Antonin Scalia

In a criminal case in federal court, if you are acquitted at trial of almost all of the charges against you, you can still be sentenced as though you were convicted of all of the charges against you, when the judge disagrees with the jury’s decision. That is off-the-rails crazy.

The point of a trial, of course, is to figure out if someone is going to go to prison for doing something. The jury’s decision about what a person did should be what controls what crime the person is sentenced for committing. Yet that’s not what judges do.

To be sure, there are some cases where judges use sentencing decisions to express concerns, perhaps, about the jury’s verdict. Such as when Barry Bonds was given a light sentence for committing something that was probably not a crime. Or when a woman in Indiana was convicted in a highly questionable prosecution after being inappropriately skewered with unfair questions on cross.

But that’s a judge using her power to set a sentence while respecting the decision of a jury. She accepts what the jury decided, then takes that into account — in addition to other things — when imposing sentence.

When a judge gives someone more time in prison based on something that a jury already decided the person wasn’t guilty of, it’s very different. That’s an insult to the jury and is really hard to square with how the law of federal sentencing has been developing lately.

This week, the Supreme Court had a chance to fix that. It didn’t.

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Chief Justice Bart Simpson in 2033, photographed with his father.

Watching old Simpsons episodes can be a little like reading Nostradamus. The early episodes are filled with gags that seem creepily prescient in the light of hindsight. Like how Stop The Planet of the Apes I Want To Get Off predated the “let’s make an old movie into a musical” craze. Or how Fox is gradually transitioning into a hardcore sex channel.

But a tipster noted that a controversial Supreme Court case from this Term gets a predictive wink from an episode that aired in 1992….

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For aficionados of books about the U.S. Supreme Court, 2014 has been a very good year. The past few months have brought us Uncertain Justice, by Laurence Tribe and Joshua Matz; The Case Against the Supreme Court, by Erwin Chemerinsky; Scalia: A Court of One, by Bruce Allen Murphy; and American Justice 2014, by Garrett Epps. (Forthcoming on the fiction side in a few weeks: my very own Supreme Ambitions.)

One of the most eagerly anticipated of these books is Breaking In: The Rise of Sonia Sotomayor, by veteran SCOTUS reporter Joan Biskupic. She recently posted a juicy excerpt on Reuters, in which Justice Antonin Scalia is quoted saying of Justice Sotomayor, “I knew she’d be trouble.”

What prompted Nino to make this comment about Sonia? It has to do with allegations of the Wise Latina engaging in unwise behavior at a Supreme Court party….

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Justice Antonin Scalia

* Justice Scalia spoke at CU-Boulder last night. For his sake, we certainly hope he didn’t speak about any issues that might someday appear before SCOTUS, lest he be asked to recuse. [Boulder Daily Camera via How Appealing]

* Another one bites the dust over at Main Justice: David O’Neil, the head of the criminal division, is stepping down in the wake of the BNP Paribas case, and will likely have many white-shoe law firm suitors. [DealBook / New York Times]

* Fox Rothschild picked up a 18-lawyer boutique firm in Texas, which will serve as the home of its first outpost in the Lone Star State. Energy law, surprisingly, wasn’t the driving factor. [Legal Intelligencer]

* “I have a heart and I have two kids.” That’s a pretty damn good reason for Biglaw attorneys to take a break from their corporate billable hours to represent undocumented children pro bono. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Scott Greenfield reviews Lat’s forthcoming novel, Supreme Ambitions (affiliate link). Of course, in SHG style, it contains a spoiler. Try to skip that clearly marked paragraph. [Simple Justice]

The latest output from the rage machine is that Justice Ginsburg has to recuse herself from hearing an expected appeal of the Texas abortion regulation that is essentially:

Look, we found a way to ban abortion without saying those words. We’re so f**king clever!

The law is in front of the Fifth Circuit now, but we all know this middle finger to Roe will make it to the Supreme Court eventually. Enter the right-wing punditry eager to drum up controversy in the hopes of removing a reliable liberal justice from the panel. At issue is a recent New Republic interview, where — in between discussing the relative merits of Jazzercise — Justice Ginsburg made the entirely indisputable observation that the law will shut down most abortion clinics in Texas. Oh no! She’s pre-judged the case!

Everyone cool their jets. Justice Ginsburg shouldn’t recuse herself for several reasons…

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Judge Mark Fuller

* Judge Mark Fuller is back in the news, with Senator Richard Shelby leading a chorus of legislators calling for the judge to resign in light of his domestic violence arrest. [All In with Chris Hayes / MSNBC]

* Further fallout from Hobby Lobby: suborning child labor is free exercise. Hurray! [Time]

* It’s not just that female partners aren’t getting ahead of their male counterparts, they’re falling further behind. Probably not leaning in enough or whatever the latest insulting sound byte is. [The Careerist]

* After learning that Yale is going to start teaching basic financial literacy, more advice on managing student debt is cropping up. [Boston.com]

* A Nevada state judge checks out the other side of the bench, pleading guilty to a federal conspiracy rap. [Las Vegas Sun]

* Well there’s something I hadn’t thought of: classifying spankers as pedophiles for the purpose of custody hearings. [Law and More]

* This is an important life lesson kids: when you’re in a car, don’t light the driver on fire. [KTVB]

* Walking down the (very short) memory lane of Justice Scalia’s liberal moments. [Slate]

* More on Lateral.ly and its effort to replace headhunters. Basically it’s the Tinder of job hunting. [Washington Post]

* Suffolk seems to have given up on advertising to appeal to a false sense of local pride. So now a new law school has taken up that same banner…

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Jodi Arias says, ‘You could own these!’

* If you want to know why Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s summer was “really not fun,” it’s because she spent it reading a book about Justice Antonin Scalia and a book written by Justice John Paul Stevens. [Washington Whispers / U.S. News & World Report]

* “There is less money to pay everybody.” Corporations are shifting more and more of their legal work to their in-house lawyers, and some law firms — especially smaller ones — are feeling the financial squeeze. [WSJ Law Blog]

* If you’ve wanted to know what federal judges discuss during their bathroom breaks, stop wondering, because it’s not that exciting. All they talk about is their “stupid little trials,” and get overheard by jurors and forced into disclosures. [New York Daily News]

* Dewey know why the former leaders of this failed firm want their criminal indictment dismissed? It’s because the case is allegedly based on a “flagrant misunderstanding of the law.” [New York Law Journal]

* If you want to own a “piece of history,” Jodi Arias is auctioning off the glasses she wore during the first phase of her murder trial. She intends to donate the proceeds of the sale to (her own?) charity. [Daily Mail]

* Mexican drug cartels are moving beyond shipping cocaine and are starting to grow the stuff too. As long as they stop hijacking lime shipments and driving up margarita prices. [Vocativ]

* The prosecutor who admitted Ray Rice into a pre-trial intervention program (and there are pros and cons to that decision) specifically denied the same option to a working single mother of two who didn’t realize her out of state gun permit wasn’t accepted. She was offered a 3+ year prison deal. Because, you know… prosecutors. [Huffington Post]

* If you’re planning on getting arrested in New Orleans — and who isn’t? — don’t get arrested at night. [The Times-Picayune]

* A federal judge is accused of sexual misconduct with a clerk. I had to check twice to make sure this wasn’t just a plot point in David’s upcoming book (affiliate link). [Waco Tribune-Herald]

* Defense lawyer allegedly drives drunk… to the courthouse. [Indianapolis Star]

* The complex legal tapestry of sandwiches. [The Atlantic]

* “Mathew Martoma’s Parents Raise Some Good, Less Good Points.” [Dealbreaker]

* If you were interested in the mélange of issues surrounding privilege, whistleblowing, and litigation finance, here’s a primer. [LFC360]

* Jimmy Kimmel asked some New York Fashion Week attendees about Justice Scalia. Hilarity ensues. Video embedded below… [YouTube]

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Joe Freeman Britt won’t forgive murder. Or, apparently, people who DON’T commit murder.

Well, let’s say, if I was a bully, he is a pussy. How about that? I think Johnson Britt has been hanging around too much with the wine and cheese crowd.

– Former District Attorney Joe Freeman Britt, discussing his successor (and relative), current DA Johnson Britt, because the younger Britt had the audacity to support releasing men that Britt the Elder prosecuted for rape and murder just because the DNA evidence exonerated them. Britt the Younger blames his predecessor’s bullying and browbeating style for hindering the search for truth, such as ignoring the serial rapist living 100 yards from the crime scene. Joe Britt has no time for such cream puff notions. Will Justice Scalia follow Joe Britt’s lead?

It looks even better next to some of the other cases currently before us which Justice Blackmun did not select as the vehicle for his announcement that the death penalty is always unconstitutional — for example, the case of the 11-year old girl raped by four men and then killed by stuffing her panties down her throat. How enviable a quiet death by lethal injection compared with that!

– Justice Antonin Scalia in Callins v. Collins, 510 U.S. 1141 (1994). The quote looms large today as Justice Scalia’s smugly presented example of how the death penalty can’t possibly be unconstitutionally applied fell apart in epic fashion. DNA evidence exonerated the men convicted of the brutal rape and murder of Sabrina Buie. The prosecutor did not oppose release of the men because DNA evidence pointed to the real perpetrator, a criminal who was convicted of a similar crime soon after Sabrina’s murder. Of all the capital cases in America, many (though certainly nowhere near all) of which do involve criminals who actually committed the crime, Justice Scalia chose at random a case that ultimately confirmed Justice Blackmun’s argument. On the heels of his dissent in Windsor, it’s worth wondering if Justice Scalia is cursed to have his every sarcastic quip fly back in his face.

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