing me. I . . I . .both the baseball bat and the truckload of tomatoes?”
The case is Robers v. United States
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.
In considering whether human genes may be patented the Justices of the Supreme Court searched near and far for analogies to help them grasp the complexities of bio-science. Here are a few sketches from the oral arguments along with a few choice quotes.
Justice Sotomayor : “I can bake a chocolate chip cookie using natural ingredients – salt, flour, eggs, butter … And if I combust those in some new way, I can get a patent on that. But I can’t imagine getting a patent on the basic items …”
Justice Alito : “To get back to your baseball bat example, which at least I can understand better than perhaps some of this biochemistry. I suppose that in … I don’t know how many millions of years trees have been around, but in all of that time possibly someplace a branch has fallen off a tree …. into the ocean and it’s been manipulated by the waves, and then something’s been washed up on shore, and what do you know, it’s a baseball bat.”
Justice Breyer : “… so when Captain Ferno goes to the Amazon and discovers fifty new types of plants, saps and medicines …. although that expedition was expensive, although nobody had found it before, he can’t get a patent on the thing itself.”
And here’s a quick sketch of people lining up outside the Supreme Court in the rain Monday morning to get a seat for the arguments.
SCOTUSblog’s Lyle Denniston has the argument recap here.