A generally quiet term concluded this week with opinions on two major issues before the Court, election district gerrymandering and the citizenship question on the 2020 census. There’s no question that it is now the Roberts Court with the Chief Justice replacing now retired Justice Kennedy as the deciding swing vote. Roberts wrote the opinions in both of the term’s blockbusters, siding with the conservatives on gerrymandering, but joining, at least in part, the liberal justices on the census question.
Here are some sketches from this last week. More sketches from the term are posted in my archive. I’m off to Ireland for a two week vacation so any print orders will have to wait until the end of July. Have a great summer!
Spring is coming – slowly – to DC as the Supreme Court begins its March sitting.
March is gerrymander month at the court this term with an argument on race-based redistricting in Virginia on Monday, and two more to be argued next week.
On Tuesday, the Court announced opinions is three cases. The first, dealing with maritime law, was of limited interest . . .
. . . but the second, Nielsen v. Preap, significantly expands a mandatory-immigration-detention without-bond statute.
To signal the seriousness of the decision Justice Breyer announced from the bench his dissent, joined by Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Kagan.
Since Breyer also announced the opinion in Cougar Den I did not bother to draw him again. The Court then heard argument in Cochise Consultancy v. U.S.
Wednesday’s argument, like Monday’s, involved a question of race. In Flowers v. Mississippi a local district attorney tried the same defendant six times for murder. The first two verdicts were overturned because of prosecutorial misconduct. The third was overturned because during jury selection the DA struck all African-Americans from the jury pool. The fourth and fifth trials resulted in hung juries which brings us to the case before the Court where Flowers was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of four people during the robbery of a furniture store in the town of Winona, Mississippi. At this sixth trial all but one of the six African-Americas jurors in the pool were struck leaving a jury of 11 whites and one black. The question before the Court is whether race was a factor when the prosecutor used his peremptory strikes in violation of the Court’s opinion in Batson v. Kentucky.
At the very end of the argument in Flowers, just as the lawyer for the petitioner was about to cede her time for rebuttal, Justice Thomas chimed in with a question breaking a three year silence.
After sketching Justice Ginsburg’s return to the bench on the first day of the Court’s February sitting I wimped out the second day because of a little bit of snow. I’m not nearly as tough as RBG. I’m also way more lazy which is why I’m only now getting it together to lump all the rest of February’s sketches into this one post.
Last week’s argument calendar started off with a First Amendment public-access TV case, Manhattan Community Access Corp. v. Halleck . . .
On Tuesday an argument on the constitutionality of a sex-offender law, United States v. Haymond . . .
. . . and lunch.
The big argument of a quiet month came on Wednesday in The American Legion v. American Humanist Association, an establishment clause case over a giant cross shaped WWI memorial in Bladensburg, Md, just outside DC.
Also on Wednesday, Justice Kagan had the opinion in a major death penalty case, Madison v. Alabama.
And, as if we needed further proof that RBG is no slouch, Justice Ginsburg on Monday announced her second and third opinions since returning to the bench, one of which was a case that she participated in through the briefs and argument transcript while recuperating from cancer surgery at home.
January has been a bit of a snooze at the Supreme Court but I did get to learn about the Dormant Commerce Clause ( Tennessee Wine & Spirits Retailers v. Blair ).
There was plenty of other news from the Court today: cert denial in a school prayer case, cert granted in a Second Amendment case to be heard next term, stay grants in a pair of transgender cases, and action on the Mueller mystery grand jury subpoena. But from the bench just one 9-0 opinion from Justice Thomas in a patent case.
Below are some sketches from some of last week’s arguments and opinions. Fingers crossed that Justice Ginsburg will be back on the bench after the mid-winter break.
Just posting November’s SCOTUS sketches ( I missed the first couple days, so starting on October 31 ) without comments except to note that the election day SCOTUSblog banner at the end of this post is a work of “artistic license.” We know, from his confirmation hearing testimony, that Justice Kavanaugh does not vote, and I expect that may be the case for other justices as well.
Reporting on the retirement of Justice Kennedy, Nina Totenberg quoted R.E.M. “. . . it’s the end of the world as we know it”.
Although rumors had been circulating for over a year most Court-watchers figured Kennedy would hold off while Caligula occupied the White House. While disappointed, I can’t really blame him, after more than forty years on the bench, for wanting to step down. I’ll miss sketching him. When Kennedy joined the Supreme Court in 1988 USA Today quoted one of my fellow sketch artists as saying he had a “vanilla” face, in other words unremarkable. But not for me. I’ve grown accustomed to his face, the dome of his skull, the way his ears have no lobes, and the nose, ah the nose. Happy retirement Justice Kennedy.
Justice Kennedy announcing opinion in Masterpiece Cakeshop
Sketches from this week’s opinions are posted below.