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.
First things first, DC threw a parade last week to celebrate the home team Stanley Cup winners. Congratulations Washington Capitals!
Below are sketches of opinions announced in three major cases, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, and Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky
There are still nineteen argued cases to be announced before the summer recess begins at the end of June. Usually the most important, and difficult, opinions come down on the very last days.
I thought the Court’s newest justice would have a lot to say during arguments in the church-state separation case, Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer, heard yesterday. But Justice Gorsuch asked no questions until the very end, and then nothing very pointed.
It’s been a strange Supreme Court term, like a meal that doesn’t satisfy. With only eight members on the bench after Justice Scalia’s death the odds were good that the last blockbuster opinion of the term would fall to a tie.
But, once again, Justice Kennedy was the fulcrum that allowed the Court to do some heavy lifting. In a 5-4 opinion authored by Justice Breyer in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt the lie was exposed that Texas’ restrictive abortion clinic regulations were enacted to protect women’s health.
That left the dissenters arguing only on procedural grounds that Whole Woman’s Health had lost an earlier round and should never have got another bite of the apple.
Oh, and there was also the unanimous opinion in McDonnell v. United States. It’s perfectly okay now, through gifts and cash, to purchase access to politicians, even if it stinks.
An interesting case, and not just because I live in Baltimore.
Majestic Auto Repair was paying up to $300 for each damaged vehicle Baltimore police would steer their way from the scene of an accident. By the time the FBI broke up the deal some sixty officers were involved.
One of the officers, Samuel Ocasio, was tried and convicted on three counts of extortion and one count of conspiracy to commit. He appealed the conspiracy conviction on the grounds that in order to conspire to obtain property “from another,” conspirators must agree to obtain property from someone outside the conspiracy. Since the conspiracy was between Ocasio and the owners of Majestic Auto Repair who were paying the bribes out of their own pockets, and not “from another”, there was no conspiracy.
The Court didn’t buy it. Justice Alito delivered the 5-3 opinion, sketched above. For an in-depth explanation of the opinion go here.