Samuel Alito

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.

I thought this was a wonderful idea. Why don’t we implement this in the United States? Until I found out that at the end of the process they actually unlock the door and they let them out.

– Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, riffing on the Supreme Court of Canada’s practice of briefing reporters on new rulings inside of a locked room, in remarks he delivered at Roger Williams University School of Law.

How many justices can you name?

Despite all the recent controversy surrounding U.S. Supreme Court decisions on health care, immigration and other issues, nearly two-thirds of Americans can’t name even a single member of the Supreme Court.

– a depressing conclusion drawn from a recent FindLaw telephone survey on the Supreme Court.

(What else can be learned from the absurd results of this survey?)

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The Supreme Court session starts at 10:00 a.m. At 9:55, a tall man with broad shoulders and little neck — a man with an ear piece running out of the back of his suit coat — tells everyone in the Courtroom to be quiet and stay in their seats until the session is over. The room quiets.

This is the calm before the storm. No one expects any of this term’s true blockbusters to be announced today – there will be no health care decision, no ruling on the constitutionality of the Stolen Valor Act, no ruling on whether Arizona gets to codify its very strong dislike of immigrants.

During this time, those who watch the Court are scanning for signs of either discord or harmony. Even a concert at the Court invites scrutiny of which Justice is chummier with which other Justice. The Supreme Court watching world is like a group of eight-year-olds in the week before Christmas, sniffing the presents under the tree and trying to hunt through their parents’ closets. It’s dignified.

The Courtroom is silent after the broad man quiets us. And then, growing louder, we hear voices. Male voices. And laughter, booming male laughter, as the Chief and Justice Scalia emerge through the parted curtains, and Court is called to order.

What does the laughter mean? Is Obamacare all but destroyed? Is a secret deal finally sealed? Or did the Chief Justice share a bit of ribald humor from his native Indiana?

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What business does a case like that have in the courts of the United States?

– Justice Samuel Alito, during today’s oral arguments in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum. The case will determine whether the 223-year-old Alien Tort Statute allows corporations to be sued in U.S. courts for violations of international law. You can view the entire argument transcript on the SCOTUS website.

C'mon, Your Honors, look lively!

Tonight, as everyone knows, President Barack Obama will deliver his State of the Union address. The speech starts at 9 p.m. (Eastern time). For real-time reactions over Twitter, follow @ATLblog, @DavidLat, @ElieNYC, and @StaciZaretsky. For a post-speech wrap-up, check Above the Law, either late tonight or tomorrow morning.

For Supreme Court nerds, here’s the perennial question: How many members of SCOTUS will show up at the SOTU? Feel free to make your guesses, in the comments.

Here’s some historical perspective to inform your speculation….

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The Supreme Court just handed down a unanimous opinion ruling in one of the most closely watched cases of the year. All the justices agreed on the result, but diverged significantly in reasoning.

This morning, the court issued its decision in United States v. Jones. Police in Washington, D.C. placed a GPS tracking device on the car of Antoine Jones, a nightclub owner, without obtaining a warrant. The GPS device helped law enforcement link Jones to a house used to store drugs and money. He was eventually convicted and sentenced to life in prison. An appeals court later overturned his conviction.

The central issue in Jones was whether attaching a GPS device to a car (i.e., allowing law enforcement 24/7 access to a person’s movements), without obtaining a warrant first, violated the Fourth Amendment.

The case has been heralded as one of the most important privacy cases in recent memory. Wired’s Threat Level blog said Jones “is arguably the biggest Fourth Amendment case in the computer age.” Editor emerita Kashmir Hill attended oral arguments for the case back in November.

What did the justices say? The ruling might surprise you…

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SCOTUS has spoken on S&C's screw-up.

We’ve previously written about the mailroom of death at Sullivan & Cromwell. To make a long story short (read our prior posts for the full background), a mailroom mix-up at 125 Broad Street caused an Alabama death-row inmate to miss a deadline for filing an appeal. The Eleventh Circuit rejected the condemned man’s attempt to reopen his case.

Presumably feeling bad for what had happened, S&C appealed to the Supreme Court. The firm hired a leading SCOTUS advocate — former Solicitor General Gregory Garre, now a partner at Latham & Watkins — to argue that prisoner Cory Maples shouldn’t forfeit his life because of S&C’s screw-up.

This morning, the Supreme Court handed down its ruling in Maples v. Thomas. What did the high court have to say?

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If Learned Hand’s opinions are like the products of a bespoke tailor, the opinions coming out of the Ninth Circuit are like the products of a factory that is staffed by machines and menial workers who are overseen from afar by a handful of overworked managers.

– Justice Samuel Alito, in a recent speech at Rutgers School of Law (Newark), lamenting the decline of craftsmanship in judicial opinions.

(An interesting fact about Justice Alito and the Ninth Circuit, after the jump.)

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Would you like some doc review with that?

* How can you pick a side when it comes to fairness and the law? Can you straddle the fence? Don’t ask Justice Alito, because he’s still not really sure what the answers are. [New York Times]

* Paul Ceglia is finding out the hard way that court orders aren’t like annoying Facebook friend requests. You can’t just tell your lawyers to ignore them and hope they’ll go away. [Bloomberg]

* From occupying Wall Street to occupying the courts? 99% lawyers are threatening to clog up the courts if their demands aren’t met. At least they’d have a toilet to do it in. [New York Daily News]

* “If your choice is between going to Liberty Law or working a deep-fat fryer, you might as well go to Liberty, right?” Lat, I think we really need to have a chat. [Commercial Appeal]

* If I had a dollar for every dude who had an Asian adventure involving a Thai ladyboy, I’d be rich, but it doesn’t mean that The Hangover II was based on their exploits. [Hollywood Reporter]

Celebrity Skin: a great album, by the way.

Last month, we asked: Who are this year’s celebrity summer associates? In recent years, major law firms have hosted famous figures as summer associates, including a successful author, a not-so-successful author, and a reality TV beauty.

This year, the celebrity wattage is considerably lower. But there are still a few notable names floating out there (and we welcome additional submissions, by email). For example, we recently wrote about actor Wai Choy, a former co-star of Lindsay Lohan who is now summering at Proskauer in New York.

Our next celebrity summer associate isn’t super-famous in his own right (even though he’s as good-looking as many a Hollywood actor). Instead, he derives his celebrity from a famous father.

So who is he, and where does he work?

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