John Roberts

If I’m ever euthanized, it hope it’s as gentle as the way Chief Justice John Roberts put down the Voting Rights Act’s preclearance requirement.

Not the whole act, mind you. The prohibition on any “standard, practice, or procedure” that “results in a denial or abridgement of the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color” is still constitutionally permissible. And folks can sue to enforce that.

But the preclearance requbirement is now effectively gone. That’s the rule that the federal government has to approve changes to voting laws in certain jurisdictions that haven’t been so great about race – in that folks registering black people to vote had been murdered in there, or, they’d had really bad records of African-American voter turnout in the past.

Strictly speaking, the preclearance requirement is not gone — it just no longer applies to any jurisdiction in the country any longer. The Court invalidated the method by which it is determined which jurisdictions are subject to preclearance, rather than preclearance itself. So, now no jurisdiction is subject to preclearance — the preclearance formula is gone.

Many people who are concerned about whether black people are allowed to vote think that the preclearance requirement has been an important tool to make sure black people enjoy the right to vote.

Including, it seems, the Chief Justice himself….

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The liberator… of the South.

Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, the South is free at last.

After, man, like decades of having to deal with suspicion and preclearance, man, just because of its 400 year history of slavery and segregation, Chief Justice Roberts held Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act as unconstitutional. Section 4 is the section that outlines which states should be covered for “preclearance” by the federal government before they can change their voting laws. Overruling it overturns one of the biggest and most effective weapons against the Jim Crow South.

Section 5, which gives the government the authority to preclear certain states, still survives. The question is kicked back to Congress to update their “decades old” formula.

Let’s look at the opinions…

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The third week of June is a frustrating time to follow the Supreme Court.

If there’s any institution in contemporary America that understands ceremony, it’s the Court. Such a self-consciously dramatic institution is, in no way, going to underestimate the importance of timing in issuing opinions. The Justices know that there’s a big difference between a story — or a history book — that starts “On the last day of the Term, the Supreme Court decided,” versus “On the third to last day of the Term….”

There is, in short, just about zero chance that this close to the end, yet not quite at the end, the Supreme Court is going to issue an opinion in the Texas affirmative action case, the Voting Rights Act case, the challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act, or the California Proposition 8 case.

And yet, the Court still issues opinions. And we still line up to hear them, or push SCOTUSblog’s liveblog viewer-count to even higher numbers, even if we all know, or should know, that the opinions we get are not opinions that will resonate through the ages.

Today, the Supreme Court did issue three opinions. And one of them is important, if only for disaffected teenagers. The rest you may not care about, unless you’re a felon with a gun or you ever signed an arbitration agreement….

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‘I see angry journalists in your future.’

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.

(P.S. This quote is obviously satirical, and it comes from Non Curat Lex, a law blog that’s run by Kyle Graham of Santa Clara University School of Law.)

Hint: the smallest justice may have the biggest net worth.

If you said Justice Sonia Sotomayor, that wouldn’t be a bad guess. She has earned millions of dollars in royalties from her bestselling book, My Beloved World (affiliate link). Her days of dental debts are behind her.

But she’s still far from the richest member of the Court. That honor would appear to belong to another woman, whose stature might be small but whose net worth is gigantic….

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* When SCOTUS cases involve public companies and rulings are misinterpreted, it can lead to some pretty volatile stock performance, as was evidenced by yesterday’s highs and lows for Myriad Genetics of BRCA1 patent fame. [Washington Post]

* The ethics complaint against Judge Edith Jones of the Fifth Circuit has been transferred to the D.C. Circuit after receiving a blessing from the Chief Justice of the United States. Uh oh, that’s serious business if Roberts is involved. [Times-Picayune]

* The number of women working in the NLJ 350 is sad. They make up only one-third of all attorneys working in Biglaw, and we’re stuck celebrating the tiniest positive changes. Sigh. [National Law Journal]

* Proskauer Rose’s former CFO, Elly Rosenthal, settled her $10M disability discrimination suit against the firm in anticlimactic fashion, “without costs to any party as against the others.” [Am Law Daily]

* California is obviously trying to one-up New York with this one. In addition to a 50-hour pro bono requirement, they’re pushing for 15 hours of real-world training before bar admission. [The Recorder]

* Try to stop a man from throwing a pie in your husband’s face and in return you’ll be served with your wifely walking papers a few years later. Aww, Rupert Murdoch is such a kind old man. [Bloomberg]

Dred Scott

[UPDATE: You know how you can get people to read your post -- put the wrong date on it. Now updated to June]

* Slave law is still considered “good law” by the courts? Originalism is alive and well! [Post & Found]

* For the first time ever, the Washington Post’s scavenger hunt/riddle/prove how pretentious we are competition was won by a single individual. Congratulations to Sullivan and Cromwell’s Sean Memon, an ’08 Duke grad, who prevailed after figuring out that nothing was happening. That makes sense when you read the article. [Constitutional Daily]

* Here’s an argument against affirmative action based on the premise that black people at the barest of margins may be hindered by having too good of a résumé. This is, well, wrong, but much more intellectual than the arguments against affirmative action advanced by the Chief Justice. [Ramblings on Appeal]

* A San Diego lawyer is seeking a young attorney in L.A. to work for slightly more than peanuts. But the requirements are entertaining, like confidence that “you are going to be the next F. Lee Baily or Johnny Cochran.” The poster is also an “elderly gay man (late 50′s).” Is that really elderly anymore? [Craigslist]

* More on the problems facing the D.C. Circuit. Probably a good reason to shrink the complement of the Circuit. [SSRN]

* Another look at the business benefits of blogging. Get out there, people! [Likelihood of Confusion]

* Hey there, lawyers! The Wall Street Journal would like you to know that you and your ilk are responsible for the student loan bailout. Video after ye olde jump…

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The appellate court facing the most complex workload in the country is also tiny and overworked. Only the First Circuit has fewer active slots, and with three vacancies, the D.C. Circuit has fewer judges than its sibling courts with 11 active judges.

So it should come as no surprise that some senators are actively trying to shrink the D.C. Circuit.

The crux of their beef is that actually filling the three vacancies on the court would constitute court packing, because no one on the Hill has bothered to pick up an AP U.S. History textbook and figure out what “court packing” means.

But when you strip away the partisan stupidity and actually look at the numbers, there’s a really good argument in favor of “court packing” because this Circuit could use an extra judge or two…

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Ed. note: Above the Law will not be publishing on Monday, May 27, in observance of the Memorial Day holiday.

* Manhattan Justice Paul Wooten has ordered CBS to produce all emails between it and the Brooklyn DA’s office concerning “Brooklyn D.A.” and ordered a hearing this afternoon. CBS attorneys are irritated. Now they know how everyone feels when they have to watch Two and a Half Men. [WiseLaw NY]

* Lois Lerner, the embattled IRS supervisor at the heart of the recent scandal, invoked the Fifth Amendment in her congressional hearing, but in a way that may open the door to contempt. Ironically, maintaining innocence while invoking the Fifth opens one up to “heightened scrutiny.” As noted in Morning Docket, she’s been put on administrative leave. [Simple Justice]

* T.J. Duane, a co-founder of Lateral Link, was named one of the 17 Stanford business students who is going to change the world. Duane is working on technology to “provid[e] solo and boutique attorneys the benefits without the drawbacks of big law.” That’s much better than my proposal to provide solo and boutique attorneys the drawbacks without the benefits of big law, which is just a device that passive-aggressively second-guesses every decision a lawyer makes. [Business Insider]

* The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has asked the Supreme Court to uphold the D.C. Circuit’s decision holding Obama’s NLRB recess appointments unconstitutional because the appointments caused “major confusion for both employers and employees alike.” They’ve got a point. Not having a quorum on the NLRB because the Senate refuses to confirm anyone and plays parliamentary games does provide certainty… the certainty that the NLRB cannot function and it’s a free-for-all against workers. [Free Enterprise]

* Law school applications are down, but not as drastically as expected. [Faculty Lounge]

* In any event, law schools are facing an economic reckoning dubbed “Peak Law School.” [Lawyers, Guns & Money]

* A new CBO report analyzes the impact of a carbon tax, in case you’re preparing to start papering cap-and-trade deals. [Breaking Energy]

* Do potential clients really care about social media? I “Like” this story. [Associate's Mind]

* Courtesy of the ABA Journal, you can check out the swag Chief Justice Roberts and Eric Holder got from foreign nations in 2010 after the jump…

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Ed. note: This is the latest installment of Righteous Indignation, our new column for conservative-minded lawyers.

On Monday, the Supreme Court decided City of Arlington v. FCC. The question before SCOTUS was whether courts must defer to a federal regulatory agency’s interpretation of a statutory ambiguity even when that ambiguity involves the scope of the agency’s authority — its own jurisdiction.

Justice Scalia wrote for the majority, holding that even in cases such as this one, agencies are entitled to the usual deference established in Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. — aka Chevron deference. Chief Justice Roberts dissented, joined by Justices Kennedy and Alito.

The outcome of City of Arlington should be noteworthy to Court watchers — and conservatives in particular — for several reasons. First, the Scalia-Roberts split quiets the simplistic refrain that SCOTUS decides cases down rigid liberal-conservative lines. Second, it highlights an ongoing debate among conservative members of the Court about fundamental issues concerning the separation of powers and constitutional governance. Third, the Scalia and Roberts opinions demonstrate that, far from reserving their barbs for the left, conservatives can be pretty darn snarky amongst themselves.

So, let’s have a closer look….

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