john roberts.jpgEveryone is wondering: Where did that erroneous rumor of an imminent retirement by Chief Justice John Roberts come from? The gossip spread like wildfire, triggering thousands of texts, blog posts, and emails — a few hundred of them to the ATL tips line — before Radar, which first published the rumor, retracted its report.

We were skeptical, which is one reason why we didn’t write about the gossip as quickly as some other outlets. We reached out to the Supreme Court’s Public Information Office after we heard the rumor, and we didn’t want to write about it until we heard back from the PIO (or at least gave them a little time to respond).

Of course, we have many Supreme Court sources other than the official ones — and they reacted with extreme skepticism when we ran the Radar report by them. One of our SCOTUS experts actually laughed out loud after we (sheepishly) asked, “Have you heard anything about a possible Roberts retirement?” This source noted that JGR would sooner die — literally — than give Obama the chance to appoint his successor.

Like many a promising legal career, the Roberts resignation rumor traces its origins to a 1L class at Georgetown University Law Center….

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David Souter Justice David H Souter David Hackett Souter.jpgJustice David H. Souter may be gone from the Supreme Court, but he has not been forgotten. He still gets recognized in public, for example. From an ATL reader in Beantown:

After a day of toil for a client adamantly opposed to paying for nighttime cab rides home, I walked to Boston’s Park Street subway station. A little before 10:00 PM last night, as I turned the corner at the turnstiles, I saw an impeccably dressed man in a form-fitting suit and a red tie. Turns out it was Justice David Souter, in Boston for some pinch-hitting on the First Circuit.

So what did our tipster do next?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Eyes of the Law: Justices Souter and Sotomayor”

mike sacks first one.jpgGeorgetown 3L Mike Sacks had a mission this semester. He wanted to be first in line for every major argument at the Supreme Court. He’s been documenting his adventures on his blog First One @ One First.
This is made easier for him because he has no morning classes and lives on Capitol Hill, a few minutes away from the High Court. He should also have camping experience from his undergrad days at Duke, but unlike me, he somehow avoided spending time in Krzyzewskiville.
Maybe if he had paid his dues tenting out for basketball games, he would have succeeded in his mission. But no. Some Californians derailed him this week, as documented by the New York Times.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Law Student of the Day: Mike Sacks”

Verla Sue Holland Judge Thomas O'Connell Jr old people having sex is gross.jpgWe previously named Verna Sue Holland, a retired judge from Texas, an Ex-Judge of the Day. Now the ex-judge — or should that be “sex judge” — is back in the news.
Writes Adam Liptak, in the New York Times:

Charles Dean Hood was sentenced to death in 1990 by a Texas judge who had been sleeping with the prosecutor in his case. It took Mr. Hood almost 20 years to establish that fact.

But he finally managed to force the two officials to testify about their rumored affair in the fall of 2008. They admitted it.

Sounds like a conflict of interest that would justify overturning the conviction, right?
Not so fast. Not in Texas.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “If the judge used to sleep with the prosecutor, is recusal required?”

Anthony Kennedy 2 Justice Anthony M Kennedy Above the Law blog.jpgOh, to be old and powerful. SCOTUS Justice Anthony Kennedy must be living the good life. He’s got a lifelong job in the middle of a global recession, and oh yeah, he’s the swing vote on the Supreme Court. I bet he doesn’t even drive a Toyota.
Justice Kennedy gave a talk at Pepperdine School of Law. The ABA Journal reports:

Kennedy’s “courtly and humorous” address at Pepperdine University’s School of Law included criticism of harsh sentences in the United States. He also responded to questions, including this one: “Does Justice Kennedy feel scolded?”
“He doesn’t,” Kennedy replied.

And why would he? As we noted after the State of the Union, the President Obama can talk all he wants, the Court does not have to listen. As the Ventura County Star reports:

His response when asked about President Barack Obama’s comment that the ruling invited special-interest money into politics:
“I’ve got a lifetime job,” Kennedy said. “He doesn’t.”

Properly buoyant with that sense of unelected, inscrutable power, Justice Kennedy took a couple of lighthearted shots at the other branches of government.

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Ruth Bader Ginsburg cancer surgery.jpgHere’s one talk that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg didn’t fall asleep during: her own, a conversation with Nina Totenberg at the 92nd Street Y on Thursday night.
We took note of the fact that RBG dozed off a bit during President Obama’s State of the Union address. As it turns out, Justice Ginsburg has an explanation.

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The Roberts court has lost its virginity.

Linda Greenhouse

Justice Alito was barely able to contain himself during Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech. Justice Ginsburg, on the other hand, was barely able to stay awake:

For Obama, a polite State of the Union [Washington Post]
Earlier: SCOTUS Slammed at SOTU
Breaking: Justice Ginsburg Hospitalized (Again), But Released
Ginsburg Falls Asleep: Media Pretend Not to Notice [News Busters]

Supreme Court SCOTUS State of the Union SOTU.jpgBarack Obama just finished up his first State of the Union address. Lots of interesting things: jobs, gays in the military, health reform capitulation c’mon we’re so close we’ve got to do something…. Oh, and nuclear power plants are back on the agenda. CHECK YOU RADIATION LEVELS.

But the biggest legal news, at least from the perspective of your Above the Law editors, was Obama’s smackdown of the Supreme Court — while six of the nine were sitting right in front of his face.

It was so harsh that it inspired Justice Samuel Alito to shake his head and to mouth the words “not true” at the president — very reminiscent of the “you lie” moment from the last time Obama spoke in front of a joint session of Congress.

The video and additional details — plus UPDATES, including a mini-debate between Kash and Lat, and a READER POLL — after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “SCOTUS Slammed at SOTU;
Alito Mouths ‘Not True’ at the President”

The Tenth Justice Fantasy SCOTUS League.jpgEd. note: ATL has teamed up with the 10th Justice to predict how the Supreme Court may decide upcoming cases. CNN has called FantasySCOTUS the “hottest new fantasy-league game.”
Yesterday the Supreme Court handed down Citizens United v. FEC, one of the most anticipated cases of the year. The Hillary Movie case was a showdown between free speech and campaign finance laws. In 2008, the D.C. Circuit ruled in favor of the FEC that Hillary: The Movie could not be shown on television right before the 2008 Democratic primaries under the McCain-Feingold Act. SCOTUSBlog has a fantastic round-up of coverage of this landmark case, which will send shock waves through the 2010 election season.
This is the first blockbuster case of the term, and the first real yardstick for the accuracy of the wisdom of the crowds. Were our 3,500 members able to accurately predict this outcome? How valid is the wisdom of our crowds?
On November 20, 2009, based on 286 predictions, 67% of our members predicted that the Supreme Court would reverse the lower court. Of these 286 predictions, 136 members predicted that the outcome would be a 5-4 reversal. This constituted 70% of all reversal predictions.
But since November, the league acquired over 2,000 new members, who made 600 additional predictions for this case. How did they do? And how did these predictions compare to the Supreme Court’s final opinion?
Also, we update the leaderboard. Who is in the top 10?
Read on.

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