Matt Kaiser

Matt Kaiser is a lawyer at The Kaiser Law Firm PLLC, which handles complex civil litigation, white collar investigations, and federal criminal cases. On his blog, The Federal Criminal Appeals Blog, he writes about published opinions in criminal cases in the federal circuits where the defendant wins. He can be reached at mattkaiser@thekaiserlawfirm.

Posts by Matt Kaiser

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….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Today at the Supreme Court: Moving The Starting Point”

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?

As Yakov Smirnoff would say, “What a country!

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Today at the Supreme Court: Mistakes Were Made”

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….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “SCOTUS Affirms That America is the Land of Taxes and Lies”

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….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “While We’re Waiting For Obamacare, It’s All About The Dissents”

Alas, no decision came out today in the health care reform case.

Frankly, I think the Justices are waiting to see how absurd the press coverage can get. The Washington Post has reported on two awesome ways to guess what the Court’s decision will be. First, use a stopwatch and a few mp3 files. If that doesn’t work, poll former SCOTUS clerks.

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.

What were they?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Supreme Court Is Fair To Crack Dealers, Corporations Paying Fines, And Those Who Use Profanity, Less So To Unions”

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….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Supreme Court Is Not Kind To Pharmaceutical Sales Reps Or the Confrontation Clause”

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.

What happened at One First Street today?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Obamacare Opinion Will Be Disappointing”

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.

There’s a lot of conversation about what the Court might do today — is life without parole for juveniles constitutional? Is Obamacare? What about the newest Confrontation Clause case? The section of seating for bar members crackles with lawyers eager to show they know what cases are on the Court’s remaining docket.

The Justices come take their seats on the bench — all but Alito — and the Chief Justice announces that Justice Breyer has the first opinion of the day.

We’re on the edge of our seats as Breyer takes a second to make sure he has the attention of the courtroom. He starts to speak….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Waiting Is The Hardest Part”

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….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Summer Comes to One First Street”

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.

This is the calm before the storm. No one expects any of this term’s true blockbusters to be announced today – there will be no health care decision, no ruling on the constitutionality of the Stolen Valor Act, no ruling on whether Arizona gets to codify its very strong dislike of immigrants.

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.

What does the laughter mean? Is Obamacare all but destroyed? Is a secret deal finally sealed? Or did the Chief Justice share a bit of ribald humor from his native Indiana?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Everyone Is Being Reasonable”

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