Anthony M. Kennedy

Carter Phillips

After the Supreme Court heard oral arguments over the constitutionality of Obama’s healthcare overhaul last week, we discussed the case with veteran Supreme Court litigator Carter Phillips. Phillips, the managing partner of Sidley Austin‘s Washington, D.C. office, is a renowned Supreme Court litigator. He has argued 75 cases in front of the high court, more than any other attorney in private practice.

Check out our conversation below. He had a lot of insightful comments about the performances of Paul Clement and Donald Verrilli, the mind of Justice Anthony Kennedy, and even a few jokes…

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Isn’t it funny that if you refuse to buy food, the government won’t force you to buy any — broccoli or otherwise? But when you show up at the hospital dying of starvation, the government will give you health care even if you haven’t paid for it.

Sorry, I know it’s foolish for me to inject 21st century policy concerns into Scalia’s 18th century hypothetical.

Obamacare supporters are still licking their wounds from getting smacked around by SCOTUS yesterday. I don’t know why anybody is surprised. You’ve got four staunchly conservative justices and one pretty conservative justice that gets called a “swing vote” because the Court has lurched so far to the right since he was appointed, and you’re going in front of them with a massive use of the interstate commerce power. You think they care that past precedents that they don’t agree with say they should uphold the law? You think they want to give Obama a victory any more than Republicans in Congress wanted to support the Republican approach to health care once Obama adopted it? This was always going to be an uphill battle with this Court.

That’s not Don Verrilli’s fault. People need to stop yelling at this man. No, he wasn’t as witty as Paul Clement. Do we really think that whether or not Anthony Kennedy wants us to have health care will turn on Verrilli’s ability to spit out a one-liner? If liberals want to blame somebody, it’s not Don Verrilli; blame the spineless way Congress and the President abandoned single-payer. That’s why we’re here folks. We sent Verrilli into a conservative lion’s den with a liberal piece of meat hanging around his neck, and now we’re criticizing the way he ran around, screaming for his life. That’s not right.

But anyway, that was yesterday and “reading the tea leaves” from oral arguments takes way more time than looking at the political agendas of each of the justices. Let’s move on to today’s arguments. The Court will consider whether the Affordable Care Act can survive if the Court strikes down the individual mandate part, and whether the expansion of Medicaid coverage amounts to government coercion….

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Today was the big day: the individual mandate provision of the Affordable Care Act was argued in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. It’s always fun when nine unelected people get to decide whether Congress and the president get to do what the American people elected them to do.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been listening to CSPAN 3 take calls from “real” Americans about the constitutionality of health care, and let me tell you: Americans are incredibly stupid. On both sides. Christ on Phonics, I don’t even know if some of these people are able to read. Nine unelected arbiters looking at this is at least as legitimate as millions of freaking idiots having a clap-off to figure out how to administer health coverage for millions of people.

Did I say nine people will decide this issue? That’s not entirely accurate, is it? Aren’t we really talking about one guy?

They’re replaying the audio from today’s arguments on CSPAN 3. Too bad there’s no video… I want to see the gifts of frankincense and myrrh that Solicitor General Don Verrilli and Paul Clement brought for Justice Anthony Kennedy.

But what’s really interesting today is to see whether all these ideologically conservative judges will actually take a conservative judicial approach and show deference to the legislature.

Not that I’m holding my breath….

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Or, if you prefer, a ruling on marriage equality. We knew this ruling was coming because the Ninth Circuit kindly informed us in advance that its opinion would be issued today: “The Court anticipates filing an opinion tomorrow (Tuesday, February 7) by 10:00 a.m. in Perry v. Brown, case numbers 10-16696 and 11-16577, regarding the constitutionality of Proposition 8 and the denial of a motion to vacate the lower court judgement in the case.”

The Ninth Circuit’s practice of providing advance notice of certain opinion filings is very helpful to those who cover the court. It would be nice if other circuit courts followed the Ninth Circuit’s lead. (Yes, I just typed that sentence.)

Now, let’s find out how the three-judge panel ruled in Perry v. Brown (formerly known as Perry v. Schwarzenegger)….

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Robert Bork

Some lawyers can be so circumspect in speech and so careful in action that they’re just plain boring. Such caution might help you make it to the Supreme Court someday, but it’s not a recipe for a very fun life.

Thankfully, not all brilliant lawyers are afraid of speaking their minds. Take Robert Bork, the former U.S. Solicitor General and D.C. Circuit judge whose Supreme Court nomination famously went down in flames in 1987 — due in part to his loquaciousness during his confirmation hearings.

Judge Bork, now 84, is currently a fellow at the Hudson Institute think tank. He’s not as involved in public life as he once was, but he’s not completely out of the picture. For example, he’s serving as a legal adviser to Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney (a development that some on the left have criticized).

And Judge Bork continues to make controversial pronouncements, most recently in an interview with Newsweek….

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Justice Kennedy says: 'Open Sesame.'

It’s late May, so we’re entering the home stretch of the Supreme Court Term. Over the next few weeks, the Court will be handing down opinions in the most contentious, closely divided cases.

One such opinion came down today: Brown v. Plata (formerly Schwarzenegger v. Plata). In this high-profile case, a three-judge district court issued an order that directed the State of California to reduce its prison population — e.g., by releasing prisoners (as many as 46,000, at the time of the order) — in order to address problems with overcrowding and poor health care for inmates.

When SCOTUS granted cert, I thought that it did so in order to summarily reverse. Federal judges running penal institutions, ordering tens of thousands of convicted criminals to be let out onto the streets? The district court’s order reeked of the kind of Ninth Circuit liberal activism that doesn’t sit well with the Roberts Court. (Note that one of the members of the three-judge panel was the notoriously left-wing Judge Stephen Reinhardt.)

Well, I was wrong. The Court just affirmed, 5-4, in an opinion by (who else?) Justice Anthony Kennedy.

There were two dissents, by Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito. Justice Scalia’s opinion in particular contains some stinging (but ultimately ineffectual) benchslaps….

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Yale Law School

* The delightful Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld, daughter of Yale law professors Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld, explains how she turned out so normal, despite having a Tiger Mother. [new tiger in town]

* Elsewhere in Yale Law School news, congrats to YLS student Vanessa Selbst, who successfully defended her title at the North American Poker Tour championship at Mohegan Sun. How much did she win this year? [Law Shucks]

* Selbst won her money in person — which is lucky, because the feds just brought the hammer down on online poker. [New York Times]

* Speaking of money, here are some ideas for how to spend your spring bonus money. [Vault]

* There are too many wives conflicting judicial authorities in this litigation involving the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. [Salt Lake Tribune]

* Some tips for young lawyers looking to get active online. [An Associate's Mind]

* Instead of adopting humane practices, Iowa farmers and ranchers would rather cover up the way they kill animals and slaughter the First Amendment while they’re at it. [Legal Planet]

* When extreme pro-life views turn monstrous, they reduce women to mere vessels, who exist only as incubators. Check out this Indiana woman who is being charged with murder for attempting to kill herself while pregnant. [Feministe]

* Okay, we’ve extracted our pound of flesh from Professor Stephen Bainbridge. Can we please move on now? [The Daily Bruin]

* Justice Kennedy on the “quiet revolution” wrought by information technology with respect to coverage of the Supreme Court. [Josh Blackman]

* Don’t forget: the deadline for the ATL Law Revue Contest is this SUNDAY, APRIL 17, at 11:59 PM (Eastern time). [Above the Law]

It’s always been a dream of mine to interrupt a Supreme Court justice.

– Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.), a lawyer, after interrupting Justice Anthony Kennedy during Justice Kennedy’s testimony before a subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee.

Justice Kennedy

* How did Howrey start to unravel? The trouble might have started in Europe. [Washington Post]

* Congratulations to Arvo Mikkanen, a Native American nominee to the federal bench in Oklahoma (and “an all-around great dude,” according to a tipster). [The Atlantic]

* Washington & Lee Law School, which we recently praised for its honesty to prospective law students, gets even more transparent — in an interview with Vault. [Vault's Law Blog]

* In a recent visit to USC, Justice Kennedy presided over a Shakespeare-inspired trial — something he has done before — and denied that the justices think about the news media when making their decisions. Methinks His Honor doth protest too much. [USC News]

'Please don't ship me in a box with no air holes.'

* A New York trial court smacks down a claim of cyberbullying. [Adjunct Law Prof Blog]

* Taxing alcohol to reduce crime? Sounds like that will lead to more muggings for alcohol money. [Going Concern]

* If you try to mail a puppy from Minnesota to Georgia in a box with no airholes, you don’t get your dog back. Also, you get shipped directly to hell. [Runnin' Scared / Village Voice]

* Blawg Review #297: The Hair Shirt Edition. [Big Legal Brain via Blawg Review]

Well this should be fun. Florida federal judge Roger Vinson has struck down the heart of Obama’s health care reform plan, finding that the individual mandate part of the bill is unconstitutional and therefore the whole thing is unconstitutional.

As Ashby Jones points out on the WSJ Law Blog, that makes the score 2 – 2. Two federal judges have upheld the law; two others have struck it down.

You know what that means? It means that very soon America will be operating under the Anthony M. Kennedy health care system. Does Justice Kennedy think that I have a right to health care? Does he think that pre-existing conditions should be covered? Is he comfortable having an entire nation’s health care system held hostage by a few insurance giants?

Exciting questions! I can’t wait to see how a man who nobody elected will decide our medical futures….

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