The third week of June is a frustrating time to follow the Supreme Court.
If there’s any institution in contemporary America that understands ceremony, it’s the Court. Such a self-consciously dramatic institution is, in no way, going to underestimate the importance of timing in issuing opinions. The Justices know that there’s a big difference between a story — or a history book — that starts “On the last day of the Term, the Supreme Court decided,” versus “On the third to last day of the Term….”
There is, in short, just about zero chance that this close to the end, yet not quite at the end, the Supreme Court is going to issue an opinion in the Texas affirmative action case, the Voting Rights Act case, the challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act, or the California Proposition 8 case.
And yet, the Court still issues opinions. And we still line up to hear them, or push SCOTUSblog’s liveblog viewer-count to even higher numbers, even if we all know, or should know, that the opinions we get are not opinions that will resonate through the ages.
Today, the Supreme Court did issue three opinions. And one of them is important, if only for disaffected teenagers. The rest you may not care about, unless you’re a felon with a gun or you ever signed an arbitration agreement….
(1) Monopolies are generally illegal.
(2) Like baseball, patents make monopoly laws get a little funky.
(3) Courts really really really like to encourage settlements.
So, when two companies get together, and work out a settlement that makes a whole patent infringement lawsuit go away, and the only objection is that pesky Federal Trade Commission complaining that the settlement is anticompetitive, you can understand why a federal court could meditate on points (2) and (3) and dismiss that FTC complaint.
Yet, in FTC v. Actavis, the Supreme Court yesterday made it harder to settle some patent infringement suits, saying that sometimes a settlement of a lawsuit can be an antitrust problem.
If you’ve been arrested, and the police want to interrogate you, they will tell you that you have the right to remain silent.
How do you assert that right?
One way would be to say something like “I would like to remain silent.” Saying “I want a lawyer” should also stop the questioning.
But today, in Salinas v. Texas, the Supreme Court of the United States held that you do not assert your right to remain silent by remaining silent. If you want to remain silent, you’ll need to be prepared to talk about it.
No one will be surprised that this result came from the Justice least likely to be voted most beloved by those in our nation’s prison systems, Justice Alito.
It used to be, back before 2005, that the federal sentencing guidelines were mandatory. If you were going to be checking into the United States Bureau of Prisons, the sentencing guidelines determined how long your reservation would be for.
And, it used to be, that if you committed a federal crime, and, between when you committed the crime and were sentenced, the sentencing guidelines went up, the judge had to apply the lower sentencing guidelines from when you committed the crime.
To do otherwise would violate the Ex Post Facto clause.
The sentencing guidelines changed, though, with Booker. Now they aren’t mandatory – they’re just something important that a federal judge has to look at and a federal judge may be risking reversal if she doesn’t follow them.
Got that? The guidelines are totally discretionary. But for the appellate review. Also most federal judges follow the guidelines almost every time. But that’s just a coincidence.
So, since the guidelines are no longer mandatory, but, rather, now just followed in the vast majority of cases, what happens to the Ex Post Facto clause?
Justice Kennedy announced the majority opinion in a long anticipated case today. It was met with a blistering dissent by Justice Scalia.
Unfortunately for most Court watchers, it was not the opinion in Fisher v. University of Texas, the latest in the Court’s attempts to resolve whether affirmative action in higher education is constitutional. Some observers expressed annoyance.
Instead, the Supreme Court issued a ruling in Maryland v. King, which Justice Alito previously identified as potentially the most important law enforcement decision in decades. The Court held that the police can take your DNA any time you’ve been arrested for a “serious” crime.
Today, the Supreme Court, in an opinion by Chief Justice Roberts, held that a citizen of a foreign country who is abused by a foreign corporation in a foreign country cannot sue in a U.S. Court under the Alien Tort Statute because, basically, multinational corporations are very different than pirates.
After Citizens United, we knew that corporations are people. We’re learning what kind of people they are (not pirates). Yet to be decided is whether you’d want to invite them to a dinner party. Or whether they’d accept.
Imagine you’re in a negotiation to buy a used car. You use the Blue Book — the Kelley Blue Book, not the legal Bluebook — to set the starting point on the price. You do your research at home based on the blue book that’s online, which says the starting point for the car you want is $10,000.
Then, when you get to the used car dealer, you find out that they have a new blue book, one that just came out that day. It says that the starting point for the car you want is really $12,000.
You’d probably be annoyed, maybe angry. The whole starting point for your conversation about the price of the car changed.
Yet, the dealer could tell you, and you could still agree with him to pay any amount you’d like for the car. The starting point doesn’t necessarily set the ending point.
This was, basically, the situation the Supreme Court was called in to referee in this morning’s oral argument in Peugh v. United States….
The facts in today’s Supreme Court opinions read like a bloopers reel of our courts system. What do we do when judges are wrong on the law in a criminal case? What if a plaintiff decides, after losing, that he filed in a state court when the state court didn’t have jurisdiction? What if a lawyer doesn’t tell his client that by pleading guilty he’s going to be deported?
The individual mandate — er, tax — in the Affordable Care Act has been upheld. The President’s signature initiative survives. The reputation of the Court is untarnished. Chief Justice Roberts’s legacy as a steward of the Court’s institutional reputation is strengthened.
It’s a happy day for the Court, the President, and people who sometimes need health care. The opinion is bad news for Justice Kennedy (if Roberts will swing, who needs Kennedy?) and, I think, the belly dancers who were in front of the Court this morning (their political leanings aren’t as easy to discern as their midriffs).
But, of course, there was other action at the Court today. The Court affirmed a bedrock principle of our democracy — we have a right to lie. Sort of….
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….
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.
Things have changed recently in Korea – a few of our US and UK client firms are looking, very selectively, for a lateral US associate hire. Until just recently, there was not much hiring like this going on in Korea, since US and UK firms started opening offices there. We have already placed two US associates in Korea in the past month at top firms. Most of the hiring partners we work with in Korea do not actively work with other recruiters.
If you are a Korean fluent US associate in London, New York or another major US market, 2nd to 6th year, at a top 20 firm, with cap markets or M&A focus (or mix), or project finance background, and you are interested in lateraling to Korea to a top US or UK firm, please feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Our head of Asia, Evan Jowers, was just in Korea recently, and Evan and Robert Kinney will be in Korea in a few weeks. We are in the process of helping several firms open new offices in Korea (a number of which are interviewing our partner level candidates) and also helping existing offices there fill openings.
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