Citing Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Homer and Dante, as well as Golding’s Lord of the Flies, in his opinion for the majority Justice Scalia said that violent speech, in this case video games, even when directed at children is still protected under the first amendment.
The case is Brown v. Entertainment Merchants.
In another First Amendment case where the speech in question is privately raised campaign money the Court struck down an Arizona law that would provide matching funds to candidates who accept public financing.
“Laws like Arizona’s matching funds provision that inhibit robust and wide-open political debate without sufficient justification cannot stand” wrote Chief Justice Roberts in his majority opinion.
Justice Kagan in her dissent, joined by Justices Ginsberg, Breyer and Sotomayor, and announced from the bench wrote: “Petitioners . . . are making a novel argument: that Arizona violated their First Amendment rights by disbursing funds to other speakers even though they could have received (but chose to spurn) the same financila assistance”. She added, “Some people might call that chutzpah.”
The consolidated cases are Arizona Free Enterprise v. Bennett and McComish v. Bennett.
No big stories at the Court this week, but I entertained myself with some quick sketches.
Tuesday looked promising with a made-for-TV case about infidelity, revenge and chemical weapons: Carole Anne Bond was delighted when her best friend became pregnant, but when she learned the her own husband was the father her mood changed.
She mailed defaced photos to her former BFF, and told her “I’m going to make your life a living hell” and “dead people are going to visit you”. Then things got serious. Carole, who worked as a microbiologist, obtained some nasty, and highly toxic, chemicals from work and began to smear them around her victim’s home, including on the mailbox. The U.S. Postal Service investigated and she was charged under a federal statute implementing the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention.
As usual, the Justices were more interested in the law than in the soap opera, so the arguments focused on whether Ms Bond has standing to bring a 10th Amendment appeal.
The one moment of comic relief came when Justice Alito asked the Justice Dept. lawyer, Michael Dreeben, “Suppose that the petitioner in this case decided to retaliate against her former friend by pouring a bottle of vinegar in the friend’s goldfish bowl?”
The Silent One
Tuesday also marked the five year anniversary of the last time Justice Thomas asked a question during oral arguments. During today’s second case, U.S. v. Tinklenberg, Justice Thomas was intently following the arguments and it seemed to me that he was on the verge of asking a question, but no such luck. I made the sketch below in anticipation.
Brandeis: A Life
Tuesday evening The Supreme Court Historical Society hosted a lecture in the courtroom which I attended with my big-time professional history buff niece Leah. Justice Kagan was there to introduce the speaker, winner of the Erwin Griswold Prize Professor Melvin I. Urofsky, author of Louis D. Brandeis: A Life.
Above is a sketch of the courtroom during the lecture, while below Justice Kagan is pictured introducing Professor Urofsky, seated on the right.
A Slip On The Ice?
Is Justice Sotomayor foot-injury prone? Remember the cast she wore as she visited Senators before her confirmation hearings?
This morning as we waited for the Justices to take the bench, a workman came in carrying an ottoman which he placed under the bench by Justice Sotomayor’s seat. A few minutes later the Justice hobbled in with the assistance of two aides from the Marshal’s office.
Dahlia Lithwick’s story on U.S. v. Bond can be found here.
The new Supreme Court bench, it’s seating reshuffled after the departure of its most senior member, Justice Stevens – the Justices sit in order of seniority – and the addition of its’ newest member, Justice Kagan, began the term with a bankruptcy case that normally would not have packed the courtroom. But it was a chance to catch a glimpse of Kagan on the bench and listen for her first question which came 15 minutes into the argument. We won’t see much of Kagan on the bench for the first few weeks of this term since she has recused herself from any cases in which she had a role as Solicitor General.
At the end of the bankruptcy Kagan left the bench not to reappear until Wednesday when the Court considers the funeral protest case, Snyder v. Phelps.
AP story here.
Wearing white gloves the Supreme Court curators brought in the chair once used by Chief Justice John Marshall and in which Justice Elena Kagan would sit as her official commission was presented to the Court by Attorney General Eric Holder Jr and read into the record.
President Obama was present to witness the ceremony as well as retired Justices Stevens, O’Connor and Souter (not pictured).
Also present among the many notables was former Attorney General John Ashcroft who was seen exchanging pleasantries with the present AG.
Tony Mauro reports here.