After a relatively low key and mild February at the Supreme Court the pace promises to quicken as the winds of March pick up and a flurry of cases fall (falls ?) on the docket.
I only sketched two arguments this week, Packingham v. North Carolina about a state law that prohibits registered sex offenders from going on social media sites such as FaceBook . . .
. . . and a very dense, to me at least, case on “subrogation clauses” in insurance policies: Coventry Health Care of Missouri v. Nevils
. . . and an opinion by Justice Kennedy in a racial gerrymandering case, Bethune-Hill v. Virginia State Board of Elections.
Taking advantage of the slow pace I spent most of my time in the courtroom this week preparing for the March and April arguments. My sketches depict fairly accurately the events I witness, but because of deadlines some work has to be done in advance. And so, I set to work on the architecture and other details. The justices are also penciled in in advance. The advantage of graphite pencil is I can make changes at any stage up to the point the watercolor is applied.
Gay-rights lawyers were seated in the first rows close to the bench when the opinion in Obergefell v Hodges was announced by Justice Kennedy. As it became clear that they had won big, that the Court had recognized a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, smiles broke out, backs were patted, and, once the Justices had left the bench, hugs all around.
Menachem Zivotofsky was born in 2002, the same year congress passed the Foreign Relations Authorization Act with a provision that U.S. passports listing the place of birth as Jerusalem should, upon request, also list Israel. Zivotofsky’s parents did just that, and the case had been kicking up and down the courthouse steps for years. Yesterday it concluded with a big win for the President.
It appears that Justice Kennedy’s opinion enshrines a presidential power nowhere mentioned, though implied, in the Constitution, namely recognition of foreign powers. “Recognition is a topic on which the Nation must ‘speak . . . with one voice,’” writes Kennedy. “That voice must be the President’s.”
Justice Scalia, along with Justice Alito and the Chief Justice, dissented. Justice Thomas also dissented in part, making the decision either 6-3, 5-4 0r even 5 ½-3 ½ depending on who you listen to.
The case is Zivotofsky v. Kerry, and you can read about yesterday’s decision here and here.
Little POM Wonderful scored a victory at the Supreme Court yesterday allowing it to go ahead and sue giant Coca-Cola for misleading consumers into believing that its pomegranate-blueberry drink might actually contain more than just 0.5 percent of the juices. The result was not unexpected; during arguments in April, Justice Kennedy asked the lawyer for the Real Thing, “Is it Coke’s position that national uniformity consists in labels that cheat the consumers like this one did?”
The case is POM Wonderful v. Coca-Cola, and I’m going to go have a Coke.
The Supreme Court is now in that final stretch of the October 2013 Term when it remains, after all cases have been argued, to issue opinions before recessing at the end of June. Today the Court announced its decisions in four cases, two of which I sketched below.
Justice Kennedy delivered the opinion in Hall v. Florida, ruling that an IQ score one point above the threshold should not be enough to make someone eligible for the death penalty.
And in a case where the Secret Service was sued for moving protesters opposed to President Bush further away than another group supporting the president the Court sided with the Secret Service. Justice Ginsburg had the opinion in Wood v. Moss.