Thursday the Supreme Court will sit for its final session of October Term 2011. The Court will issue opinions in all the cases pending before it. For example, the Court will let the American people know whether they ever have a right to lie.
The Court will also rule on the case that, according to a sign I saw earlier, presents the question of whether we need to “Get The Feds Out of Medicare.” I’m not sure about the details of that case though, because it hasn’t gotten much press attention (I only read the Bicycle Times).
Today, however, the Court issued two opinions in argued cases. The fun in the courtroom was not in the opinions, but in the dissents….
Both methods predict that Obamacare is going down.
The Post has not opined on a more reliable method to learn what the Court’s decision will be: chill out and wait for the Court to issue its decision next week. But they have pages to fill; one can forgive a bit of silliness.
The Court did, however, issue four opinions today, in some of the big cases on its docket.
Justice Kagan announced the first opinion of the Court today. She is a funny woman:
“This case presents questions of sovereign immunity and prudential standing, not exactly what you came here today to hear.”
With 113 people being sworn into the bar of the Court, I suspect that most of the people in the audience did not, in fact, come to hear a decision in the health care case. The place is packed with admittees and their families — it’s so full members of the Supreme Court bar are squeezed back into the public section of the courtroom. With this many bar admissions, most of the bodies in the room are here to watch someone they know stand and recite an oath.
This is less true of the scrum of cameras outside the Court. While a few weeks ago there were four for five, now there’s a forest. Though perhaps they only appear to be more of a presence today in the light rain, as umbrellas protect the equipment and the spot where the talent will stand — illuminated by massive lights that are both soft and bright — if only the Court would hurry up and issue the health care opinion already.
Alas, no health care opinion was issued.
But, aside from the case about sovereign immunity and prudential standing, for a certain kind of lawyer, a very important opinion was issued today….
Most of the journalistic/legal world is on fire with excitement for the decision in the Affordable Care Act case. The New Yorker has a critical article on the not-yet-but-really-soon-to-be-issued decision and what it means for the Court. Time Magazine has a cover picture of Justice Kennedy — “The Decider” — a close-up so close you can see the lines in his bifocals. New York Magazine wrote about how frustrating it is that Supreme Court clerks don’t leak info so there would finally, for the love of all things holy, be something to report from the Court about the health care reform case.
Folks who don’t have press passes are also keyed up. I heard a rumor from one of my neighbors that the decision would come down this week! A friend of a friend told me that the health care reform case was in the bag for the conservatives. It’s like the finals in American Idol, but no one gets to text in their vote.
For weeks, the world has speculated and waited for an opinion. Each decision day for the past month the speculation has intensified. Each decision day a decision in Obamacare has not come.
Most news you get in life, you know when you’ll get it. Law school grades are posted on a schedule. Your doctor will tell you when the test results are due back. You know when the polls close on election night, and that it will only take so long to count the ballots (though there are some exceptions).
The Supreme Court isn’t like that. Here they are, the closing days of October Term 2011, and all we know is that the Supreme Court will issue opinions at some point in the next few weeks. We don’t know if today is the day.
This creates an odd frustration and excitement in the section of the courtroom where members of the Supreme Court Bar sit.
Today, a number of lawyers recognize Art Spitzer, the legal director for the D.C. area ACLU, sitting in the section for members of the Supreme Court Bar. He was at the Court last week, too. The lawyers sitting and waiting are starved for information about what’s about to happen next.
As lawyers come in, some recognize Art and ask him what opinions the Court will hand down today. He’s a good guy, and reminds them that the only people who know are putting on black robes as he talks. He amicably complains that last week he schlepped all the way down to the Court only to hear a bankruptcy opinion. Art is not interested in the Court’s bankruptcy jurisprudence.
Today, the day after Memorial Day, it feels like summer in Washington. The air is wet and hot; when you’re outside, your clothes stick to your skin fast. I envy the tourists who get to wear shorts to the Supreme Court sessions.
It’s hot in other ways, too — the Court’s term is over at the end of June, and there is only so much time left for the Justices to crank out opinions. There are more TV cameras in front of the Supreme Court today, and the press section of the courtroom is more crowded than in the last few weeks.
Protesters are out at the Supreme Court too — a Lyndon LaRouche supporter asked me whether I can afford to bail out Spain. She smiled so pleasantly that I thought for a second she meant whether I, personally, could afford to bail out Spain. I almost started about talking about my law school debt, but realized that wasn’t what they were asking when I saw the sign urging the repeal of Glass-Steagall.
A woman holding a placard is either pro-Jesus or anti-abortion or both; I have a weak stomach for fetus gore, so I try not to look. I’m as much a fan of the First Amendment as the next guy, but boy does it encourage a freak show.
As with last week, the expectation for a big opinion from the Court is increasing….
The Supreme Court session starts at 10:00 a.m. At 9:55, a tall man with broad shoulders and little neck — a man with an ear piece running out of the back of his suit coat — tells everyone in the Courtroom to be quiet and stay in their seats until the session is over. The room quiets.
During this time, those who watch the Court are scanning for signs of either discord or harmony. Even a concert at the Court invites scrutiny of which Justice is chummier with which other Justice. The Supreme Court watching world is like a group of eight-year-olds in the week before Christmas, sniffing the presents under the tree and trying to hunt through their parents’ closets. It’s dignified.
The Courtroom is silent after the broad man quiets us. And then, growing louder, we hear voices. Male voices. And laughter, booming male laughter, as the Chief and Justice Scalia emerge through the parted curtains, and Court is called to order.
This is my first column for Above the Law on the Supreme Court. In an effort to help me generate effective linkbait, the Supreme Court issued an opinion yesterday at the intersection of bankruptcy and tax law for farmers — Hall v. United States.
Basically, Hall means that, if you’re a farmer and you declare bankruptcy on your farm under Chapter 12 (“the one just for farmers”), and, while in bankruptcy, you sell your farm, you will still have to pay capital gains tax on the sale of your farm — any liability to the IRS is not dischargeable.
Perhaps the most exciting part of the opinion is that Ninth Circuit was affirmed. Though, in fairness, the Ninth Circuit opinion was written by Judge O’Scannlain, so it’s not as though the Supreme Court affirmed Judge Reinhardt.
Also, farmers who are in bankruptcy and sell their farms now have to pay tax on the profits from those sales. I’m sure much of the Midwest is rioting in response.
For those who practice tax law, bankruptcy, or farming law, you will definitely want to read the opinion and some of the write-ups on it.
But the most exciting part of the morning involved new members of the Supreme Court bar….
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past seven years. You can reach them by email: email@example.com.
The head of our Asia recruiting, Evan Jowers will be in Seoul all next week and available for meetings. Evan was in Hong Kong all last week and was unable to meet with everyone who reached out, due to a completely booked schedule. Apologies for that. He is in Hong Kong monthly and Robert Kinney and Yuliya Vinokurova are often in Hong Kong as well, so feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a Hong Kong meeting for later this month or next month, or just a phone call if you prefer.
Kinney has had the privilege of representing and placing a number of Korean background US associates and counsels and one partner in Hong Kong, Tokyo, Shanghai and Singapore over the years. We are now getting more involved in the expanding Seoul market. We are helping two of our law firm clients open up offices in Korea at present and that will be taking up some of Evan’s time, but he will have time also to meet with US, UK and Australia trained associates at international firms and Korean firms who would like to meet Evan or re-establish a connection with him. By all means any of the attorneys in Korea who we have worked with and placed in the past should also feel free to reach out to Evan as well at email@example.com. Having any reason to look for a move in the foreseeable future is never a pre-requisite to setting up a meeting with any of our Kinney Asia team. Most of the folks we meet and establish relations with over the years in Asia are not interested in considering a move at our first meeting (or the next several meetings). We always enjoy a good discussion on the market and an individual’s career plans. Ultimately, over 50% of those attorneys we place in Asia have had such discussions with us for 2 or more years prior. Some of our closest relationships in Asia we may never place because they are doing so well at their firm for years and have no reason to move, and that’s fine by us.
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