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. . . And Then There Were Eight

A new seating order in the Court as the Justices returned to the bench today for arguments in two cases. Since Justice Scalia was the most senior, and since the Associate Justices are seated in order of seniority, all except the Chief had a new position on the bench. When a new Justice is eventually confirmed and sworn he or she will be seated on the far right next to Justice Sotomayor.

Sotomayor recused herself from today’s second argument, RJR Nabisco, Inc. v. The European Community, leaving only seven Justices on the bench. And the second case to be argued tomorrow, on Puerto Rico’s debt crisis, will also be one Justice short with Alito recused.

 

Posted in Arguments, Supreme Court Tagged with:

Abortion Returns To The Supreme Court

It’s been ten years since the Court last heard arguments on abortion, coincidentally the same amount of time Justice Thomas maintained his silence during arguments until he asked several questions from the bench earlier this week. Dashing some expectations he posed no questions during today’s argument.

Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt is an appeal of a Texas law that places requirements on abortion clinics so excessive that many are forced to close. Much has been written about the case so I’ll just post my sketches and point the reader to Lyle Denniston’s post on SCOTUSblog.

Posted in Arguments, Supreme Court Tagged with: ,

Thomas Finally Asks A Question . . and another . .

Thomas Asks A Question

“Ms Eisenstein, one question,” intoned the deep voice of Justice Thomas this morning just as Assistant Solicitor Ilana Eisenstein was concluding her argument. That marked the end of Thomas’ ten year record of not asking questions during oral arguments. He went on to pepper the lawyer with a dozen more questions, perhaps to make up for the absence of Justice Scalia, his recently deceased neighbor on the bench.

Posted in Arguments, Supreme Court Tagged with: ,

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 Long and Short of Prison Beards

Arkansas prisons limit the length of inmates’ beards to a quarter inch. One of those inmates, a Muslim whose faith requires a full beard, tried to compromise by only growing his beard to a half inch but that was still too long for the warden. Contraband might be concealed in the half-inch beard, or the inmate could change his appearance to evade detection by shaving the beard.

None of those arguments were even considered plausible by the justices when the case, Holt v. Hobbs, was argued today. Justice Alito suggested using a comb on the beard “to see if a SIM card – or a revolver – falls out.” And Scalia asked why not take a photo of the inmate before he grows the beard?

“You’re really just making your case too easy”, the chief justice told petitioner’s lawyer, Douglas Laycock pictured above.

Arkansas Deputy Attorney General David A. Curran didn’t have much to show why the courts should defer to the bureau of prisons.

All bets are that the Court votes 9-0; not even close to a close shave.

 

 

Posted in Arguments, 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: , , , , ,

Four Down, Four To Go

The Supreme Court had decisions on four more cases today, though only three opinions because the two cell phone cases were treated as one. In a unanimous decision the Court ruled that a warrant is required to search an individual’s cell phone.

In his opinion for the Court Chief Justice Roberts wrote, “The fact that technology now allows an individual to carry such information in his hand does not make the information any less worthy of the protection for which the founders fought.”

In another significant decision concerning technology Justice Breyer delivered the opinion in ABC v. Aereo in which the broadcast network’s copyright protection triumphed over Aereo’s innovative program delivery model that sought to bypass royalties.

That leaves four decisions in argued cases – three from January, one from March – to be announced. It is expected that the  Court will meet two more days since the chief justice has not yet announced the final day as is custom.

 

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

2776

U.S. v. Rock 'n Roll, No. 2776

My contribution to 2776: The Album. You may have seen the liner notes in last week’s New Yorker or  heard Neko Case’s track, “These Aren’t The Droids”.

Posted in History, Supreme Court, Uncategorized 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: , , ,
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