Clarence Thomas

How many justices can you name?

Despite all the recent controversy surrounding U.S. Supreme Court decisions on health care, immigration and other issues, nearly two-thirds of Americans can’t name even a single member of the Supreme Court.

– a depressing conclusion drawn from a recent FindLaw telephone survey on the Supreme Court.

(What else can be learned from the absurd results of this survey?)

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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….

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'F**k this f**king sh*tty bonus!'

* “Our assets went home every night, until one night, they went home and never came back.” Aww, Dewey shed a tear for this bankrupt law firm? Nah. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* It looks like SCOTUS Justice Clarence Thomas decided to kiss and make up with his alma mater, Yale Law School. He’ll be the keynote speaker at an alumni dinner in D.C. this summer. [Reuters]

* And the marriage equality battle has finally arrived in Obama’s former stomping grounds. Lambda Legal and the ACLU are challenging the ban on gay marriage in Illinois. [Associated Press]

* The biggest news out of the John Edwards trial yesterday was that Judge Eagles told the alternate jurors they didn’t have to show up anymore. OMG, boring. Give us a verdict already. [ABC News]

* Kim Dotcom and his company’s defense against the DOJ’s charges is coming together piece by piece. If only Megaupload were a torrent site, this would be a much better nerd joke. [Media Decoder / New York Times]

* The ABA Journal wants to know if you curse in the workplace, and if so, in what situations. We bet that a fair share of Biglaw associates were dropping f-bombs left and right over this year’s bonuses. [ABA Journal]

Oh, God, no!

– Justice Clarence Thomas, in response to a question about whether he reads the New York Times every day. The question was asked at the University of Kentucky, where Justice Thomas spoke yesterday.

Back in 2010, Kashmir Hill and I floated the idea, in a piece for the Washington Post, of Justice Clarence Thomas running for president in 2012. In light of the total clusterf**k never-ending slog that the Republican presidential primary process has become, the idea of a Thomas candidacy has been revived.

Writing in The Daily Beast, Professor Adam Winkler suggested that Justice Thomas could emerge as the Republican presidential nominee after a brokered convention. As a candidate, Clarence Thomas might be able to bridge the ever-widening gap between the Republican Establishment, which esteems him as a jurist, and the Tea Party types, with whom his wife, Ginni Thomas, has worked.

What does Justice Thomas think about making a White House run? He recently responded to the speculation….

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From SCOTUS to POTUS?

* Justice Clarence Thomas for president? Hey, it could happen. Lat and Kash’s 2010 proposal is getting a second look. [Daily Beast]

* Speaking of presidents, the Arizona and Michigan primary elections are today. I know folks on the coast often don’t pay too much attention to those middle-of-the-country states, but it will be interesting to see what the Illegal Immigration State and Crippled American Auto State have to say about our ragtag bunch of Republican presidential candidates. [New York Times]

* Emails published yesterday by Wikileaks appear to show that certain Pakistani military intelligence knew where Osama bin Laden was hiding in the months before Seal Team Six raided his garrison and killed him. I hope Wikileaks has juicier material in the pipeline? [Telegraph (U.K.)]

* Congratulations to Tony West, who will become acting associate attorney general, the No. 3 post in the Justice Department. [Chicago Tribune]

* Interesting report on tensions between the White House and the NSA, which has tried to get permission to monitor private web activity, perhaps at the expense of privacy. But Google knows everything you do on your computer, so why shouldn’t the government? [Washington Post]

* The people at the Department of Justice really don’t want you to see Osama bin Laden’s death photos, but don’t they realize that the internet needs pics or it didn’t happen? [Blog of Legal Times]

* Déjà vu: Hustler Magazine’s nude photo spread of Nancy Benoit was back on the Eleventh Circuit’s docket this week. The porn purveyors face damages of $0, $250K, or $19.6M — what’ll it be? [ABC News]

* Poor Justice Clarence Thomas. He used to be such a “lonely kid.” Maybe that’s why he doesn’t talk much at SCOTUS these days, but he gives beautiful speeches outside the courtroom. [Worcester Telegram & Gazette]

* Cooley Law’s Temple building in Lansing was evacuated due to smoke, but no fire. It was probably just all of the hot air the administrators blow up students’ asses about their employment prospects. [MLive.com]

* This has got to be some kind of a first. Crawford Shaw, a lawyer, is withdrawing a client’s claim to a multi-million dollar lottery ticket because he can’t be bothered to argue about it. [Reuters]

* I’m going to Disney World prison! Bonnie Sweeten, the paralegal who faked her own abduction, has been sentenced to eight years for stealing more than $1M (half of which came from her law firm). [Daily Mail]

John Roberts

I have complete confidence in the capability of my colleagues to determine when recusal is warranted. They are jurists of exceptional integrity and experience whose character and fitness have been examined through a rigorous appointment and confirmation process.

– Chief Justice John Roberts, defending the Supreme Court’s ethical standards in light of calls for Justices Clarence Thomas and Elena Kagan to recuse from the controversial health care case that will be argued before SCOTUS in March. The Chief Justice’s comments were made in his 2011 Year-End Report on the Federal Judiciary.

Justice Clarence Thomas

Elie here. Imagine Santa Claus stopping by your house — except this time Saint Nick is a mute, who stuffs your stocking with personal responsibility and brings you wooden toys, because those were the only ones available when his legend was born.

Well, joking aside, Justice Clarence Thomas will be stopping by Yale Law School on December 14th. And since there won’t be a case in front of him, he’ll actually be talking.

But not to everybody. Sources tell us — and Yale Dean Robert Post confirmed, in a school-wide email — that Justice Thomas will be speaking to the Yale Federalist Society and to the Black Law Students Association, as well as attending a class and a private reception. He won’t be making any general public appearance.

Setting aside commencement, it’s fairly typical for guest speakers (including Supreme Court justices) to speak to specific student groups and not the law school at large. If Justice Elena Kagan went to Yale, she’d likely speak to the American Constitution Society and the Socratic Hard-Ass Faculty Coven.

Some students claim, however, that the Yale administration has contacted several student organizations and asked them not to protest during Thomas’s visit. We don’t know if that’s true, and a message from Dean Post (reprinted below) does not directly mention anything about student protests. But the mere rumor of Yale trying to quash protests, circulated on “The Wall” (the YLS list-serv), has made some students angry.

Should they be? Strap yourselves in for an ATL Debate….

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Justice Elena Kagan

The latest issue of New York magazine contains a very interesting profile of the U.S. Supreme Court’s newest member, Justice Elena Kagan, penned by Dahlia Lithwick. Here’s the bottom-line summary of the piece (via Ezra Klein):

“While Kagan is assuredly a liberal, and likely also a fan of the health-reform law, a close read of her tenure at the Supreme Court suggests that she is in fact the opposite of a progressive zealot. By the end of Kagan’s first term, conservatives like former Bush solicitor general Paul Clement (who will likely argue against the health-care law this coming spring) and Chief Justice John Roberts were giving Kagan high marks as a new justice precisely because she wasn’t a frothing ideologue. The pre-confirmation caricatures of her as a self-serving careerist and party hack are not borne out by her conduct at oral argument, her writing, and her interactions with her colleagues. In fact, if her first term and a half is any indication, she may well madden as many staunch liberals as conservatives in the coming years.”

That’s just the overview. Let’s delve into the details a bit more….

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