Supreme Court

Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens is done with his teasing. He’s been hinting for weeks that he could announce his plans to retire at any moment. Today, he finally made it official.

He sent a letter to President Barack Obama this morning — available after the jump — consisting of a single sentence (Souter did it with two):

Having concluded that it would be in the best interests of the Court to have my successor appointed and confirmed well in advance of the commencement of the Court’s next Term, I shall retire from regular active service as an Associate Justice, under the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 371(b), effective the next day after the Court rises for the summer recess this year.

This means Obama will have his second opportunity to make an addition to the Supreme Court. U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan is considered by many to be the frontrunner for the nomination.

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With apologies to John Paul “I’m not dead yet” Stevens, speculation has been rampant about who will replace him, if he decides to retire.

Many of the names that came up after Souter retired are bubbling back to the surface, but U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan has to be considered the front runner. Obama hasn’t said anything and Stevens is, you know, still there — but that didn’t stop the Harvard Crimson from handicapping the chances of former Harvard Law School Dean Kagan:

In the face of Justice John Paul Stevens’ impending retirement, the nomination of former Harvard Law School Dean Elena Kagan for the open seat on the Supreme Court has become a likely prospect.

If she is selected as President Barack Obama’s nominee, Kagan—who currently serves as the nation’s first female Solicitor General—will face a number of challenges on the road toward confirmation, including her lack of experience as a judge, her religious background, and her stance on the military.

Man, the “impending retirement” of J.P. Stevens is turning into a a Monty Python skit. But, so long as we’re here, let’s take another look at that religious question. It might be the only thing that could scuttle Kagan’s ascendancy to the high Court…

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After yesterday’s report on the latest developments in Supreme Court clerk hiring, we received word of several new hires, both by email and in the comments. So we thought we’d do a quick follow-up to pass along what we’ve heard.

Please keep in mind that we have not verified every hire to 100 percent accuracy; corrections may be posted later. This information is unofficial; the Supreme Court’s Public Information Office does not release the official list of October Term clerks until the immediately preceding summer.

With these caveats in mind, let’s take a look at the latest news, shall we?

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Supreme Court hallway Above the Law Above the Law Above the Law.JPGSupreme Court clerk hiring is once again in the news. This subject, usually of interest just to hard-core legal nerds, migrated over to the mainstream media in Jeffrey Toobin’s recent New Yorker profile of Justice John Paul Stevens. Toobin cleverly used the topic of clerk hiring as a backdoor way of getting at JPS’s retirement plans:

With the election of Barack Obama, the question of Stevens’s retirement has become more pressing. Even though Stevens was appointed by a Republican President, many assume that he would never willingly have turned his seat over to George W. Bush. I asked Stevens about his plans.

“Well, I still have my options open,” he said. “When I decided to just hire one clerk, three of my four clerks last year said they’d work for me next year if I wanted them to. So I have my options still. And then I’ll have to decide soon.” On March 8th, he told me that he would make up his mind in about a month.

April 8 is just around the corner. If you hear of Justice Stevens re-hiring his former clerks (or hiring new clerks) for October 2010, please let us know.

In an interesting online chat with Toobin about his JPS profile, the subject of clerk hiring came up again….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Supreme Court Clerk Hiring Watch: Dukies Do Well; Alito Is Done”

Sorry, we didn’t mean to get your hopes up (or maybe we did). The famously sphinx-like Justice Thomas did not ask a question at oral argument yesterday — but he did open his mouth and emit hearty laughs. From CNN:

Sometimes the most complicated of cases at the Supreme Court brings out the best arguments. It certainly brought out the giggles in a little-watched appeal Tuesday over federal prison terms.

The justices managed to crack themselves up — along with the public audience — at least a dozen times in the hour-long oral debate. Justice Clarence Thomas rarely speaks at the high court’s normally sober sessions, but he especially enjoyed the gentle insults and self-deprecating jibes his colleagues showered on each other. His booming laugh could be clearly heard at times.

So what gave CT a case of the chuckles during Barber v. Thomas?

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mike sacks first one.jpgWelcome to Part II of First One @ One First‘s Guide to Scoring a SCOTUS Seat. My name is Mike Sacks and I am a Georgetown 3L and proprietor of F1@1F, where I write about my adventures from the front of the general admission line for the Supreme Court’s oral arguments in cases of public interest and political salience.
Last week, I gave you all the information you need to be at the head of the line. But getting there is only the start of the full experience. After the jump, I give you some tips to maximize your morning.

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Supreme Court 6 Above the Law blog.JPGIn our recent caption contest, there were quite a few captions that alluded to the members of the Supreme Court being in bed with conservatives. As we reported this morning, Clarence Thomas is most definitely in bed with a conservative. Ginni Thomas is the President and CEO of the newly launched 501(c)(4), Liberty Central Inc., with the mission statement to “serve the big tent of the conservative movement.”
Since the judiciary prefers the appearance of nonpartisanship, the Los Angeles Times found her Tea Party-inspired group worth covering:

“I think the American public expects the justices to be out of politics,” said University of Texas law school professor Lucas A. “Scot” Powe, a court historian.
He said the expectations for spouses are far less clear. “I really don’t know because we’ve never seen it,” Powe said. Under judicial rules, judges must curb political activity, but a spouse is free to engage.

Not shockingly, Clarence Thomas has nothing to say about this. Eugene Volokh points out that Ginni Thomas is far from the first politically-engaged judicial spouse:

Of course, Justice Thomas is not the only judge to have had a spouse in a prominent political role. Ninth Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt’s wife, Ramona Ripston, has just stepped down from being head of the Southern California ACLU. Third Circuit Judge Jane Roth’s husband was a U.S. Senator; Third Circuit Judge Marjorie Rendell’s husband is a governor. So I’m not sure that there’s really a judicial norm that judge’s spouses should stay out of politics, whether partisan politics, advocacy group politics, or public interest litigation (itself a form of politics, at least when done effectively).

All this talk of justices’ second halves made us think it was time for a rundown of the other Supreme spouses. The Honorable Husbands and Wives, and their careers, after the jump.

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virginia ginni and clarence thomas.jpgWhen we’ve heard in the past about Virginia Lamp Thomas, the wife of Justice Clarence Thomas, it was usually as his fellow RV road warrior. But Ginni Thomas is now much more high-profile. The Los Angeles Times reported this weekend that she has launched Liberty Central Inc., a conservative non-profit inspired by the Tea Party movement.

From the organization’s website:

LibertyCentral.org will serve the big tent of the conservative movement and assist all viable individuals and organizations with education and engagement. The site’s primary focus will be on emerging and new citizen activists – helping them discover a viable path to effective and efficient activism, along with an understanding of why their participation matters in accordance with founding principles and limited Constitutional governance.

Experts tell the L.A. Times that Thomas’ work doesn’t violate ethical rules for judges, but that it could give rise to conflicts of interest for her husband.

People are already pointing out that the 5-4 decision in Citizens United cleared the way for Liberty Central to fill its coffers with corporate cash.

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mike sacks first one.jpgMy name is Mike Sacks. I am a 3L at Georgetown and creator of First One @ One First, where I write about my adventures from the front of the general admission line for the Supreme Court’s oral arguments in cases of public interest and political salience. After the New York Times covered my exploits in the McDonald v. City of Chicago line last week, Above the Law honored me as its Law Student of the Day.

And then Kash took advantage of me.

She approached me at my most vulnerable moment, fatigued from my twenty-six hour Court campout and under deadline for an argument write-up with the ABA Journal, and asked me to provide a “tutorial for how to score a seat for a SCOTUS argument.”

In other words, she requested that I exchange my very closely kept trade secrets for thousands of hits at F1@1F and a slew of trolls below this post.

I needed clarity–a bright moral line–to cut through my sleepless haze and save my principles from ATL’s temptation. I needed Justice Scalia.

But Justice Scalia, only hours before, killed his credibility when he openly embraced “substantive due process,” the living constitutionalists’ darling device for abortion- and gay-rights, rather than face the liberal consequences of an originalist reading of a resurrected Privileges or Immunities Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

That sealed it. If Scalia could imperil his legacy for the sake of convenient results, then so could I.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “First One @ One First’s Guide to SCOTUS Seats, Part I: When to Arrive?”

A question started percolating around the ATL offices this morning (your ATL editors do work out of an office, at least since our moms kicked us out of the basement): Is Kathleen Sullivan the FIRST female named partner in the Am Law 100?

We figured that surely there was at least one other firm that had a female partner with her name in lights. But we’ve thought about it, conferred with the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession, and googled around a little, and so far we’ve come up empty.

According to a spokesperson from Quinn Emanuel, Kathleen Sullivan is the Alpha female of the Am Law 100:

We believe she is the first female partner to be a named partner in the Am Law 100.

Is this possible? Were all of the top 100 firms named after old white men until today? All of them?

If you know of an exception, send us an email or put it in the comments. Please tell us that we didn’t have to wait until 2010 to cross this threshold. Regardless, we’re always happy to see a woman on top.

Earlier: CHECK YOU FIRM NAME: Quinn Emanuel Adds Kathleen Sullivan to the Stationery

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