Chief Justice Roberts started his second job last Tuesday, presiding over the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump which on the first day when into the wee hours of the next. Nevertheless, after what must have been a tedious employ, Roberts appeared rested and engaged Wednesday morning when the Court heard argument in a significant establishment clause case, Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue. The case began when parents sued the state revenue department after it ruled that tax credit scholarship programs could not be used for religious schools, which the majority of recipients were. The Montana Supreme Court invalidated the entire program, for both religious and secular schools. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who favors a similar federal tax credit program, was in the audience.
On Tuesday, before heading over to the Senate for that first, long day, I did just one sketch of the 10:00 o’clock Armed Career Criminal Act argument, Shular v. United States.
Note, the original version of this post mysteriously vanished without a trace so I’ve had to re-create a lesser version.
The case that drew the most attention during last week’s arguments was one brought by a former ally of New Jersey governor Chris Christie. The petitioner, Bridget Anne Kelly, a former aide to Gov. Christie, and William Baroni, a former deputy executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, were convicted of conspiracy and fraud for their part in a scheme to punish the mayor of Fort Lee, NJ for refusing to endorse Christie’s reelection bid. In what came to be known as “Bridgegate”, they and another official, David Wildstein, ordered several lanes to the George Washington Bridge toll plaza closed in 2013 during rush hour causing massive backups. When the scandal came to light it pretty much sank Christie’s 2016 presidential campaign.
As expected, both Kelly and Baroni were in the courtroom for Tuesday’s argument in Kelly v. United States. What nobody expected was that Chris Christie would show, and be seated directly in front of Kelly.
On Monday the Court heard a trademark case, Lucky Brand Dungarees Inc. v. Marcel Fashion Group Inc., and a case related to employee retirement benefits. Thole v. U.S. Bank, N.A..
The Chief Justice drew some laughs Wednesday when, during an argument involving the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Babb v. Wilkie, he asked the following hypothetical, “The hiring person is younger, [and] says, you know, ‘OK, boomer’ … once to the applicant.”
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!
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.
Monday on the Supreme Court plaza was sizzling hot, Friday was not. In fact now, on the other side of the solstice, it’s drizzling and mild.
Into the home stretch now, the Court is adding opinion days to its regular June calendar of Monday sittings, and most of the cases remaining are biggies.
This week’s blockbusters were Carpenter v. United States, in which the Court ruled that a warrant is required for most cell phone data searches, and South Dakota v. Wayfair where the Court ruled that online and mail order businesses now need to collect sales tax on out of state purchases.
There were, of course, other opinions and if you’re wondering why I haven’t posted those here’s the reason: in the courtroom I roughly sketch each justice as they announce an opinion, or dissent, from the bench, but only complete the ones that are notable in some way, usually because it’s one everyone’s been waiting for. To complete and post every sketch of every justice announcing every opinion would be repetitive and boring.
Sometimes though, I’ll complete and post a drawing simply because I like it, or because of an interesting or humorous turn of phrase as when Justice Kagan, announcing the opinion in Lucia v. Security and Exchange Commission, described the petitioner as “an investment advisor who marketed a retirement savings strategy called ‘Buckets of Money.’”