Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court issued two eagerly anticipated rulings in major gay marriage cases. In United States v. Windsor, the challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act, the Court struck down Section 3 of DOMA. In Hollingsworth v. Perry, the challenge to California’s Proposition 8 ban on gay marriage, the Court held that the petitioners lacked standing to appeal, vacated the decision of the Ninth Circuit, and remanded with instructions to dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. This left the district court’s ruling intact and had the effect of allowing same-sex marriages to take place in California (although there’s some litigation winding its way through the courts on this matter).
Now that we have the decisions, let’s take a deeper dive into them. What do they reflect about the Court’s role in society? And what can we expect from future SCOTUS rulings in this area?
* 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]
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 . . . .
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….
Or, if you prefer, a ruling on marriage equality. We knew this ruling was coming because the Ninth Circuit kindly informed us in advance that its opinion would be issued today: “The Court anticipates filing an opinion tomorrow (Tuesday, February 7) by 10:00 a.m. in Perry v. Brown, case numbers 10-16696 and 11-16577, regarding the constitutionality of Proposition 8 and the denial of a motion to vacate the lower court judgement in the case.”
The Ninth Circuit’s practice of providing advance notice of certain opinion filings is very helpful to those who cover the court. It would be nice if other circuit courts followed the Ninth Circuit’s lead. (Yes, I just typed that sentence.)
[We were going to call this post something like "Associate Bonus Watch: Susman Godfrey Beats Cravath Too." But then we felt bad for singling out Cravath for paying unsatisfyingbonuses, when so many other Biglaw firms have followed suit. So we went with a tamer title instead.]
Just as it did last year, the powerhouse litigation boutique of Susman Godfrey announced associate bonuses that put the bonus scales of most other firms to shame. Happy Holidays, Susman Godfrey associates!
(By the way, Susman is a firm that celebrates the season in high style. The holiday party of its New York office, catered by acclaimed chef Daniel Boulud, is already legendary, even though it’s of fairly recent vintage.)
So, the Susman bonuses — what are we looking at here?
Over the weekend, a quaint little festival took place up in Hebron, Maine: the Redneck Olympics. Don’t ask me why this event happened in Maine. I didn’t think that rednecks were allowed to cross the Mason-Dixon line. The event featured typical redneck fare, including a greased watermelon haul, a wife-carrying race, toilet seat horseshoes, and bobbing for pig’s feet. Needless to say, it was a hit.
So naturally, when I heard that a lawsuit was brewing over Maine’s summer games, I wondered what could have happened. Was someone injured during a Dukes of Hazard-style car jump competition? Did someone get whiplash after one too many bucks on the mechanical bull? Was there an abundance of alcohol poisoning after the PBR case race?
But none of these things happened. No arrests were made, and the lone injury was a bee sting. So why is the organizer of the Redneck Olympics facing a lawsuit? Let the games begin, y’all….
Many state and local courts do have cameras in the courtroom (unlike most of their federal counterparts), but other forms of technology are still frequently verboten. Some courts prohibit cellphones, laptops, and, in the traffic court I once attended, reading the newspaper.
Yet slowly, with much weeping and gnashing of teeth, some enlightened folks in Massachusetts are introducing a local court to the joys of web cams and unnecessarily detailed twitter posts.
Spurred on by a large grant from the James S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the OpenCourt Project officially began on Monday at the Quincy District Court.
Seriously though, OpenCourt is pretty cool. How does it work?
Judge Vaughn Walker, the man who overturned Proposition 8 in California, is gay. He even admitted it. You know what that means, don’t you? [Wink, wink]. I mean, the man is gay so clearly… like, do I have to spell it out for you? He’s a man who likes to have sex with other men, how can he possibly be impartial when it comes to whether or not God wants marriage defined as something exclusively between a man and a woman. Well, not God exactly, I mean that law… and the voters, you know. The law that has traditionally defined marriage as a union between man and woman under God. You know what I’m getting at. How can he impartially judge the law on this matter when he wants to do it in the butt with another man??? That’s got to make him tainted or damaged or somehow unfit, I mean d’uh, right?
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, at long last the anti-gay marriage movement has been unmasked for what it is; disgusting homophobia and bigotry wrapped up in voter referendums and moving documents. Yesterday afternoon ProtectMarriage (a supporter of the California ban on gay marriage) moved to have Judge Vaughn Walker’s ruling set aside because Walker is gay. I’m being entirely serious; the sole basis for their legal argument here is that Walker is gay and in a relationship. Somehow, this made Walker unfit for deciding whether or not gays and lesbians should have the legal right to marry.
ProtectMarriage’s indignation would be more interesting to me if it wasn’t so covered in crap. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t recall them arguing that married men cannot impartially preside over divorce proceedings.
But I’m sorry, to even pretend like the above are useful analogies gives ProtectMarriage more credit than they deserve. They world they propose living in is truly ludicrous…
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