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Monthly Archives: September 2009

Sealed with a justice

Want to show your admiration for Supreme Court justices every time you send a letter or pay a bill? Well, you are in luck!

The U.S. Postal Service will issue 44-cent stamps featuring justices Joseph Story, Louis Brandeis, Felix Frankfurter, and William Brennan Jr. next week.

And to commemorate the stamps’ issue, a dedication ceremony will be held Tuesday at the Supreme Court featuring Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. and Postmaster General John E. Potter, according to CQ politics.

The National Law Journal’s Tony Mauro reports that Thurgood Marshall Jr., son of the justice, will also be in attendance. A stamp honoring his father was issued in 2003.

‘Redskins’ battle reaches Supremes

The U.S. Supreme Court could decide whether D.C.-area NFL football fans will have to root for a team with a new name.

A group claiming the name “Redskins” is derogatory and disparaging to Native Americans filed a certiorari petition yesterday asking the Supreme Court to consider whether the football franchise’s trademark should be canceled. The petitioners claim that under the Lanham Act the trademark should be removed because it brings a group of people “into contempt or disrepute.” The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the petitioners in the long-running dispute, saying the claim was essentially time barred by the doctrine of laches.

More here from Tony Mauro on the BLT blog.

Monday status conference: Can’t we all just get along?

Lately it seems like the age of discord in the nation’s capital with protesters in the streets, lawmakers arguing with one another, and some even screaming at the president. But over at the Supreme Court, the nation’s top jurist is trying to promote some harmony.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. said that it is crucial that he and new colleague, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, get along.

“We worry about it a lot in terms of the interpersonal relationships,” Roberts told the crowd at the University of Michigan Law School this weekend. He also stressed the importance of judicial consensus, saying: “I think we do a better job as judges if we can come to an agreement.”

The Harvard grad couldn’t help but get in a few wisecracks during his talk. When asked if too many justices hailed from elite universities, Roberts answered no. “Some went to Yale.”

In other news,

Seeking sentencing wiggle room: The U.S. Sentencing Commission was urged to add more flexibility in criminal sentencing during a hearing in Chicago, the first in a nationwide series of public hearings since federal sentencing guidelines took effect 22 years ago. (WaPo)

‘Honest’ challenge: The U.S. Supreme Court could take up the issue of whether the Illinois law that led to the convictions of former Gov. George Ryan, ex-newspaper mogul Conrad Black and embattled Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling is unconstitutionally vague. The latest high profile official to face charges of honest-services fraud is former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. (AP)

Let me count the ways: President Obama authorized grants to test medical malpractice reform programs in the states, but many states have already tried a number of med mal reform efforts. WSJ‘s Law Blog takes a look at the different approaches. (Law Blog)

HELP for Harkin: “To serve in this capacity is to carry on the legacy of Senator Ted Kennedy, who dedicated his life to ensuring that our economy works for all Americans, guaranteeing every child the opportunity to pursue a quality education and, of course, the cause of his life: access to quality, affordable health care for all Americans.” – Sen. Tom Harkin on his new chairmanship of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, which Sen. Edward Kennedy chaired until his death last month. (Harkin’s website)

A night at the opera: How do Supreme Court justices spend the off hours? Some, like Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, go to the opera. (Washington Times)

Friday morning docket: Busy short week

It doesn’t feel like it’s been only a four-day week with everything that has been going on: pomp, circumstance and then campaign finance oral arguments at the Supreme Court, and President Obama and Congress taking on health care, including the issue of tort reform.

But wait, there’s more!

Devil in the details: Not much is known yet about Obama’s proposal to give state grants for medical malpractice reform test programs, but lawyers’ groups, medical associations and consumer advocates said the still-unknown details will make all the difference. (Lawyers USA)

Portrait of an AG: Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey was back at the Justice Department yesterday for his official portrait ceremony. (BLT Blog)

SEC in hot seat: Members of the Senate Banking Committee are furious over the failure of the Securities Exchange Commission to catch Bernie Madoff’s $50 million fraud scheme. (CNN)

Roberts is ready for some football! What’s the best way to get the Chief Justice of the United States to come speak at your university? Flattery? Nah. A generous honorarium? Nope. Football tickets? That’s it! (WSJ Law Blog)

District vote to push federal gay marriage debate? The District of Columbia’s City Council is taking on the issue of legalizing same-sex marriage, a move that could force Congress and White House to take sides in the debate. (WaPo)

Justice of the stars

It seems Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor has quite a connection to the entertainment world.

First, Sotomayor was feted at the home of Jennifer Lopez. Then a report surfaced that Lopez and fellow actress Rosie Perez were fighting over who would play the justice in a film.

Now comes word that the list of attendees for Sotomayor’s investiture ceremony Tuesday included pop singer Ricky Martin.

Martin was not the star attraction at the event, however. News reports indicate that few people even noticed he was there. Most of the gawking was directed at others, such as Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy. I guess Washington folks don’t really live la vida loca.

A spokesperson for the Supreme Court had no idea why Martin was there.

More here from ABAJournal.com.

The Funniest Justice: The OT09 pre-season

Toward the end of attorney Ted Olson’s oral argument time today in the case Citizens United v. FEC, Justice John Paul Sevens asked Olson if he would spend some of his upcoming rebuttal time to address a point made in an amicus brief.

“I will, Justice Stevens,” Olson replied, preparing to sit down.

“Why don’t you just tell us now?” Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. said, as members of the audience laughed.

“Don’t keep us in suspense!” Justice Antonin Scalia added, drawing more laughter.

Although the October 2009 Term of the Supreme Court doesn’t officially begin until, well, October, today’s re-argued campaign finance case gives us an early start on this term’s contest to see who is The Funniest Justice!

Who said an issue like campaign finance reform can’t be fodder for funnies? Not only did Olson himself and Solicitor General Elena Kagan draw some laughs, so did four of the Court’s justices. But it was Roberts who drew two laughs from the crowd today, giving him an early lead in the contest which, for two years in a row, has gone to Justice Scalia.

So here are the Funniest Justice standings after the Court’s first oral argument:

Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr.: 2

Justice John Paul Stevens: 1

Justice Antonin Scalia: 1

Justice Anthony Kennedy: 1

Justice Clarence Thomas (Note: Thomas has remained silent during oral arguments since Feb. 22, 2006): 0

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: 0

Justice Stephen Breyer: 0

Justice Samuel Alito: 0

Justice Sonia Sotomayor: 0

Sotomayor and the Supremes take the stage

Yesterday the Court officially seated Justice Sonia Sotomayor as the 111th justice of the Supreme Court. SCOTUSblog has the full transcript and the play-by-play of yesterday’s investiture ceremony, which was attended by President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.

Today, she will hear her first oral argument in the case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, a rehearing from last term scheduled for 80 minutes today. More on the case and newest justice’s first day later on this blog and on Lawyers USA.

Starlets fight over who stars in “Sotomayor: The Movie”?

The latest apparent Supreme Court controversy may not involve campaign finance, the death penalty or the Second Amendment. Instead, it could be a brewing duel over which actress will play Justice Sonia Sotomayor in a biopic.

In one corner, Jennifer Lopez, who just last month hosted the newest Supreme Court justice at a party in her Long Island home. In the other corner, Rosie Perez, who once worked as Lopez’ choreographer in the 1990s’ comedy show In Living Color, but who reportedly now wants to best Lopez in the race to play the Bronx-born juror in a film about her life.

But, perhaps we should not expect a Twitter war of words between the two actresses just yet. After all, as this item on The Houston Chronicle‘s website points out, the original source of the alleged spat is the National Enquirer. We’ll just have to see if Sotomayor’s performance on the bench tomorrow feels more like It Could Happen to You or The Wedding Planner.

First look at Justice Sotomayor

This afternoon Justice Sonia Sotomayor will make her first open appearance as the Supreme Court’s 111th justice.

Today the Court will hold Sotomayor’s investiture ceremony, where the Court’s newest justice will once again be administered an oath by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. at the Court. President Obama and a number of other dignitaries are expected to be in attendance as well as Sotomayor’s family.

Those wanting a glimpse of the Court’s first Latina justice should find a spot along First Street, NE at about 2.pm. Shortly after the investiture ceremony, the chief justice and Sotomayor will descend the marble stairs of the Court for press photo ops.

Sotomayor has already taken two oaths of office – the Constitutional Oath and the Judicial Oath – on Aug. 8, so she could begin working. The latter was the Court’s first swearing-in ceremony broadcast live on television and the Internet. Today’s oath is largely ceremonial, as is set one day before Sotomayor hears her first oral arguments. (More on that case, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, here from Lawyers USA)

More on the ceremony – including whose chair Sotomayor gets to sit in today – here from USA Today.

Aside from the High Court ceremony, Congress returns today after a monthlong recess, making this a busy day on Capitol Hill. On the agenda – just as it was before members of Congress left – is health care.

DOJ scandal – set to music?

When DC Dicta read transcripts from Alberto Gonzales’s infamous Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, we didn’t hear music. But an undergrad at a Pennsylvania college apparently did – and she went on to write a concert opera based on the fallen attorney general’s testimony. And that show is now on stage in Philadelphia!

Every word sung in The Gonzales Cantata, playing at this year’s Philadelphia Fringe Festival, comes from the transcripts of the 2007 hearings that marked the beginning of the end for the Justice Department head, who was under fire for the alleged politically-motivated firings of U.S. attorneys and other issues. And since it’s a holiday weekend, and Philly is a quick car trip from Washington, perhaps some locals might consider checking it out.

More, including a Q&A with the show’s writer, here on The WSJ‘s Law Blog.