Sandra Day O’Connor

* Let’s see. Romney wants the Massachusetts Supreme Court to force an anti-gay marriage amendment onto the ballot if the legislature fails to act on the issue before the session ends January 2. Wouldn’t that be, um, I dunno, activist? [Associated Press via How Appealing]
* It’s important to find something to occupy your time and stimulate your mind once you retire. It shouldn’t be anything like this, though. [CNN]
* Global warming: the new tobacco? [WSJ Law Blog]
* If he did it, you’re not gonna find out about it on these stations. [AP via Online Athens]
* Suit by stinky man kicked off flight fails to take off in Germany. [AP via Yahoo!]

cookies baked goods rat poison Justice Sandra Day O'Connor Above the Law.jpgEarlier this year, controversial blonde pundit Ann Coulter joked about putting rat poison in Justice John Paul Stevens’s creme brulee.
Did Coulter give someone an idea? Check out this story, from the Star-Telegram of Forth Worth:

When federal appellate Judge Danny Boggs said at a Friday legal conference at Las Colinas that physical assaults aimed at judges have come mainly from “the deranged,” Justice Sandra Day O’Connor underscored the safety concerns.

“Every member of the Supreme Court received a wonderful package of home-baked cookies, and I don’t know why, the staff decided to analyze them,” she recounted. “Each one contained enough poison to kill the entire membership of the court.”

Sounds pretty serious, right?
But we must call out Justice O’Connor for exaggerating the seriousness of the threat. It seems the ol’ cowgirl is playing fast and loose with the record. As reported by SCOTUS press corps diva Linda Greenhouse:

The danger posed by the packages was immediately apparent. Each contained a typewritten letter stating either, “I am going to kill you,” or, “We are going to kill you,” and adding, “This is poisoned.”

Supreme Court justices get accused of many things. But illiteracy is not usually among them.
Moreover, Justice O’Connor’s casual statement of “I don’t know why, the staff decided to analyze them” — implying the deadly treats came thisclose to reaching supreme judicial lips — is misleading. Again, per the Queen Bee:

All mail received at the Supreme Court is screened, and the tainted packages never reached the justices, said Kathleen Arberg, the court’s public information officer.

So it’s not that easy to poison a Supreme Court justice. Furthermore, even if the poisoned food somehow makes it past the initial screening, to reach a justice’s chambers, success is still not guaranteed. Why? In addition to their other duties, some Supreme Court clerks serve as food tasters for their bosses.
Finally, we fail to see how Justice O’Connor’s tale of the poisoned baked goods refutes Judge Boggs’s point that most threats against judges comes from “the deranged.” Clearly Barbara Joan March, who sent the poisoned packages to the Supreme Court — accompanied by notes that helpfully disclosed their toxic nature — is not a right-thinking person. At the very least, she’s not the most sane, nor the most intelligent, resident of Bridgeport, Connecticut.
Sitting Ducks on the Bench [Star-Telegram (Fort Worth)]
Justice Recalls Treats Laced With Poison [New York Times]
Ann Coulter to Justice Stevens: Drop Dead — Here, Let Me Help [Wonkette]

* “Colombian Supreme Court: grabbing a woman’s behind is a crime.” [Herald-Tribune via How Appealing]
* One week until elections — there must be some litigation somewhere. [Wall Street Journal via [How Appealing]
* Justice O’Connor spoke in Utah this week, and she and Justice Breyer shed some politico-rhetoric in Washington. [CNN]
(For related links, see yesterday’s MD.)
* A second plea bargain has been reached in the Iraqi civilian murder case. [MSNBC]
* For you trusts-and-estates buffs, check out Kenneth Lay’s will. Notice he leaves much of his assets in the “Ken Lay Trust,” which seems oxymoronic. [Slate]

“Okay, Judge Bork. Smile and say ‘The Original Understanding’!!!”

(Also: Is that Harvard Law prof Laurence Tribe standing behind Robert Bork, or just someone who looks a lot like him?)

Earlier this week, we gave you a detailed report about the fabulous nuptials of Ted Olson — the winning lawyer in Bush v. Gore, former Solicitor General, and current Gibson Dunn partner — and his beautiful and brilliant bride, Lady Booth.* The Olson wedding was attended by the crème de la crème of D.C. and conservative legal circles.

Now we have an update to our prior coverage, an ATL exclusive: WEDDING PICTURES!!! And they’re not boring, like the ones your college roommate makes you look at every time you visit her house. Did Justice Sandra Day O’Connor attend your college roommate’s wedding?

Check out the pics — there are just a few of them, it won’t take you long — after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Lady and Ted’s Excellent Adventure: Wedding Photos That Rock”

9th circuit seal ninth circuit.JPGThe Ninth Circuit may be getting slapped around by the Supreme Court lately. (Yeah, what else is new.) But they continue to go about their business. Keep on truckin’, Your Honors!
One of you was kind enough to attend a recent Ninth Circuit sitting — not just any old sitting, but the one graced by that judicial celebrity, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor — and send us a detailed report.
That account of the oral argument — plus a bonus judicial sight-ation, and some added commentary from us — appears after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Eyes of the Law: A Visit to the Ninth Circuit”

ted olson theodore b olson theodore olson.jpgThis past Saturday, October 21, Washington superlawyer Ted Olson and his fiancee, Lady Booth, were married. The wedding ceremony took place at the stunningly beautiful Meadowood resort, in Napa Valley, California.
Olson, a giant of the Supreme Court bar, served as Solicitor General — the federal government’s top lawyer before the Supreme Court — from 2001 to 2004. He’s currently a partner in the elite D.C. office of top-flight firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.
Olson successfully litigated the landmark 2000 election case, Bush v. Gore, in the Supreme Court. On the losing side: renowned litigator David Boies. But presumably there were no hard feelings, since Boies showed up for the wedding festivities — along with many other legal luminaries.
Some legal celebrity sightings, from the Washington Post’s Reliable Source:

More than 300 guests attended the midafternoon ceremony on the golf course, including Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, former justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, legal commentators Victoria Toensing and Joe diGenova, NPR’s Nina Totenberg, legal names such as Robert Bork, Kenneth Starr, David Boise [sic], and Olson’s law partner Bill Kilberg. U.S. Appeals Court Judge Laurence Silberman performed the ceremony, and Wall Street Journal Publisher Gordon Crovitz served as best man.

This is Booth’s first marriage and Olson’s fourth. The couple will honeymoon in Hawaii.

We hear through the grapevine that the wedding was, not surprisingly, “a great time. It seemed like half of Washington was there!”
Other notable guests: Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson, of the Fourth Circuit; Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain, of the Ninth Circuit, and his ever-stylish wife, Maura O’Scannlain; Frank Fahrenkopf, former RNC chairman and current gaming industry superlobbyist, with his wife, Mary; current Solicitor General Paul Clement; and conservative pundit Laura Ingraham.
Despite the tremendous collective brainpower of these august guests, we hear that several of them were left scratching their impressive craniums by one wedding detail: the request on the wedding invite for “Napa Casual” attire.
These leading minds of the bench and bar can slice, dice, define and parse the most complex legal terms known to man. But throw two innocent little words at them — “Napa Casual” — and watch them panic.
If only every day could be a court day. Who doesn’t look good in black?
Update: You can check out photographs from the wedding by clicking here.
Napa Nuptials for Olson and His Lady [Washington Post]
Theodore B. Olson, Solicitor General bio []
Theodore Olson [Wikipedia]

sandra day o'connor 2 justice o'connor.jpg* “Surfing champion Sunny Garcia… looked gloomy as the sentence was handed down.” Nice. [CNN]
* Justice O’Connor sat by designation on the Ninth Circuit this week. She must have had so much fun the last time she flipped a coin in California , she’s back for more. [San Jose Mercury-News]
* Another swing justice in NoCal. Justice Kennedy: “[T]he verdict on democracy is still out.” Didn’t he give this speech somewhere before? [San Francisco Chronicle]
* “The only thing missing from [Wednesday's] three-judge Third Circuit oral argument panel was any judge from the the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.” [How Appealing]
* Busy bees at the SEC: Civil securities-fraud suits against former execs of Delphi Corp. are expected soon. [Wall Street Journal via WSJ Law Blog]
* Poor Dick Grasso. The former New York Stock Exchange chairman must return about $100 million of his $139.5 million payout. [New York Times]
* A federal judge has ordered that Vice President Dick Cheney’s visitor logs be opened. There’s at least one name that won’t be on there. [Associated Press]

judge john m walker jr judge john walker.jpgFederal judges are brilliant people. But they aren’t always the best, or the safest, of drivers. We’ve had the privilege of riding in cars with federal judges, so we know this firsthand. Let’s just say that the reasoning in their opinions is often tighter than their left-hand turns.
Rumor has it that Justice Antonin Scalia can be rather aggressive when behind the wheel of his BMW 525. Some pedestrians fear Justice Sandra Day O’Connor “like a Floridian driver.” And it has been alleged that Judge Robert W. Gettleman (N.D. Ill.), the highly regarded Chicago judge, drives his vintage Porsche “like a cabbie.”
On a more serious note, sometimes placing a federal judge behind the wheel gives rise to tragic consequences. From the New Haven Register:

The motorist who struck and critically injured a city police officer working a traffic detail Tuesday is a senior federal judge in New Haven. John M. Walker Jr., who is in his mid-60s, had been chief judge for the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for six years until Sept. 30, when he assumed senior status.

Police sources said Walker was the driver of the sport utility vehicle that struck Officer Dan Picagli, a 17-year veteran, on Chapel Street in the Wooster Square neighborhood. Picagli, 38, remains in critical condition at Yale-New Haven Hospital.

Police are investigating the accident, which happened during a steady rain at 6:30 p.m. No charges have been filed.

Officer Picagli, who works in a youth-oriented policing unit and runs the Police Athletic League, a program for city youths, is well-loved by both his colleagues and the kids he works with.
More about this accident, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Wheels of Justice: Judge John M. Walker Hits Police Officer in Traffic Accident”

i like ike button.gif* Buttons — isn’t that the new song by the Pussycat Dolls? Yes; but it’s also the issue in a case argued before the Supreme Court yesterday. Question Presented: Was a murder defendant’s right to a fair trial violated when the judge allowed relatives of the victim to sit behind the prosecutor, sporting buttons with the victim’s photo on them? [New York Times; Washington Post; Slate]
* A federal judge rules that candidates for the state bench can’t be barred from personally soliciting campaign contributions. So let’s just shove C-notes down their robes. [New York Times]
* Ex-Enron CEO Jeff Skilling won’t take the Martha Stewart approach: he’d like to remain free on bail while his appeal winds its way through the courts. This makes sense: his sentence is likely to be way longer than Martha’s brief stay at Camp Cupcake. [Washington Post]
* Justice Sandra Day O’Connor was slumming it earlier this week at the Second Circuit. The Times provides a UTR-esque account of the “mind-numbing” proceedings. [New York Times]
* The Supreme Court heard oral argument yesterday in Cunningham v. California, an important case raising the constitutionality of California’s sentencing scheme — and one that will have implications for other state sentencing systems. (Readers of the tea leaves suggest that Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito may not be in complete agreement with Justices Scalia and Thomas. Who are you calling “Scalito”?) [Sentencing Law & Policy; Los Angeles Times; New York Times]

judge william pryor bill pryor william h pryor jr.jpgJudge William H. Pryor, Jr., of the Eleventh Circuit, had an interesting op-ed in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, in which he took issue with various “leaders of the bench and bar [who] have decried what they describe as unprecedented threats to the independence of the judiciary.” It’s a fun little piece, largely because the position Judge Pryor critiques is accepted in many quarters as a truism.
From the perspective of Article III groupies, however, this might be the best paragraph in the whole thing. It is, in essence, a concise collection of notable benchslaps — which Judge Pryor marshals in support of the proposition that recent critiques of the judiciary may not be as harsh as they seem.

Many contemporary criticisms of judicial decisions by politicians are no more heated than the criticisms written by jurists in dissenting opinions. In Roper v. Simmons, Justice O’Connor protested that “the Court [had] preempt[ed] the democratic debate through which genuine consensus might develop.” Justice Breyer warned, in what he called the “highly politicized matter” of Bush v. Gore, that “the appearance of a split decision runs the risk of undermining the public’s confidence in the Court itself.” Consider also the harsh words of Justice William Brennan in Oregon v. Elstad: “the Court mischaracterizes our precedents, obfuscates the central issues, and altogether ignores the practical realities . . . that have led nearly every lower court to reject its simplistic reasoning.”

Good stuff. But we must point out a notable omission: Why no Nino?
‘Neither Force Nor Will, But Merely Judgment’ [Wall Street Journal via How Appealing]
Judge Pryor’s Op-ed in Today’s WSJ [Southern Appeal]

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