Justice Scalia’s chair and that part of the bench where he sat were draped in black cloth as a memorial today when the remaining eight Justices assembled to hear arguments. The memorial will remain in place for thirty days after which the seating of the Justices will be rearranged in order of seniority.
Chief Justice Roberts gave a brief tribute to saying, “Justice Scalia devoted nearly 30 years of his life to this Court in service to the Country he so loved.”
I came across my last sketch of Justice Scalia done on January 20, which it turns out was also his last day on the bench. He delivered the opinion in Kansas v. Carr. Scalia’s last dissent was in an opinion announced on January 25, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission v. Electric Power Supply Association, but the Justice was not on the bench that day.
Then it was on to the first of two arguments heard this morning, Kingdomware Technologies v. U.S.
The Supreme Court yesterday heard arguments for the second time in the case of Abigail Fisher, a white student who claims she was denied admission to the University of Texas because of a policy that favored black applicants. Last time the Justices sent the case back to the circuit court, this time Justice Kennedy seemed to toy with the idea of sending it all the way back to the trial court; not likely.
You can read Lyle Denniston’s analysis here.
There’s also a lot of buzz today about Justice Scalia’s remark, “There are those who contend that it does not benefit African Americans to get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less advanced school, … a slower track school where they do well.”
He probably meant that black students more often come from high schools where the curriculum is less demanding and may be unprepared for UT’s more rigorous course load. While it sounded racist to some, it’s more likely just Scalia being his bad un-PC self.
No major decisions from the Supreme Court yesterday meant that a slight gaffe by Justice Scalia got a bit more ink, or is it pixels?
At the end of announcing the Court’s opinion in Kerry v. Din, Scalia referred to Justice Ginsburg, one of the dissenters, as “Justice Goldberg”. “Sorry about that, Ruth,” said Scalia who continued to smile and appear red-faced as the Court moved to admissions to the bar.
Mark Walsh has written about it here in SCOTUSblog.
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.
It was bitterly cold outside the Supreme Court this morning which may explain why there were fewer spectators than usual for today’s arguments.
These sketches are of the first argument, Henderson v. U.S., concerning a felon’s attempt to transfer ownership of a gun collection that as a result of his conviction he was no longer allowed to possess. Tony Henderson, who pleaded guilty to marijuana distribution, asked that the firearms, which had no part of his crime, be sold to a friend or transferred to his wife. The government refused, of course, pointing out that such a close connection to the recipient amounted to “constructive possession“.
Henderson’s lawyer, UVa law professor Daniel Ortiz, began his argument stating that his client was willing to have the guns sold by a federally dealer, though that was not his preference. That seemed fairly reasonable and straight forward to me – hey, even a non-lawyer like me might be able to follow this argument. But then they pulled out the scalpels and started dissecting the meaning of possession, forfeiture, due process, dominion and takings. “Well, it’s a kind of complicated transaction . . . , Your Honor”, responded Ortiz to a question from Justice Kagan.
For its part, the government was okay with letting a dealer sell the guns. But when it came to who picks the dealer the lawyer for the government faced some tough questions, especially from Scalia.