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The funniest justice, week 8: When the whole world laughed

cjrobertsThere was only one day of oral arguments at the Supreme Court this week. And the three cases heard yesterday did not provide much opportunity for laughter in the courtroom (that is, aside from the laughter in the press gallery as reporters rehashed the presidential oath flub heard around the world).

Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. did manage to make the crowd laugh once inside the courtroom. While some court watchers were expecting him to make some sort of self-effacing comment regarding the trouble he had with President Barack Obama’s oath Tuesday – Roberts does, after all, have a pretty good sense of humor – he made no reference to it at all. (Legal Times’ Tony Mauro thinks he may have heard something in the way Roberts pronounced the word “clerk.” DC Dicta didn’t catch that, but we always defer to Tony’s ear, being the astute reporter that he is.)

Justice Stephen Breyer was the only other justice to get a laugh, which creates a real three-way contest in the quest to be the Funniest Justice of the term. Usually Justice Antonin Scalia runs away with it by now, but Nino better think of some funny quips quickly if he wants to stay in top.

Here are the laugh standings after eight weeks of oral arguments:

Justice Antonin Scalia: 29

Justice Stephen Breyer: 22

Chief Justice John Roberts: 20 (Not counting the laughs he may have received Tuesday)

Justice David Souter: 9

Justice Anthony Kennedy: 9

Justice John Paul Stevens: 6

Justice Samuel Alito: 2

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: 1

Justice Clarence Thomas: 0 (Thomas hasn’t made a remark during oral arguments since Feb. 22, 2006).

Obama, Roberts redo the oath

You really can’t make this stuff up.

Just when we thought the whole Oath-gate episode was finally winding down comes word that Chief Justice John G. Roberts re-administered the oath of office to President Barack Obama about an hour ago.

According to CNN, Obama retook the oath at about 7:35pm Wednesday in the White House Map Room. The move was perhaps to quell the conspiracy theories questioning whether the first oath, which was badly botched, actually took.

Constitutionally, Obama became president at noon Tuesday – no matter what he or the Chief Justice said. But the new administration just wanted dotted “i”s and crossed “t”s.

“We believe that the oath of office was administered effectively and that the president was sworn in appropriately yesterday,” White House counsel Greg Craig said in a statement.

UPDATE: And now we have the official redo photo:

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Holder on hold, Hillary a go

ericholder1After a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting, which was described by CNN as rancorous, the committee’s vote on the confirmation of President Barack Obama’s attorney general nominee Eric Holder has been postponed until next Wednesday.

Holder still is all but sure to be confirmed ultimately, but GOP senators still have more questions about Holder’s role in former President Bill Clinton’s pardoning of billionaire fugitive Marc Rich. Rich’s then wife, Denise, was a generous Clinton donor.

hill2Meanwhile, former Sen. Hillary Clinton is expected to be confirmed as Secretary of State this afternoon. Media outlets are reporting that Clinton will likely be almost immediately sworn into office. UPDATE: Clinton has been confirmed by the Senate as Secretary of State by a vote of 94-2.

Biden gets a Supreme zinger in

bidenJust minutes ago, Vice President Joe Biden swore in members of the White House staff. Before doings so, he couldn’t help himself from making a joke:

“My memory is not as good as chief Justice Roberts,” Biden said, indicating he would read the oath to the new appointees instead of attempting to say it by heart as Roberts did with the presidential oath yesterday, to problematic results.

Biden’s quip drew laughs from the new staffers, as well as reporters.

UPDATE: As some tipsters have pointed out to DC Dicta, there was one person in attendance who clearly did not find Biden’s quip funny in the least: President Barack Obama. In this clip you can clearly see Obama grimace and shake his head at Biden’s remark. Obama also gave the vice president a little pat with his hand as if to say: “Just get on with it, Joe.”

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Chatter about the Chief’s misplaced “faith”

obamaswearDespite yesterday’s administration handover in Washington, and all the pomp and circumstance involved, today the courtroom of the U.S. Supreme Court seemed like any other. There was no real sense that anything had changed – except for the fact that the docket sheet indicated that Edwin Kneedler is now acting solicitor general, replacing Bush’s last appointee Gregory Garre.

But in the press box this morning, the reporters were all atwitter over yesterday’s presidential oath, which was, er, botched a bit by the Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr.

As reporters waited for the Court to come to session, the Court’s press corps was going over just what caused the Chief and President Barack Obama to have such a tough time with the 35-word oath.

The consensus: Roberts made a mistake in the timing of the oath – rather than pausing after Obama’s name, he continued, interrupting Obama with “do solemnly swear,” tripping up the incoming president a bit. Then he said a line from the oath in the wrong order, sticking the word “faithfully” in the wrong spot. Obama, clearly recognizing the error, sort of paused and nodded. This is when it got thorny.

Roberts tried to repeat the phrase by rearranging the words in the correct order. But instead of placing the “faithfully” back in its rightful place, Roberts mixed the words in a way that was nonsensical: “the office — faithfully the president — the office of president of the United States.”

As one longtime Supreme Court reporter recounted to his colleagues this morning: “He eventually got all the words out, but order was all mangled – like those poetry refrigerator magnets.” That got a laugh from the reporters and the audience members in earshot.

When the justices came into the room and Roberts called the Court to order, however, not another word was uttered about his mishap.

Chatter about the Chief’s misplaced “faith”

obamaswearDespite yesterday’s administration handover in Washington, and all the pomp and circumstance involved, today the courtroom of the U.S. Supreme Court seemed like any other. There was no real sense that anything had changed – except for the fact that the docket sheet indicated that Edwin Kneedler is now acting solicitor general, replacing Bush’s last appointee Gregory Garre.

But in the press box this morning, the reporters were all atwitter over yesterday’s presidential oath, which was, er, botched a bit by the Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr.

As reporters waited for the Court to come to session, the Court’s press corps was going over just what caused the Chief and President Barack Obama to have such a tough time with the 35-word oath.

The consensus: Roberts made a mistake in the timing of the oath – rather than pausing after Obama’s name, he continued, interrupting Obama with “do solemnly swear,” tripping up the incoming president a bit. Then he said a line from the oath in the wrong order, sticking the word “faithfully” in the wrong spot. Obama, clearly recognizing the error, sort of paused and nodded. This is when it got thorny.

Roberts tried to repeat the phrase by rearranging the words in the correct order. But instead of placing the “faithfully” back in its rightful place, Roberts mixed the words in a way that was nonsensical: “the office — faithfully the president — the office of president of the United States.”

As one longtime Supreme Court reporter recounted to his colleagues this morning: “He eventually got all the words out, but order was all mangled – like those poetry refrigerator magnets.” That got a laugh from the reporters and the audience members in earshot.

When the justices came into the room and Roberts called the Court to order, however, not another word was uttered about his mishap.

Friday morning docket: Administration change edition

officialobamaLet’s face it – the only thing on the minds of just about everyone in this town is the four-day weekend of inaugural activities, particularly Tuesday’s events surrounding the installation of the country’s 44th president: Barack Obama. So while people buy extra layers of outwear to withstand the cold of the outside activities, and pick ip those last inaugural ball accessories, let’s take a look at the legal news:

Bush says bye: In his last televised speech to the nation, the outgoing president reflected on the last eight years, saying: “I have always acted with the best interests of our country in mind. I have followed my conscience and done what I thought was right.”

Holder in the hot seat: It wasn’t all fun and games. During Senate confirmation hearings yesterday attorney general nominee Eric Holder talked of torture, trying Gitmo detainees in U.S. courts, and restoring morale and credibility to the Justice Department. (NYT)

Another FDA SNAFU: A report said that the Food and Drug Administration should fulfill promises it made to fix its system for approving medical devices. (NYT)

Fraudulent helping hands: One of the fallouts of the mortgage foreclosure debacle is a cottage industry of mortgage modification or “mortgage rescue” companies. And when many of these companies say “rescue” they really mean “fraud,” consumer advocates warn. (Lawyers USA)

Get a lawyer at your own risk: In a decision that halts one of the most common bases for appealing deportation decisions, Attorney General Michael Mukasey has ruled that defendants in removal hearings cannot make Fifth Amendment claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. (Lawyers USA)

Top 10 verdicts of 2008: Check out Lawyers USA’s list of the top individual-plaintiff verdicts last year. (Lawyers USA)

Holder grilled on hoop skills

In moment of levity during today’s confirmation hearings for attorney general nominee Eric Holder, Sen. Herb Kohl asked Holder a question that has been on the minds of many on the Hill: Is Holder independent enough to beat President-elect Barack Obama in a game of hoops, or would he cave and let Obama win?

Here’s Holder’s answer:

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The Funniest Justice, week 7: Serious Supremes

supremeobamaIt’s been a busy week at the Supreme Court. Aside from hearing oral arguments, The justices handed down four decisions (more on those here, here, here and here). They even had a couple of high-profile visitors stop by.

Perhaps the seriousness of the opinion topics and the upcoming historic transfer of executive power caused the justices to be more serious and less silly on the bench this week. The laughs were few and far between, according to our ongoing review of court transcripts.

Unlike other weeks, where the crowd laughed dozens of times, this week the justices only garnered five rounds of giggles in the Court: two from quips made by the Court’s reigning funny man Justice Antonin Scalia,  two from Justice Stephen Breyer’s comments, and one from a funny made by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr.

(Looking at the picture, perhaps they saves all their laughs for the incoming president and vice president?)

Here are the laugh standings so for this term, based on Court transcripts:

Justice Antonin Scalia: 29

Justice Stephen Breyer: 21

Chief Justice John Roberts: 19

Justice David Souter: 9

Justice Anthony Kennedy: 9

Justice John Paul Stevens: 6

Justice Samuel Alito: 2

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: 1

Justice Clarence Thomas: 0 (Thomas hasn’t made a remark during oral arguments since Feb. 22, 2006).

Obama, Biden go see the Supremes

supremes

When President-elect Barack Obama and Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. come face to face at next week’s inauguration , it will not be the first time the two have a chance to chat.

Obama and Roberts, along with Vice President-elect Joe Biden and the rest of the Supreme Court’s justices, will get together Wednesday afternoon at the Supreme Court.

Obama and Biden will go to the Court at the invitation of Roberts, who clearly is not holding a grudge against the men for voting against his confirmation when they were in the Senate. They will mingle with the other justices, and possibly get a tour of the place, according to The Washington Post.

obama2This meeting isn’t wholly unexpected. Traditionally the Court’s justices have invited presidents-elect to visit at least in recent years – in fact, a tardy Bill Clinton memorably kept the justices waiting in 1992.

DC Dicta won’t be able to tell you what happens in today’s meeting. Reporters and cameras are not allowed.

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