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Farewell Justice Scalia

Justice Scalia’s chair and that part of the bench where he sat were draped in black cloth as a memorial today when the remaining eight Justices assembled to hear arguments. The memorial will remain in place for thirty days after which the seating of the Justices will be rearranged in order of seniority.

Chief Justice Roberts gave a brief tribute to saying, “Justice Scalia devoted nearly 30 years of his life to this Court in service to the Country he so loved.”

I came across my last sketch of Justice Scalia done on January 20, which it turns out was also his last day on the bench. He delivered the opinion in Kansas v. Carr. Scalia’s last dissent was in an opinion announced on January 25, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission v. Electric Power Supply Association, but the Justice was not on the bench that day.

Then it was on to the first of two arguments heard this morning, Kingdomware Technologies v. U.S.

 

Posted in Arguments, Opinions, Supreme Court Tagged with: ,

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.

 

 

Posted in Arguments, Supreme Court Tagged with: , , , , ,

Scalia’s Gaffe, or The Goldberg Variation

No major decisions from the Supreme Court yesterday meant that a slight gaffe by Justice Scalia got a bit more ink, or is it pixels?

At the end of announcing the Court’s opinion in Kerry v. Din, Scalia referred to Justice Ginsburg, one of the dissenters, as “Justice Goldberg”. “Sorry about that, Ruth,” said Scalia who continued to smile and appear red-faced as the Court moved to admissions to the bar.

Mark Walsh has written about it here in SCOTUSblog.

Posted in Opinions, Supreme Court Tagged with:

Long Awaited Decision On Presidential Powers

Menachem Zivotofsky was born in 2002, the same year congress passed the Foreign Relations Authorization Act with a provision that U.S. passports listing the place of birth as Jerusalem should, upon request, also list Israel. Zivotofsky’s parents did just that, and the case had been kicking up and down the courthouse steps for years. Yesterday it concluded with a big win for the President.

It appears that Justice Kennedy’s opinion enshrines a presidential power nowhere mentioned, though implied, in the Constitution, namely recognition of foreign powers. “Recognition is a topic on which the Nation must ‘speak . . . with one voice,’” writes Kennedy.  “That voice must be the President’s.”

Justice Scalia, along with Justice Alito and the Chief Justice, dissented. Justice Thomas also dissented in part, making the decision either 6-3, 5-4 0r even 5 ½-3 ½ depending on who you listen to.

The case is Zivotofsky v. Kerry, and you can read about yesterday’s decision here and here.

Posted in Opinions, Supreme Court, Uncategorized Tagged with: , , ,

Who Gets A Felon’s Guns ?

It was bitterly cold outside the Supreme Court this morning which may explain why there were fewer spectators than usual for today’s arguments.

 

These sketches are of the first argument, Henderson v. U.S., concerning a felon’s attempt to transfer ownership of a gun collection that as a result of his conviction he was no longer allowed to possess. Tony Henderson, who pleaded guilty to marijuana distribution, asked that the firearms, which had no part of his crime, be sold to a friend or transferred to his wife. The government refused, of course, pointing out that such a close connection to the recipient amounted to “constructive possession“.

 

Henderson’s lawyer, UVa law professor Daniel Ortiz, began his argument stating that his client was willing to have the guns sold by a federally dealer, though that was not his preference. That seemed fairly reasonable and straight forward to me – hey, even a non-lawyer like me might be able to follow this argument. But then they pulled out the scalpels and started dissecting the meaning of possession, forfeiture, due process, dominion and takings. “Well, it’s a kind of complicated transaction . . . , Your Honor”, responded Ortiz to a question from Justice Kagan.

 

For its part, the government was okay with letting a dealer sell the guns. But when it came to who picks the dealer the lawyer for the government faced some tough questions, especially from Scalia.

Posted in Arguments, Supreme Court, Uncategorized Tagged with: , , ,

Scalia A Little Late For Conciliation Argument

 

“Justice Scalia has the opinions in two cases,” the Chief Justice announced as Scalia’s chair sat empty, “he’s asked that I announce them.”

It’s not unusual for the a senior justice to announce the opinion of an absent justice. There are often one or more empty chairs on opinion days when no arguments are heard. But there were two cases to be argued today and unless a justice has recused themselves you can expect that they’ll be on the bench.

Scalia did eventually appear from the maroon curtains behind the bench just as the first argument was getting under way, a sex discrimination case that was really about the EEOC’s failure to use “conciliation” in enforcing Title VII. It turns out the justice was merely delayed in traffic.

You can read Mark Walsh’s account of Scalia’s tardy arrival here on SCOTUSblog.

Here are a couple sketches fro the argument in Mach Mining v. EEOC.

 

 

Also spotted in the courtroom today, and also not unusual, was Cecilia Marshall, wife of the late Justice Thurgood Marshall. She is a frequent visitor to the Court.

 

 

 

Posted in Arguments, Opinions, Supreme Court Tagged with: , , ,

In Other Supreme Court News . . .

While the big news today was the denial of all same-sex marriage ban petitions the Court also heard its first argument of the term, Heien v. North Carolina, a Fourth Amendment “reasonable” search case from the home town of Andy Griffith: Mt Airy, North Carolina.

In April, 2009, Sheriff’s Deputy Matt Darisse – pictured above with beard (and dislexically id’d) as he waited in line for a seat in the courtroom this morning – was working “criminal interdiction” on Highway 77 when he pulled over a vehicle for having a stop light out. After asking permission to search the vehicle officers found a baggie of cocaine and the owner of the car, Nicholas Heien, was arrested along with the driver.

It turns out, however, that North Carolina law only requires “a stop lamp on the rear of the vehicle” and since Heien’s car still had one good light the stop was illegal, and the cocaine “fruit of the poisonous tree.”

The question is whether the search was reasonable. After all, most of us would expect two working stop lights to be the law, and were surprised to learn otherwise (at least in NC). On the other hand ignorance of the law is no excuse for most defendants, so why should a police officer be allowed a mistake when enforcing the laws?

Not much has yet been published on today’s argument, and I have to confess that I get most of my information after the fact from what I read. I find it very difficult to draw and at the same time follow the thread of the argument; must be different parts of the brain – plus my wife says I’m hard-of-hearing. I did manage to pick up that Justice Scalia was never satisfied with the answer he got form petitioner’s lawyer, Jeffrey Fisher.

Above is my best drawing of the day, I think. Great subject.

Posted in Arguments, Supreme Court Tagged with: , , ,

Two “Faux-nanimous” Supreme Court Decisions

Dahlia Lithwick, writing in Slate magazine, coined the term “faux-nanimous” for the kind of unanimous decisions the Supreme Court delivered today where concurring opinions read more like dissents. Read her article, you’ll like it. And I’ll just go ahead and post my pictures.

UPDATE: Another great article on the “faux-nanimous” opinions, this time from professor Garret Epps for The Atlantic

Posted in Opinions, Supreme Court Tagged with: , , , , ,

Final Week For Supreme Court?

The Court announced opinions in three more cases today, two of which are sketched below. I think that leaves eight, or nine if you count the two cell-phone search cases separately. More opinions on Wednesday and Thursday, and the possibility that the final opinion(s) won’t come until next Monday.

Justice Scalia announced a knobbly opinion in Utility Air v. EPA, from which both sides have claimed a win. And the Chief Justice, below, had the opinion in Halliburton v. Erica P. John Fund on certification of a class action in securities fraud.

SCOTUSblog’s videographer, Fabrizio di Piazza, took this beatific photo of me this morning working on the sketch you see at the top of the post.

Sketching_photo

Thanks Fabri !!!

 

 

Posted in Opinions, Supreme Court Tagged with: , , ,

Three Opinions Today . . .

. . . thirteen yet to come (counting the two cell-phone search cases as one).

In Argentina v. NML Capital the Court sided with investors seeking to locate Argentina’s overseas assets in order to collect on bonds that went into default. Justice Scalia wrote for the majority while Justice Ginsburg, pictured here on the right, was the sole dissenter.

Justice Kagan, above, had the opinion in Abramski v. U.S., a case concerning “straw purchasers” of firearms. And Justice Thomas, below,  announced the unanimous opinion in Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus that state laws criminalizing false statements made about a candidate in an election can be challenged on First Amendment grounds even before anyone is actually prosecuted.

 

Posted in Opinions, Supreme Court Tagged with: , , , , ,
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