California

Of course California has a school district that teaches yoga as a P.E. class. It’s just the right mix of health consciousness and non-competitive physical activity that aging hippies would want in their schools.

And, of course California also has parents who would file a lawsuit complaining that yoga is some sort of crypto-religious activity being foisted upon their kids in a gross violation of the separation of church and state.

Now a judge has weighed in on the parents’ lawsuit…

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* Who is the real John Roberts? Will he forever be known as health care reform’s savior, or the man who disregarded precedent to gut minority voting rights? Hell if we know, so we’ll let you be the judge. [Opinionator / New York Times]

* The man may be a mystery, but one thing’s for sure when it comes to Chief Justice Roberts: it’s fair to say that at this point, he’d sincerely appreciate it if his colleagues would kindly STFU during oral argument. [Big Story / Associated Press]

* Elena Kagan, a justice who was never a judge, is now being praised for her ability to put the law into terms that non-lawyers can understand. That’s a score for law professors everywhere. [New York Times]

* In terms of the Voting Rights Act, while the chances of the current Congress enacting a universal voting law are approximately nil, there are other effective avenues that could be taken. [New York Times]

* On Friday, the Ninth Circuit lifted the stay on gay marriages in California, and less than 24 hours later, Prop 8 supporters filed an emergency motion with SCOTUS to stop all of the weddings. Lovely. [NPR]

* Meanwhile, ex-judge Vaughn Walker thinks Justice Scalia’s having joined the high court’s majority on standing telegraphed the fact that he didn’t have votes to uphold Prop 8 as constitutional. [NPR]

* Rubber stamp this: Judges on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court are so upset that they’re being made out as government patsies that they’re talking to the press about it. [Washington Post]

* Whether you think Chevron is “suing [Patton Boggs] lawyers for litigating” or for promoting fraud that “shocks the conscience,” here’s a summary of what’s going on in an epic case. [Washington Post]

* Got a high-profile criminal defense firm? Look out, because you may have captured Biglaw’s eye. Take, for example, Stillman & Friedman, which will be merging with Ballard Spahr. [New York Times]

* Apparently being in your mid-50s is a “good time to [retire]” for law deans who pull in six figures. Ken Randall, outgoing dean of Alabama Law, says he’s “really ready for the next challenge.” [AL.com]

* Do you think Chief Justice Roberts is the Supreme Court’s “peacemaker”? To be fair, at least he does a better job of tempering all of his judicial rage than his colleagues. [Politico]

* According to Prof. John Eastman of Chapman Law, the SCOTUS decision striking down DOMA means Prop 8 is good law in California. Try and wrap your mind around that one. [OC Weekly]

* The Senate approved a bipartisan immigration reform plan with a 68-32 vote, and now it’s up to House representatives to take the bill and summarily wipe their asses with it. [Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)]

* The good folks at Hobby Lobby quilted for hours yesterday to celebrate the Tenth Circuit’s reversal of a lower court’s denial of an injunction blocking the ACA’s contraceptives mandate. [The Oklahoman]

* Texas A&M still hopes to acquire Texas Weslyan’s law school; they’re just waiting for the ABA to look over the paperwork. Welcome, Texas A&M Law, since the takeover will obviously be approved. [WTAW]

* Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been indicted on 30 counts of violence and weapons-related charges. Right now, he’s looking at a possibility of life in prison or the death penalty. [CNN]

Kamala D. Harris

Same-sex marriages can legally resume in California as soon as the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals lifts its stay on the District Court Ruling. I ask that the Ninth Circuit lift this stay immediately, because gay and lesbian couples in California have waited long enough for their full civil rights.

– California Attorney General Kamala Harris, calling upon the Ninth Circuit to act sua sponte prior to receiving a mandate from the U.S. Supreme Court, which could take 25 days or more to occur.

(For additional thoughts on the future of gay marriage in California post-Perry, see Marty Lederman and Howard Wasserman.)

A deadly explosion killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes in San Bruno, California on September 9, 2010. The cause of the destruction was a natural gas pipeline owned by Pacific Gas & Electric that ran underneath the homes.

The subsequent investigation turned up a litany of failings on PG&E’s part that contributed to the explosion. PG&E’s regulator, the California Public Utilities Commission, issued a recommendation that PG&E pay no fine, noting that the money the company was spending to modernize its pipelines to prevent future accidents was punishment enough.

This is when a number of CPUC attorneys took a stand against their boss, and their boss clumsily aired the office turmoil in public. And, yes, this all eventually involves the Taliban and a gun-toting enforcer…

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The Supreme Court’s decision in Windsor got the attention of the day yesterday, if not the attention of the Term, even if it doesn’t instantaneously make same-sex marriage the law of the land. Shelby County’s Voting Rights Act ruling was historic, but not as historic as it might have been. Section 4’s formula was struck down, but with Section 5 still in place, Congress has an opportunity to redraft an alternative. Fisher’s remand was no mighty victory for either side of the affirmative action debate. It emphasized that strict scrutiny review demands that UT get less deference than the Fifth Circuit panel gave the school. But we really know that this week’s opinion just kicks the can down the road, teeing up next Term’s Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action.

In important ways, Shelby County and Fisher, and in slightly different ways Windsor, keep us talking. Talking about hard issues, but talking. That’s part of the tough stuff of democracy. But SCOTUS’s decision in the California Proposition 8 case, Hollingsworth v. Perry, shuts down democratic dialogue in a way that should make all of us wince. I would rather listen to a thousand screaming Mystals argue about affirmative action through the end of OT 2013 than live with the consequences of this week’s decision in Hollingsworth . . . .

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Some say that San Diego has the best weather in the continental United States. But it seems that the climate there might be less than hospitable for large law firms.

Last year, Baker & McKenzie closed its office in San Diego, finding the metropolis didn’t live up to its nickname of “America’s finest city.” And now we have news of another Biglaw firm shutting down its S.D. outpost.

It’s not on the scale of the massive Weil layoffs, but the closing could cause a significant number of lawyers and staff to lose their jobs. Here are the details….

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The front of the Supreme Court building: ‘Equal Justice Under Law.’ (Click to enlarge.)

The Supreme Court was called to order at 10:00 a.m. sharp. The Chief Justice announced, “Justice Kennedy has our first opinion of the day in case number 12-307, United States v. Windsor. Everyone, in the bar members section at least, knew that this was the Defense of Marriage Act case.

That Justice Kennedy was announcing the opinion was significant; he wrote Lawrence v. Texas. Still, no one knew if the Court would reach the merits, since the Solicitor General had announced that the Executive Branch would not defend the constitutionality of DOMA.

Justice Kennedy is an orderly man. He set out the procedural background – Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer were married legally in Canada, then came home to New York. Their same-sex marriage is lawful where it was performed and where they lived. Spyer died and left her estate to Windsor. Windsor sought to claim an estate tax exemption for the death of a spouse. DOMA prevented the IRS from recognizing Spyer as Windsor’s spouse. Windsor paid the tax, then challenged DOMA. She won in the district court and the Second Circuit. Justice Kennedy explained how a bipartisan committee found counsel to defend DOMA, and how DOMA was defended ably in the Supreme Court.

(As an aside, Paul Clement took heat for defending DOMA for Congress. When you think about it, if he hadn’t defended it well, the Supreme Court may not have thought it could reach the issue. Paul Clement may be the unsung hero of the DOMA decision.)

So, Kennedy concluded, the Court could reach the merits of whether DOMA is constitutional.

Though a hopeful sign for those who would cheer the demise of DOMA, the decision wasn’t entirely clear….

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The headline in The Onion, which we noted earlier today, pretty much says it all: “Impatient Nation Demands Supreme Court Just Get To The Gay Stuff.” Today, the last day of the Term, SCOTUS granted our wish, issuing its long-awaited rulings on gay marriage in California and on the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

Last night, I attended the New York City Bar Association’s annual reception and cocktail party celebrating LGBT Pride Month. M. Dru Levasseur of Lambda Legal and Lisa Linsky were honored for their work advancing LGBT rights. In her eloquent remarks, Linsky noted that despite all the progress of our community, and regardless of what the Supreme Court rules today, many battles remain to be fought.

How many more battles, and of what intensity? Let’s find out what the Court just decided, on the tenth anniversary of the landmark decision in Lawrence v. Texas….

Please note the multiple UPDATES added below.

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Last summer, we brought you a tale about some mom-and-dad law grads who had been accused of planting a potpourri of drugs and drug paraphernalia in a school aide’s car for her apparent failure to “properly supervise” their child. At the time, Kent Wycliffe Easter (UCLA Law ’98) and Jill Bjorkholm Easter (Boalt Hall ’98) were charged with conspiracy to procure a false arrest, false imprisonment, and conspiracy to falsely report a crime.

The pair later pleaded not guilty, but were indicted for those crimes in October. A fact that hasn’t been trumpeted from the rooftops — perhaps it wasn’t salacious enough? — is that according to court records, the complaint against the Easters was dismissed in November.

UPDATE (6/26/2013): But note that the grand jury indictment is still pending.

Kent and Jill Easter are understandably upset after having been dragged through the mud for so long, regardless of the fact they’re still under indictment. And so, like any lawyer would do, the Easters are now suing several parties for defamation….

Please note the UPDATES throughout this post.

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