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Friday morning docket: All Sotomayor, all the time

There was much legal news packed into this four-day week. But wait, there’s more!

As good as confirmed: SCOTUSBlog’s Tom Goldstein says that if strong Senate opposition to Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor hasn’t happened yet, it ain’t gonna. (SCOTUSBlog)

No Roe foe: Stopping short of saying Sotomayor wants to keep Roe v. Wade in place, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs tried to assuage fears of supporters that her scant record on abortion could result in surprises later. (WaPo)

Thorough or testy? Arguing before Sotomayor can be a tough job for attorneys. Does her assertive style at oral arguments mean that she is a thorough and prepared, or does it mean she is testy and temperamental? Sides have been taken. (NYT).

De-Fendi: Here’s the most interesting tidbit from Sotomayor’s resume, as far as DC Dicta is concerned: She represented the designer Fendi, suing makers knockoff handbags. (WSJ’s Law Blog)

All in moderation: Looking at Sotomayor’s record, it’s hard to pigeonhole her philosophy as either liberal or conservative. (Lawyers USA)

Olson wants Supreme gay marriage fight. Gay rights groups? Not quite yet

Earlier this year, Rep. Barney Frank famously said it was not the time to take the issue of gay marriage to the Supreme Court (Something about Justice Antonin Scalia being on the Court).

Yesterday, veteran Supreme Court litigator Ted Olson, the staunch conservative who successfully argued Bush v. Gore in 2000, which decided the presidential election, said it is time for the Supreme Court to weigh the issue. And he wants to take it there – and win.

Olson has paired with his former Bush v. Gore rival David Boies to file a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Proposition 8 in California, which bans gay marriage. During a press conference in Los Angeles Yesterday, Olson was asked why a right-leaning, Federalist Society member like himself was fighting for gay marriage. “I didn’t know you were pro-gay,” one questioner said.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been part of any organization that was anti-gay or felt that a group was not entitled to equal rights,” Olson replied, saying that he believed the case was about equal rights guaranteed for every American. “I hope that people don’t suspect my motives.”

Olson said he would like the case to go all the way to the Supreme Court, and that he intends on winning. “David and I have both studied constitutional law. We’ve both practiced law longer than we’d rather admit,” Olson said, glancing over at a chuckling Boies. “We think we know what we are doing. [W]e’ve studied the United States Supreme Court.”

But the Associated Press reports that gay rights activists are not as anxious to take the issue to the Supreme Court now. A loss, they fear, would take away marriage rights for gays and lesbians in states that currently grant them.

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Bush v. Gore opponents team up for Prop 8 challenge

It is no surprise that yesterday’s California Supreme Court ruling upholding the state’s same-sex marriage ban is being met with a swift legal challenge. But the attorneys mounting that challenge today comes as a bit of surprise.

This morning (afternoon for us East Coasters) Ted Olson and David Boies will file a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of two same-sex couples seeking to marry in the state. The action challenges yesterday’s state court ruling and seeks an injunction stopping Proposition 8 from being enforced.

As you may know, Olson and Boies faced off against each other in the 2000 case Bush v. Gore, with Olson representing Bush and Boies arguing for Gore. Today’s challenge, which is a project of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, marks the first time the two attorneys have worked together. Boies now is chairman of the law firm Boies, Schiller & Flexner, and Olson is a partner at Gibson Dunn.

More surprising than the teaming up of the former rivals is Olson’s involvement in the case at all. Olson, President Bush’s first U.S. solicitor general, is a staunch conservative and member of the Federalist Society, which operates under the principle that “separation of governmental powers is central to our Constitution.”

Olson told the Associated Press that he hopes this case makes it to the U.S. Supreme Court. “This is a federal question,” Olson said. “This is about the rights of individuals to be treated equally and not be stigmatized. …  We believe this is the kind of matter where Americans must come together and recognize the rights of all citizens.”

Olson and Boies will formally announce the challenge at 9:30 a.m. PDT. You can watch the announcement live online here.

Supremes rule on drug trafficking law, other cases

Today the Supreme Court ruled that the use of a cell phone for misdemeanor drug purchase does constitute felony facilitation of drug trafficking.

The decision in Abuelhawa v. U.S., handed down by Justice David Souter as President Barack Obama was announcing his choice to replace him, reversed a felony conviction of a man who used a cell phone to make a misdemeanor drug buy.

In Montejo v. Louisiana, the Court overruled Michigan v. Jackson, which prohibited police to initiate interrogation of a criminal defendant once he has invoked his right to counsel at an arraignment or similar proceeding. In a fairly unusual move, Justice John Paul Stevens, who authored the overturned case, gave a dissent from the bench.

In Haywood v. Drown, the Court struck down a New York law barring all civil rights lawsuits against prison guards as violative of the Supremacy Clause.

Lawmakers react to Sotomayor’s selection

Reaction by members of the Senate to President Barack Obama’s nomination of 2nd Circuit Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court has been pouring in swiftly.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chiarman Patrick Leahy, who is in Afghanistan meeting with troops stationed there, said in a statement: “Judge Sotomayor has a long and distinguished career on the federal bench.”

“She has been nominated by both Democratic and Republican presidents, and she was twice confirmed by the Senate with strong, bipartisan support,” the Vermont Democrat’s statement continues.  “Her record is exemplary.  Judge Sotomayor’s nomination is an historic one, and when confirmed she will become the first Hispanic Justice, and just the third woman to sit on the nation’s highest court.  Having a Supreme Court that better reflects the diversity of America helps ensure that we keep faith with the words engraved in Vermont marble over the entrance of the Supreme Court: ‘Equal justice under law.'”

Sen. Arlen Specter, who was a ranking member of the committee before he swithed from the GOP to the Democratic Party, said in a statement: “I applaud the nomination of Judge Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. Her confirmation would add needed diversity in two ways: the first Hispanic and the third woman to serve on the high court. While her record suggests excellent educational and professional qualifications, now it is up to the Senate to discharge its constitutional duty for a full and fair confirmation process.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the nominee will be treated fairly by Senate Republicans. “But we will thoroughly examine her record to ensure she understands that the role of a jurist in our democracy is to apply the law even-handedly, despite their own feelings or personal or political preferences,” the Kentucky GOP senator said in a statement. “Our Democratic colleagues have often remarked that the Senate is not a ‘rubber stamp.’ Accordingly, we trust they will ensure there is adequate time to prepare for this nomination, and a full and fair opportunity to question the nominee and debate her qualifications.”

Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman said: “President Obama made an impressive choice by nominating Judge Sotomayor for the position of Associate Justice for the Supreme Court. Judge Sotomayor’s career represents the best of the American dream and she possesses distinguished and superior legal credentials. I look forward to the upcoming hearings and I hope that there is a bi-partisan effort to ensure a fair confirmation process.”

BREAKING: Obama to announce Sotomayor nomination

UPDATE: This morning President Barack Obama will announce 2nd Circuit Judge Sonia Sotomayor as his first nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court. If confirmed, Sotomayor would be the Court’s first Hispanic justice.

Here is Sotomayor’s bio from the 2nd Circuit website:

Since October 7, 1998, Sonia Sotomayor has been a judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. From October 2, 1992 until her recent appointment, she served as a United States District Court Judge for the Southern District of New York.

Judge Sotomayor began her legal career in 1979 as an Assistant District Attorney in New York County. In 1984 and until her first judicial appointment, she practiced with the law firm of Pavia & Harcourt as an associate and later partner. Her focus at the firm was on intellectual property issues and international litigation and arbitration of commercial and commodity export trading cases. She also served as a member of the Second Circuit Task Force on Gender, Racial and Ethnic Fairness in the Courts and was formerly on the Board of Directors of the State of New York Mortgage Agency, the New York City Campaign Finance Board, the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund and the Maternity Center Association.

After graduating from Princeton University summa cum laude in 1976, Judge Sotomayor attended Yale Law School. At Yale, she served as an editor of the Yale Law Journal and managing editor of the Yale Studies in World Public Order. In 1999, Judge Sotomayor received an Honorary Doctor of Law Degree from Herbert H. Lehman College; in 2001 she received an Honorary Doctor of Law Degrees from Princeton University and Brooklyn Law School; in 2003 she received an Honorary Doctor of Law Degree from Pace University School of Law and in 2006 she received an Honorary Doctor of Law Degree from Hofstra University. Judge Sotomayor was an Adjunct Professor at New York University School of Law from 1998 to 2007 and is a Lecturer-in-Law at Columbia Law School since 1999.

Judge Sotomayor is a member of the American Bar Association, the New York City Chapter of the Women’s Bar Association, the Hispanic National Bar Association, the Puerto Rican Bar Association, the Association of Judges of Hispanic Heritage, the National Association of Women Judges and the American Philosophical Society. Judge Sotomayor is a frequent speaker and panelist at bar conferences and law schools.

Judge Sotomayor is a native of the Bronx and is fluent in both English and Spanish.

The White House has not announced who that pick is yet, but names who have been widely circulated to be at the top of the president’s list include Circuit Court Judges Sonia Sotomayor and Diane Wood, Solicitor General Elena Kagan, and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano.

More on Obama’s pick and opinions and orders from the Supreme Court after the announcements are made at 10 a.m.

Supreme Tuesday

Today the U.S. Supreme Court is set to release opinions and orders. Some of the cases still awaiting a decision from the high court include Safford Unified School District v. Redding, which asks whether the Fourth Amendment allows students to be strip searched by school officials in search of prescription drugs, Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, which considers whether lab reports prepared in criminal drug cases are testimonial evidence triggering the Confrontation Clause, and Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Co., which asks whether a judge must recuse himself from an appeal involving one of his campaign donors.

Also this week, President Barack Obama could end the growing speculation over who his first Supreme Court pick will be by announcing the nominee.

And legal watchers in Washington and across the country are watching the California Supreme Court, which will decide the fate of Proposition 8, a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage today.

Updates to come here and on Lawyers USA‘s website.

Friday morning docket: Pre-Memorial Day edition

DC Dicta will be off Monday in observance of Memorial Day. We’ll be back Tuesday bringing you the latest on Tuesday’s Supreme Court decisions and orders, as well as other Washington legal news. In the meantime, here’s a wrap of what’s going on now:

Today’s mandatory Supreme Court nominee update: The White House has confirmed that at least two – count ‘em: one, two – potential nominees have been interviewed by the president. The sit down with Circuit Judge Diane Wood was confirmed earlier in the week. Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm was also at the White House this week. Hmmm. (NYT)

More guessing: Perhaps it’s Wood and Solicitor General Elena Kagan who are at the top of Obama’s list? (ABA Jounal)

You can’t Gitmo money: After Obama defended his plan to close the detainee facility at Guantánamo Bay in a speech yesterday, Congress made that plan a little harder to implement with a vote not to fund it. (AP)

Preemptive strike: President Barack Obama has issued a memorandum to federal agencies warning them against adopting blanket regulations announcing that they preempt state laws. (Lawyers USA – Sub. Req’d)

Tobacco closer to FDA regulation: A bill that would allow the Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco products has advanced in the Senate. (Lawyers USA)

LOL, Ur getting sued: Bloggers are increasingly getting sued or threatened with legal action for everything from defamation to invasion of privacy to copyright infringement. (WSJ)

Discharging liability: At a House Judiciary Committee hearing on the bankruptcy proposal for Chrysler, some witnesses urged lawmakers to ensure that the company doesn’t discharge its potential tort liability with its debt. (Lawyers USA)