Supreme Court

This morning the Supreme Court handed down its eagerly awaited decision in Citizens United v. FEC (PDF). The ruling will allow both corporations and labor unions to participate more fully in the political process. The opinion was written, not surprisingly, by Justice Kennedy.

More after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Breaking: SCOTUS Expands Free Speech in Politics By Liberalizing Campaign Finance Rules”

sexual chocolate.jpgThe Supreme Court handed down a tasty opinion [PDF] today. The issues at hand though make for an odd coupling: the death penalty and chocolate genitalia.
In 1993, Marcus Wellons was convicted of the rape and murder of a 15-year-old girl. The jury sentenced him to death.
Apparently the case was a bonding experience for the Georgia judge and jurors. According to the SCOTUS per curiam opinion:

Only after the trial did defense counsel learn that there had been unreported ex parte contacts between the jury and the judge, that jurors and a bailiff had planned a reunion, and that “either during or immediately following the penalty phase, some jury members gave the trial judge chocolate shaped as male genitalia and the bailiff chocolate shaped as female breasts.”

It’s unclear why the jurors gave a chocolate penis and breasts to the judge and bailiff, but the high court is asking the 11th Circuit to reexamine the case as the gifts “raise serious questions concerning the conduct of the trial.”
Justices Scalia, Thomas, Alito and Roberts dissented, apparently feeling nothing raised….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Chocolate Penis Pokes a Hole in a Death Penalty Case”

Supreme Court 6 Above the Law blog.JPGShortly before 5 p.m., the Supreme Court ruled against broadcast of the Proposition 8 trial, currently taking place in San Francisco. The Court split 5-4, with the majority setting forth its reasoning in a 17-page per curiam opinion. Justice Breyer dissented, joined by Justices Stevens, Ginsburg, and Sotomayor.
You can read the per curiam opinion and Justice Breyer’s (excellent) dissent over here. Analysis and commentary, from Lyle Denniston and Chris Geidner, can be accessed at SCOTUSblog and Law Dork.
(We’ve already told you how we feel about this issue. In addition, about 80 percent of you support broadcast of the Prop 8 trial.)
Prop 8 Court TV blocked [SCOTUSblog]
SCOTUS Blocks Broadcast [Law Dork]
Earlier: Cameras in the Prop 8 Courtroom: Why Not?

gay marriage skadden.jpgBecause when you want to argue against average Americans having access to a basic civil right, you want to make sure nobody sees you doing it. From the Associated Press:

The Supreme Court is blocking a broadcast of the trial on California’s same-sex marriage ban, at least for the first few days.
The federal trial is scheduled to begin later Monday in San Francisco. It will consider whether the Proposition 8 gay marriage ban approved by California voters in November 2008 is legal.
The high court on Monday said it will not allow video of the trial to be posted on YouTube.com, even with a delay, until the justices have more time to consider the issue. It said that Monday’s order will be in place at least until Wednesday. Opponents of the broadcast say they fear witness testimony might be affected if cameras are present. Justice Stephen Breyer said he would have allowed cameras while the court considers the matter.

Whatever. I’d be more worked up about this, but I’m still waiting for FIFA to realize that there is a thing called instant replay. Old people, organizations, and institutions tend to react really slowly to obvious technological changes.
UPDATE: After the jump, SCOTUSblog opines on why the Court mandated the delay.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Prop 8 Blackout”

Elena Kagan 3 Harvard Law School Above the Law Elana Kagan Elena Kagen.jpgYou can’t go two clicks on the internet today without hearing something about the new term of the Supreme Court (or the NFL playoffs, or porn). I’ve got to agree with the WSJ Law Blog’s Ashby Jones that the most interesting SCOTUS related piece comes via Bloomberg and talks about Solicitor General Elena Kagan’s willingness to defend shareholder rights. The Law Blog summarizes Kagan’s pro-shareholder stances:

Exhibit A: In a case against Merck, Kagan’s office is asking the court to let shareholders wait longer to sue companies for securities fraud. The justices are considering whether to allow a lawsuit by investors who say the drugmaker deceived them about the risks posed by its Vioxx painkiller.
But Exhibit B is the case folks are buzzing about: Kagan and SEC lawyers are urging the court to ease the way for investors to sue mutual fund managers over their fees. The fund industry aims to avert more lawsuits by the 90 million investors who together hold $11 trillion in U.S. mutual funds.

Why worry about potentially messy government regulation of business when you can just sue the bastards?
More details from the Bloomberg article after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Elena Kagan: Solicitous of Shareholders”

sonia sotomayor above the law.jpgThe most recent New Yorker features a profile of the newest resident of the High Court, Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Given the tone of the piece, you might think One First Street is turning into Melrose Place. Journalist Lauren Collins describes Sotomayor as “the first celebrity Justice”: a “diabetic, a divorcée, a dental-bill debtor, a person who, the night before her investiture ceremony, belted out “We Are Family” in a karaoke bar at a Red Roof Inn.”
The profile covers some familiar territory, highlighting attacks on Sotomayor’s intellect during the confirmation process and indignation over her aggressive questioning during oral arguments since taking a seat on the High bench.
Overall, though, it’s more favorable in tone than the profile of John Roberts in the magazine last year. As the WSJ Law Blog notes, Sotomayor comes across as “eminently personable” and as a “stickler for preparation.”
Tina Brown of the Daily Beast, a former editor of the New Yorker, is a bit more graphic in her reaction to the piece for NPR:

Brown says the justice comes across as an “up-from-the-bootstraps woman who loves to bust out a poker game and knock back a scotch.” But, Brown adds, she also comes across as meticulous, rigorous and heavily influenced by her mother, a nurse, who emphasized education above all else…
“Sotomayor is not a great prose styler, not a fancy-flourish merchant,” says Brown. “She’s not a person who’s going to reinvent the philosophical approach to law, but she does believe that the law is to be understood by the common man in the street. And I think that there’s a lot to be said for that, actually.”

We concur with Brown’s ruling on the piece. We’ve excerpted our favorite anecdote from the profile after the jump. Clerking for Sotomayor sounds fun….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “SCOTUS Justice Sonia Sotomayor Has Star Power”

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.”
One of the most anticipated cases before the Supreme Court this term is McDonald v. Chicago. McDonald considers whether Chicago’s handgun ban violates the Second Amendment. While District of Columbia v. Heller established that the Second Amendment protects the right to keep and bear arms from infringement by the federal government, McDonald changes the target to the states.
McDonald pits the right to keep and bear arms against the rights of the states to enact gun control laws. Which argument has more firepower?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “FantasySCOTUS: McDonald v. Chicago (Chicago Handgun Ban Case)”

Supreme Court hallway Above the Law Above the Law Above the Law.JPGOn Monday, Adam Liptak had an interesting article about Supreme Court clerk hiring and possible political polarization. From the New York Times:

A new study has found that former clerks have started to take jobs that reflect the ideologies of the justices for whom they worked.

“It’s cause for concern mainly because it’s a further piece of evidence of the polarization of the court,” said William E. Nelson, a law professor at New York University and one of the authors of the study.

Now, anyone who follows SCOTUS clerk hiring today might yawn at this. Is it really surprising that, as reported in the study, the Bush Administration hired more clerks from the conservative justices, the Clinton Administration hired more clerks from the liberal justices, and certain firms skew conservative (Kirkland & Ellis) or liberal (WilmerHale) in their hiring of former Supreme Court clerks?

But here’s the interesting part:

Until about 1990, the study shows, there was no particular correlation between a justice’s ideological leanings and what his or her clerks did with their lives…. Before the 1990s, the study found, all sorts of former clerks served in the government under all sorts of administrations….

In addition, there have been changes with respect to clerks entering academia:

From about 1940 to 1990, the study found, about a third of all clerks became law professors. There was variation among the chambers, but it was not correlated to the justices’ ideological leanings…. [But now] clerks from conservative chambers are less likely to teach. If they do, they are more likely to join the faculties of conservative and religious law schools.

We’ve heard anecdotally about anti-conservative bias in law faculty hiring (similar to what you sometimes see in law firm hiring). Does this study support the sense of some conservatives that the legal academy is hostile to their ideas?

More discussion of the article, plus the latest in Supreme Court clerk hiring news, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Supreme Court Clerk Hiring Watch: More OT 2010 Hires
Plus a discussion of politics and law clerk hiring.

As Quinn Emanuel folks are well aware (“CHECK YOU EMAILS”), there are many employees out there who are expected to be chained to their work at all times. The BlackBerry goes to bed with you, and not just because of its vibrate function. Sometimes the bedroom talk makes its way onto the BlackBerry.
Such was the case for Jeff Quon, a SWAT officer in California. He was fired after his lieutenant read hundreds of steamy text messages sent from Quon’s work pager. Quon sued the police department, arguing that the search of his texts was a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights.
Funny, we didn’t know SWAT officers even knew that there was a Fourth Amendment.
Now SCOTUS will be weighing in on privacy rights for personal communications on work-issued devices. Emily Bazelon sketches out the case’s path to One First Street over at Slate:

In June 2008, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit agreed with [Quon]. He had a reasonable expectation of privacy, the court said, given what his supervisor told him about paying for extra messages — the department’s “operational reality.” The court also found that there were other, less intrusive ways for the police chief to figure out whether Quon was frittering away his time: Warning him ahead of time to quit sending so many messages, asking him to count the characters himself, or asking him to cross out the personal parts before the department reviewed them.

This ruling, by Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw for a panel of three judges, implicitly recognizes that company pagers and e-mail accounts often turn into personal ones.

Should Quon be protected against the eyes of the boss, and in this case the law, reading the responses to “What R U wearing?”

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “SCOTUS Takes on Sexting”

The Tenth Justice Fantasy SCOTUS League.jpgEd. note: ATL has teamed up with FantasySCOTUS, the premier Supreme Court fantasy league. (For more background, check out this WSJ Law Blog post.) On Fridays, the 10th Justice will analyze league voting to predict how the Supreme Court may decide upcoming cases.
Welcome to the third installment of Predictions of the 10th Justice, brought to you by FantasySCOTUS.net. The league has over 2,000 members, who have made predictions on all cases currently pending before the Supreme Court. Recently, Justice Stephen G. Breyer was asked in an interview about FantasySCOTUS.net. His response: “I don’t think I will bet on it.”

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Fantasy SCOTUS from the 10th Justice: Grading Forecasts For The First Four Cases of OT09, Plus Prediction Tips”

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