I’ve been neglecting the blog lately. My excuse is that it was being updated, but really I’m just lazy and reluctant to tackle the minor changes that have been made. With that said, I’ll just post the sketches from the second week of October arguments, without comment, before it’s too late. The November sitting begins tomorrow.
Justice Thomas was absent from the bench – “indisposed due to illness” said the Chief Justice after formally announcing the beginning of the new term.
The Justices then heard argument in the first case, Kahler v. Kansas, on whether states can abolish the insanity defense. Under a recent change to the “Guide for Counsel Arguing Cases” lawyers are now allowed two minutes, uninterrupted, to make their case before the justices jump in with questions. A light on the lectern briefly flashed before Justice Ginsburg jumped in with the first question of the term.
In addition to another morning argument, which I did not attend, the Court heard a rare afternoon argument in Ramos v. Louisiana on the requirement for state juries to reach unanimous verdicts.
April is the last argument siting of the Supreme Court. From now until the end of June the Justices will only sit to announces opinions, and no maybe a few dissents. After a fairly quiet term with no real blockbusters things picked up in this month. Last week the Court heard arguments in CENSUS, about the citizenship question on the 2020 census, and the week before there were arguments in Brunetti, about registering an “immoral” or “scandalous” trademark.
Spring is coming – slowly – to DC as the Supreme Court begins its March sitting.
March is gerrymander month at the court this term with an argument on race-based redistricting in Virginia on Monday, and two more to be argued next week.
On Tuesday, the Court announced opinions is three cases. The first, dealing with maritime law, was of limited interest . . .
. . . but the second, Nielsen v. Preap, significantly expands a mandatory-immigration-detention without-bond statute.
To signal the seriousness of the decision Justice Breyer announced from the bench his dissent, joined by Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Kagan.
Since Breyer also announced the opinion in Cougar Den I did not bother to draw him again. The Court then heard argument in Cochise Consultancy v. U.S.
Wednesday’s argument, like Monday’s, involved a question of race. In Flowers v. Mississippi a local district attorney tried the same defendant six times for murder. The first two verdicts were overturned because of prosecutorial misconduct. The third was overturned because during jury selection the DA struck all African-Americans from the jury pool. The fourth and fifth trials resulted in hung juries which brings us to the case before the Court where Flowers was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of four people during the robbery of a furniture store in the town of Winona, Mississippi. At this sixth trial all but one of the six African-Americas jurors in the pool were struck leaving a jury of 11 whites and one black. The question before the Court is whether race was a factor when the prosecutor used his peremptory strikes in violation of the Court’s opinion in Batson v. Kentucky.
At the very end of the argument in Flowers, just as the lawyer for the petitioner was about to cede her time for rebuttal, Justice Thomas chimed in with a question breaking a three year silence.
Appearing strong as ever, Justice Ginsburg returned to the bench yesterday for the first argument of the February sitting. Sitting more upright – she’s usually hunched over and hard to see – Justice Ginsburg asked the very first question during arguments in Returned Mail, Inc. v. USPS. She continued to participate actively; as The Wall Street Journal’s Jess Bravin tweeted, “RBG Electrifies Courtroom with Questions on Estoppel and Issue Preclusion!”