SCOTUS

As for doing what I like, I never do what I like! Ask my wife Joanna….

Justice Stephen Breyer, rejecting the notion that unelected judges can do whatever they want, at an event at the New York Public Library to promote his new book, Making Democracy Work: A Judge’s View.

Today’s New York Times has a meaty and interesting front-page article about political ideology and Supreme Court clerk hiring. The piece, written by SCOTUS correspondent Adam Liptak, reminded us a lot of one that Liptak wrote last year (which we discussed here). But since there’s no such thing as too much talk about The Elect, let’s dig into it.

(By the way, speaking of Supreme Court clerk hiring, we’re working on an update that should come out soon. If you’re aware of a clerk hire that wasn’t included in our last write-up, listing both OT 2010 and OT 2011 clerks, please email us (subject line: “SCOTUS clerk hiring”). Thanks.)

Liptak begins by discussing the fabulosity that is a SCOTUS clerkship:

Each year, 36 young lawyers obtain the most coveted credential in American law: a Supreme Court clerkship. Clerking for a justice is a glittering capstone on a résumé that almost always includes outstanding grades at a top law school, service on a law review and a prestigious clerkship with a federal appeals court judge.

One could quibble with the number of 36, but we’ll get to that later. Let’s focus on the main point of the piece, the growing politicization of high-court clerk hiring….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Supreme Court Clerk Hiring: Is It Becoming More Political?”

Am I correct in asserting that Jimmy Smits has had more judicial experience than Elena Kagan?

Dahlia Lithwick, opining on Jimmy Smits’s new show Outlaw. On the show, Smits plays a Supreme Court justice who steps down to “fight for change in the legal system,” because as we all know, SCOTUS justices are so powerless.

Today the Tenth Circuit told the state of Utah that it could no longer erect crosses by the side of the highway memorializing state troopers who have died. The WSJ Law Blog excerpts this part of the opinion in American Atheists, Inc. v. Duncan (PDF):

“This may lead the reasonable observer to fear that Christians are likely to receive preferential treatment from the [Utah Highway Patrol],” the judges wrote, adding elsewhere in the opinion that “unlike Christmas, which has been widely embraced as a secular holiday. . . . there is no evidence in this case that the cross has been widely embraced by non-Christians as a secular symbol of death.”

I’m sorry, are there Hindus driving through Utah who are unaware that “Christians are likely to receive preferential treatment” in Utah? If so, I’d call that person a most unreasonable observer.

All joking aside, are we really living in a world where a simple cross to mark the death of a government worker violates the Establishment Clause?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Crosses Memorializing Dead State Troopers in Utah Ruled Unconstitutional”

As of yesterday, Justice Elena Kagan had not hired her four law clerks for October Term 2010, as reported by Tony Mauro in the National Law Journal. But that was then, and this is now.

Justice Kagan, who was sworn in on Saturday, isn’t wasting any time in getting her chambers up and running. Lady Kaga has hired her four little monsters for OT 2010.

Just as Justice Sonia Sotomayor did last year, Justice Kagan is hiring outgoing Supreme Court clerks — i.e., clerks who just finished up with their justices — to ease her transition. Out of her four clerks for the upcoming Term, three also clerked on the Court in the Term just ended (October Term 2009).

Not surprisingly, the former dean of Harvard Law School bleeds Crimson. At least two of Justice Kagan’s four clerks are HLS graduates. One is a graduate of Yale Law School (the alma mater of Justice Kagan’s late father). (We’re still waiting for the name and law school of the fourth clerk.)

UPDATE: We’ve learned the name of the fourth Kagan clerk. She’s also a Harvard Law grad, leaving Justice Kagan with three out of four clerks from HLS. More details after the jump.

So who will be joining the Divine Miss K in the heavenly confines of One First Street?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Supreme Court Clerk Hiring Watch: Justice Kagan’s Clerks!”

This should not come as a huge surprise, but Solicitor General Elena Kagan was just confirmed by the Senate as to be the 112th justice of the United States Supreme Court. Kagan, the first woman to serve as Solicitor General, is the fourth woman ever to serve on the Court.

CORRECTION: I replaced “as” with “to be” after receiving this from a former White House official: “I feel compelled to point out that the Senate confirmed Kagan TO BE the 112th justice, after which President Obama likely appointed her AS the 112th justice. Marbury, Madison, etc.”

The vote to confirm Kagan was 63-37. Check out C-SPAN for the full tally (scroll down). Ashby Jones has the highlights:

Fifty-eight Democrats and independents, as well as five Republicans, voted for Kagan. Thirty-six Republicans and one Democrat, Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, voted against the nominee.

The five Republicans who supported Kagan were Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Richard Lugar of Indiana and Judd Gregg of New Hampshire.

The current U.S. Supreme Court lineup (once Kagan is officially sworn in): Chief Justice John Roberts (Bush 43) and Justices Antonin Scalia (Reagan), Anthony Kennedy (Reagan), Clarence Thomas (Bush 41), Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Clinton), Stephen Breyer (Clinton), Samuel Alito (Bush 43), Sonia Sotomayor (Obama) and Elena Kagan (Obama).

UPDATE: In case you’re curious, President Obama’s prior SCOTUS nominee, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, was confirmed last year by a vote of 68-31, with nine Republicans in support. Three Republicans voted for Sotomayor but not Kagan: Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), Christopher Bond (Mo.), and Voinovich (Ohio). Scott Brown (Mass.) — who introduced Kagan at her hearings, by the way — voted against her (but wasn’t in the Senate yet for the Sotomayor vote). So did George LeMieux (Fla.), who replaced Mel Martinez (a pro-Sotomayor Republican).

After the Kagan vote, the Divine Miss K’s successor as Harvard Law School dean, Martha Minow, sent out a celebratory email at HLS….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Congratulations to Associate Justice Elena Kagan!”

Last year, we covered a mistake made in a death penalty case by the white-shoe firm of Sullivan & Cromwell. It was a noteworthy development because of the rarity of the occurrence — S&C doesn’t often make mistakes, at least not ones as elementary as missing a deadline — and because of the stakes involved.

Well, the stakes are getting higher: S&C is now seeking SC review. The firm wants the Supreme Court to step in and essentially forgive the firm’s error in missing the deadline to file an appeal. Adam Liptak tells the tale, in the New York Times:

Sullivan & Cromwell is a law firm with glittering offices in a dozen cities around the world, and some of its partners charge more than $1,000 an hour. The firm’s paying clients, at least, demand impeccable work.

Cory R. Maples, a death row inmate in Alabama, must have been grateful when lawyers from the firm agreed to represent him without charge. But the assistance he got may turn out to be lethal.

Please note: that last sentence originally appeared in the august pages of the Times. Despite its tabloid tone — we can imagine an announcer for Inside Edition intoning darkly, “the assistance he got may turn out to be lethal” — it did not appear first in Above the Law. [FN1]

So how did S&C put a man’s life in jeopardy? Let’s descend into the mailroom at 125 Broad Street….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Sullivan & Cromwell’s Mailroom of Death: A Law Firm’s Error Could Cost a Man His Life”

Apologies for the tardiness. We’re a little late on this; we promised you a Supreme Court clerk hiring update last week. But we suspect that Above the Law readers, unlike the Clerk of Court at One First Street, are willing to accept a late filing.

In an earlier post, we also asked for information about what Supreme Court clerk bonuses are at these days. We now have news to pass along to you.

Check out the list of SCOTUS clerks hired thus far for October Term 2011, and ogle the signing bonuses for outgoing clerks heading to private law firms, after the jump….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Supreme Court Clerk Hiring Watch: Into OT 2011 We Go
(Plus information about SCOTUS clerk signing bonuses.)”

[U]nderneath a sometimes gruff exterior, he has the proverbial heart of gold: no one I know is a more faithful friend or a more fundamentally decent person.

– Solicitor General and Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, in a letter to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) about appellate litigator Miguel Estrada, a Gibson Dunn partner and possible Supreme Court nominee in a Republican administration.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has voted to recommend Obama’s latest nominee to the Supreme Court, Elena Kagan, to the full Senate, by a vote of 13 – 6. So the former Harvard Law School Dean and current Solicitor General is one step closer to becoming the fourth woman ever to serve on the Supreme Court.

Kagan received exactly one of the seven possible votes from Senate Judiciary Republicans. South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham was the only Republican to break ranks. But the Democrats held together, and it’s always impressive when Senate Democrats manage to not royally screw something up.

Kagan’s confirmation should be voted on by the full Senate sometime next week.

UPDATE: In case you’re wondering, this is the exact same vote that Sonia Sotomayor got when her nomination came out of the Judiciary Committee.

Judiciary panel OKs Elena Kagan for Supreme Court [Washington Post]

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