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Monthly Archives: September 2011

4th Circuit adds new twist in the health care litigation saga

In a strange twist in the ongoing court battles over the Obama administration’s health care law, the 4th Circuit today threw out a challenge to the law’s constitutionality, ruling that the law’s individual mandate is essentially a tax, and tax provisions cannot be challenged before they go into effect.

In the 2-1 ruling, the court held that the Anti-Injunction Act strips the court of jurisdiction to consider a challenge to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Because taxes cannot be challenged before they go into effect, and the individual mandate does not go into effect until 2014, the court vacated a lower court ruling upholding the law with instructions to dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction.

In a separate ruling, the court also held that the state of Virginia lacked jurisdiction to challenge the law.

This is the second federal appellate court to consider the challenge to the law. In July the 6th Circuit upheld the law’s constitutionality. Challengers in that case filed a petition for certiorari, and the U.S. Supreme Court could take the case up during its next term, which begins next month.

More on these rulings as well as ongoing coverage of the challenge to the health care law to come on Lawyers USA online.

Ginsburg the wealthiest justice

She may not pull in a lot of laughs during oral arguments, but Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is laughing all the way to the bank as the Court’s wealthiest Supreme Court justice by a long shot, according to a new analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics.

With a net worth somewhere between $10.7 million and a whopping $45.5 million, Ginsburg easily tops the list of wealthiest justices, according to the center, which crunched the justices’ financial disclosure data from 2009 (the report based on the latest 2010 filings will be unveiled in the fall). Ginsburg’s holdings include a $6 million retirement nest egg.

Justice Stephen Breyer’s second-place finish is attributable mainly to an array of investments (some of which spur him to recuse himself in cases involving the companies he invests in). His wealth is estimated to be between $4.6 million and $16.2 million.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts, and Justices Antonin Scalia and Elena Kagan are also millionaires, according to the analysis, though none come close to Ginsburg or even Breyer.

And while Justices Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas can each claim a net worth well in the six-digit range, Justice Sonia Sotomayor cannot. In fact, she could be the only justice in the red. Her net worth is somewhere between $95,000 in debt to $50,000, according to the report.

A seat at Supreme Court takes time – or money

When people ask DC Dicta how they might secure a seat at a U.S. Supreme Court oral argument, we usually quote the Gap Band, advising them to “get up early in the morning.”

That’s because spectators who wish to sit in on a full Supreme Court argument begin to queue up in front of the Supreme Court building long before those with bar cards, press passes or special reservations arrive. Getting a spot to see the justices grill counsel, spar with each other and crack jokes has always required patience.

But now, it may just require some money. Now the growing industry of paid “line standards” has reached the highest court of the land, allowing folks to sleep in and still see the justices at work – for a fee.

Line standing services will set you back by about $36 to $40 per hour, according to FindLaw’s Robyn Hagan Cain. And finding a line standing services is a simple as a Google search, she says.

Mick Sacks, who famously blogged about his adventures of being the “First One @ One First” each day while he was a law student, clearly is no fan of the idea of paid space savers. To the idea he Tweeted: “BOOOOOOOOOO HISSSSSSSSSSS.”

Can’t we all just get along (like Supreme Court justices)?

Here in Washington, the partisan divide has never been so palpable. Republicans and Democrats spar openly in the press and on the floors of the House and Senate. The president and the House speaker had a tough time even agreeing on a date for this week’s presidential address on jobs, let alone the substance of the speech.

But there is one place in Washington where disagreements are handled civilly: One First Street, NE – the U.S. Supreme Court building.

We have nine justices who don’t always agree, but I’ve never heard a voice raised in anger in 17 years in that conference room,” said Justice Stephen Breyer at the recent ABA conference in Toronto, according to ABC News.

Other justices echoed his sentiment on how nice it is to be a part of the most genteel branch of the federal government. Even when the justices disagree sharply on cases in their written opinions, they leave the tough talk on the paper and ink.

Justice Elena Kagan described the Court as “incredibly collegial and warm institution” with good friendships that transcend “whatever people think of as ideological divides.”

One difference between the justices and their executive and legislative counterparts may explain their civil relationship: they are lifelong appointees. Kagan said Chief Justice John G. Roberts pointed this out when he called to congratulate her on her confirmation.

“You know we are going to be serving together for 25 years” he told her.

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