A dizzying array of legal news delivered almost non-stop for an entire week. Emotional highs when DOMA is struck down, lows when a pillar of the legal landscape for nearly 50 years is swept aside, leaving millions of Americans even more concerned about their constitutional rights than they were before. There was an epic filibuster and failed jokes. This was a hell of a week to be covering the law.
As the frenzied week draws to a close, I decided to look back and compile my personal review of the major events of the week, gathered in one omnibus post.
So let’s take a look at the week that was ranging from Aaron Hernandez to the Supreme Court…
Elie here. In sports, we assess the legacy of athletes after every game. In politics, we assess the legacy of elected officials after every vote or scandal. So why can’t we do the same for Supreme Court justices?
In case you’ve been living under a rock, it’s been a pretty big week over at One First Street. The Court has decided a number of high-profile, controversial cases. Those decisions have come down with strong holdings, blistering dissents, and stinging concurrences. Each justice is aware that the words they’ve published this week could be around for a long time, long after they’re dead, and will be judged by history.
But who has time to wait for history? David Lat and I engage in some instant legacy analysis on what this week has meant for each of the nine justices on the Supreme Court. Let’s break it down in order of seniority, starting with the Chief….
Today, the Supreme Court surprisingly ruled 7-1 to vacate the Fifth Circuit in Fisher v. Texas. The opinion was a great big dodge. Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, said that the lower court failed to apply “strict scrutiny” to the University of Texas’s admissions policies. Cutting through the legalese, that means the Supreme Court actually upheld the case of Grutter v. Bollinger, which is the controlling case allowing affirmative action in college admissions. While conservative justices indicated that they would have overturned Grutter had they been asked, the majority found that they had not been asked.
If that all sounds like a bunch of legal mumbo jumbo to you that avoids the heart of the issue, you are not a lawyer. You are right, but you aren’t a lawyer.
This is no “victory” for affirmative action. There are still a majority of Supreme Court justices that want, almost desperately, to end racial preferences in college admissions. What the Court did today was threaten colleges and universities that want to use racial preferences to come up with really good justifications for their affirmative action policies. Schools that aren’t really committed to diversity, or that go about achieving diversity in a stupid way, will surely have their programs ruled unconstitutional in the future.
This is, I think, the end of affirmative action as a tool for “racial equality.” But affirmative action as a tool to promote “racial diversity” is alive and well.
Which, all things considered, is just fine by me. I think the Court signaled that it is just no longer buying the old reasons for affirmative action. While the rabid conservatives don’t seem to be wiling to consider any, it looks like moderates like Kennedy may listen to new justifications for using race as a factor in admissions, but you are going to have to convince him….
I want to put to rest all of the nutty conspiracy theories that have circulated around the Fisher case. Any speculation that the Court is struggling with drafting the opinion, or opinions, is pure nonsense.
The truth behind the delay is far more mundane. As you may have guessed, we’re still waiting for the go-ahead from Madame Zena, the official Court Astrologer.
– John Roberts, Chief Justice of the United States, sharing the reason why the Supreme Court has been slow to release the long-awaited opinion in Fisher v. University of Texas, an affirmative action case. It seems Madame Zena “perceived dark times” for any social policy opinion issued while the stars and planets were misaligned. We hope next week’s horoscope looks brighter.
* Today is most likely going to be a banner decision day for the Supreme Court, so in wild anticipation, SCOTUS expert Nina Totenberg was on call to answer some need-to-know questions for the people about the innermost workings of the Court. [NPR]
* One of the opinions we hope will drop at the Supreme Court today is that of the Fisher v. Texas affirmative action case. If you want some hints on how the three justices who attended Princeton (not counting Kagan) might rule, check this out. [Daily Princetonian]
* Justice Samuel Alito is out in Texas where he threw the first pitch — “a bit wide of the plate” — in last night’s Rangers game. Will SCOTUS unleash anything important in his absence? [Washington Post]
* Meanwhile, while we eagerly await decisions in the gay marriage cases next week, consider for a moment the possibility that this is all just but a gigantic train wreck waiting to happen. [New Republic]
* Things are heating up in North Dakota where the battle over abortion regulations continues to rage on. What a shame, especially since we supposedly took care of this stuff in the early 70s. [ABC News]
* “If this is what these women signed up for, who is anybody to tell them differently?” Two pimps were acquitted of sex trafficking after prostitutes testified on their behalf. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]
* Crafty trial tactics out of C-Town. A Cuyahoga County prosecutor was fired after he admitted to posing as a woman in a Facebook chat with an accused killer’s alibi witnesses in an attempt to persuade them to change their testimony. [Cleveland Plain Dealer]
* If you post on Facebook asking your employer to fire you, you can’t get mad when they, you know, fire you. [IT-Lex]
Justice Kennedy announced the majority opinion in a long anticipated case today. It was met with a blistering dissent by Justice Scalia.
Unfortunately for most Court watchers, it was not the opinion in Fisher v. University of Texas, the latest in the Court’s attempts to resolve whether affirmative action in higher education is constitutional. Some observers expressed annoyance.
Instead, the Supreme Court issued a ruling in Maryland v. King, which Justice Alito previously identified as potentially the most important law enforcement decision in decades. The Court held that the police can take your DNA any time you’ve been arrested for a “serious” crime.
Ed. note: Apologies for the technical difficulties that have prevented us from posting until now. Thanks for your patience!
* Attention prospective law school applicants: affirmative action, at least as we currently know it, may not be long for this world. A decision in the Fisher v. University of Texas case is expected as early as this week. Stay tuned. [Reuters]
* Justice Stephen Breyer had to get shoulder replacement surgery after having yet another bike accident (his third, actually). Please — somebody, anybody — get this man some training wheels. Justice is at stake! [New York Times]
* “We’re not going to take it, goodbye.” That’s what retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wishes the high court would have said when it came to the controversial Bush v. Gore case. [Chicago Tribune]
* Thanks to the sequester, the Boston bombings case may turn into a “David and Goliath” situation. Sorry, Dzhokhar, but your defense team may be subject to 15 days of furlough. [National Law Journal]
* George Gallantz, the “founding father” of Proskauer’s sports law practice, RIP. [New York Law Journal]
* Leo Branton Jr., the defense attorney at the helm of the Angela Davis trial, RIP. [New York Times]
* You know, in 20 years, Republicans are going to be telling us that the federal government’s pot taxes are too high. [Washington Post]
* DLA Piper might get in trouble from bragging about the size… of its bills. [Dealbook]
* Michele Bachmann is under investigation for being a demon spawn of the fifth circle from… oh, wait sorry, they’re just looking at her use of campaign funds. [ABC News]
* Is anybody else unreasonably excited to hear what offensive, homophobic remark Justice Scalia makes today? [National Review]
* With everybody looking at gays, I wonder if this will be the day for the Supreme Court to declare the end of racism against white people while doing nothing about racism against black people with a 5-3 (Kagan recusing) decision on Fisher. [SCOTUSblog]
* So, this BlackBerry thing doesn’t seem to be going very well. [Forbes]
Hey, have you read Above the Law for like one single minute in the past month? If so, you probably know that we’re having this big blogger conference on March 14th at the Yale Club. Yeah, the Yale Club. You’ll be able to recognize me: I’ll be the only big… blogger guy surreptitiously holding a can of crimson spray-paint.
Speaking of coming, you should come. We’ve got CLE and all that. Click here to buy tickets to get CLE credit for listening to bloggers scream about stuff on the internet.
To refresh your memory, details on the panel that I’m moderating — almost entirely sober, mind you — follow.
My panel is called Blogs as Agents of Change, and we’re going to talk about whether all of these spilled pixels are actually making a difference. You know my view… just ask Lawrence Mitchell, but here are the panelists:
So you spent a considerable amount of time courting, selling and maybe even doing some friendly stalking of that attractive lateral partner candidate with a sizable book. After he or she ignored your emails and didn’t return your calls, a few weeks go by and you read a press release in the legal media announcing the recent move to a competing firm.
Rats. Another one got away from you. You cringe when you consider how much time was spent in meetings that did not bear fruit. Your heart aches when recall how you were led to believe this was a marriage made in heaven.
You have been rejected.
The sting of rejection is painful, even for fancy law firms. But you need to find a way that you can turn this disappointment into a legitimate learning experience.
No, this isn’t a pre-party before we come back next fall for the real thing. This IS the real thing. Quinn Emanuel is pushing the envelope on recruiting. The party is now. This is when you meet the partners and associates face to face. This is when we begin the dance that could land you an offer for your second summer BEFORE school starts in the fall.
First: You come to the party. Second: If you like us, you send your resume after June 1, 2014. Third: If we like each other, you get an offer.
We’re not waiting for fall. We’re not doing the twenty minute thing. This party is the real thing!
We hope you’ll join us, and look forward to meeting you.
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