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Monthly Archives: January 2012

Sotomayor heads to the islands

The U.S. Supreme Court’s winter recess has given Justice Sonia Sotomayor the opportunity to tour some of the country’s island territories.

Fresh from a trip to Guam, which caused her to miss the president’s State of the Union address last week, Sotomayor landed in Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands over the weekend. Sotomayor is attending legal conferences sponsored by the Guam Bar Association and the Northern Mariana Islands Bar Association.

According to the Saipan Tribune, Sotomayor, whose family hails from Puerto Rico, said she felt a connection to the island communities.

“There’s still peace here,” she said yesterday at a press briefing  at the courthouse of the U.S. District Court for the NMI . “It is wonderful to see islands unlike the ones I am accustomed to, even my own island, Puerto Rico, that are very, very developed and don’t maintain completely their island identity, but that’s not true here.”

During her trip, Sotomayor met with bar association and judicial officials and helped judge a mock trial competition.

Brewer and Obama bicker publicly as immigration battle looms

We already knew the pending Supreme Court showdown between Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and the Obama administration over the controversial Arizona immigration law SB 1070 would be explosive. But yesterday we got a glimpse of the bubbling animosity between the parties.

As the Court prepares to hear the debate over whether the state statute directing police to check the immigration status of detainees believed to be in the country illegally is preempted by federal immigration law, Brewer and President Obama had a heated exchange yesterday.

After Brewer greeted Obama as he stepped off Air Force One outside of Phoenix, she handed him a letter and then the two engaged in a heated discussion. According to the Associated Press, both Brewer and Obama appeared to be smiling, but speaking over each other for several moments. At one point, Brewer waved her finger in the president’s face.

Asked about the exchange afterward, Brewer said: “He was a little disturbed about my book.”

In her recent book “Scorpions for Breakfast,” Brewer described a meeting she had with Obama at the White House to discuss immigration. “I felt a little bit like I was being lectured to, and I was a little kid in a classroom, if you will, and he was this wise professor and I was this little kid, and this little kid knows what the problem is and I felt minimized to say the least,” Brewer said.

According to Brewer, Obama objected to the book’s implication that she was mistreated at the White House

“I said to him, you know, I have always respected the office of the president and that the book is what the book is,” Brewer said. “I said that I was sorry that he felt that way. Anyway, we’re glad he’s here, and we’ll regroup.”

Brewer said the letter she handed Obama was an invitation to have lunch and visit the border.

Here’s hoping oral arguments at the Supreme Court in April are as exciting.

Grassley: Author of DOJ recess appointment opinion may lose her job

Sen. Chuck Grassley, angered by an opinion issued by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel finding President Barack Obama’s recent recess appointments legal, took aim at the opinion’s author, suggesting that she won’t be confirmed by the Senate again.

The opinion, authored by Assistant Attorney General Virginia A. Seitz earlier this month, found that Congress was in recess when Obama made four recess appointments despite Congressional Republicans’ efforts to gavel in pro forma sessions over the holiday break to prevent such appointments.

“I gave the President and Ms. Seitz the benefit of the doubt in voting to confirm her nomination,” Grassley said in a Senate floor speech Monday, according to Politico. “However, after reading this misguided and dangerous legal opinion, I’m sorry the Senate confirmed her. It’s likely to be the last confirmation she ever experiences.”

Those comments rankled some OLC attorneys from previous administrations, who said such blackball threats are dangerous.

“OLC lawyers should be free to render their honest opinion and not be threatened with adverse career consequences by either the White House or Congress,” Richard Painter, a White House ethics lawyer during the Bush administration, told Politico.

“The Senator’s name-calling is misplaced,” said Jack Goldsmith, who helmed the OLC during President George W. Bush’s administration.

President Bill Clinton’s chief OLC attorney Walter Dellinger said he was astonished by Grassley’s comments. “I can’t believe that Senator Grassley has actually read Seitz’s thoughtful and carefully reasoned opinion.  And he may not be aware that attorney’s in the administration of President George W. Bush reached the same conclusion that she reached,” Dellinger told Politico.

Court won’t hear arguments on Kagan recusal request

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to allot oral argument time to a group challenging Justice Elena Kagan’s participation in the health care challenge.

In an amicus filing supporting neither party in the case, the group Freedom Watch claimed that Kagan’s work in the Obama Administration shows that she “has demonstrated an extra-judicial bias and prejudice and must respectfully recuse herself or be disqualified,” according to SCOTUSblog.

Kagan did not participate in consideration of the oral argument motion – a routine approach for justices when a matter involves them directly. But considering that Kagan has participated in other orders related to the health care challenge, it is expected that she will hear the case.

For all the latest news from the Supreme Court, always check out the Supreme Court Report on Lawyers USA online. (The link is always on DC Dicta’s right hand column.)

A dozen arrested at Supreme Court protest

Yet another protest at the U.S. Supreme Court resulted in several arrests Friday after a group protesting the two-year anniversary of the Court’s Citizens United ruling broke down a police barricade and ran up the Court’s marble staircase.

The protest was part of a nationwide “Occupy the Courts” effort targeting courthouses across the country.

At the Supreme Court, protesters initially gathered in a park across the street from the building since police had erected a barricade blocking the Court’s steps and plaza. It is against the law to protest on the stairs or plaza in front of the Court, but protesters are often seen on the public sidewalk in front of the stairs.

But at some point protesters broke through the barricade, charging up the stairs, where they remained for roughly an hour, some shouting, “We are the 99 percent,” others hurling expletives and many recording events with cell phones and broadcasting them on live streaming internet sites. After some shoving ensured, police made several arrests. In all 11 people were arrested outside of the building and one inside.

Stevens never sent Scalia to the spanking machine

Retired Justice John Paul Stevens showed his sense of humor – and patience – during an interview last night with Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert.

After Colbert expressed disappointment with his team for not securing an active Supreme Court justice to interview, he chided Stevens for failing to take his lifetime appointment literally. “I don’t want you to take this the wrong way, but you sound like a quitter,” Colbert said.

“I am,” Stevens replied. “I am a quitter. After 37 years you’re entitled to quit.”

Speaking about Stevens’ book, “Five Chiefs,” Colbert asked: “Were you upset that you were never one of the chiefs?”

“Well, you know, I was acting chief for a while,” Stevens said.

“Did you go mad with power?” Colbert queried. “You know, ‘Scalia – through the spanking machine!’”

“No I never went that far,” Stevens chuckled.

On the Citizens United ruling, Colbert challenged Stevens’ assertion that, although corporations case considered persons in some contexts, they don’t enjoy all the rights that humans do.

“You don’t have the right to judge the way” corporations do things, Colbert said.

“I think I do,” Stevens replied.
“You do? Why, because you’re a Supreme Court justice?”

“That’s right,” Stevens said.

“Ok. fantastic,” Colbert snarks. “Ok. You’re a Supreme Court justice, I’m not. That gives you the right to judge things. That’s very convenient.”

Colbert’s last question for Stevens: “Are there any decisions you’ve made that you’ve regretted?”

“Other than this interview?” Stevens said. “I don’t think so.”

See the whole interview here.

The Funniest Justice, week 8: The great laugh of China

During oral arguments Wednesday in the immigration case Holder v. Gutierrez, Justice Stephen Breyer hypothesized about a legal permanent resident whose non-resident infant child would have to be deported back to their country of origin.

Justice Antonin Scalia interjected.

“But I suppose if they come with somebody else’s 6-month-old child, they would have to send that child back to China, too, wouldn’t they?” Scalia said. “Which would be very sad, but that would be the law, right?”

“Actually they came from Italy, in my hypothetical,” Breyer said to Scalia, drawing laughs from the audience and other justices.

Without missing a beat, Scalia brought it home: “They should not have sent him back to China, then. Why did they do that?”

That exchange helped Scalia get the most laughs – three – this week, making him the week’s Funniest Justice. It also helped him to add a bit of padding to his lead for the term so far. Here are the standings after eight weeks:

Justice Antonin Scalia: 30

Justice Stephen Breyer: 25

Chief Justice John G. Roberts: 12

Justice Anthony Kennedy: 6

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: 1

Justice Elena Kagan: 1

Justice Samuel Alito: 1

Justice Clarence Thomas: 0

Justice Sonia Sotomayor: 0

Supreme Court protesters arrested

As the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments yesterday morning, 14 protesters were arrested outside the Supreme Court building, according to a Court spokesperson.

The protesters apparently took to the marble plaza in front of the Supreme Court’s grand marble stairs Tuesday morning to protest on the 35th anniversary of a decision upholding the constitutionality of capital punishment. The ruling ended a ten-year moratorium on death penalty sentences, according to the Associated Press.

While protesters can be frequently seen on the sidewalk in front of the Supreme Court, it is illegal to protest on the Court’s steps or anywhere else on Supreme Court property.

Chief justice confusion

For a journalist, sometimes getting people to return your calls can be a challenge. That is, of course, unless you happen to have the same name as the nation’s chief justice.

Fox News national senior national correspondent John Roberts recently revealed that he sometimes confuses people with his name. There’s never confusion in person, since he and Chief Justice John G. Roberts “look nothing alike,” he said. But phone calls are a different matter.

Roberts recalled to The Hill a time he called Carol Lancaster, the dean of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. “I called her up looking for an interview,” the journalist said. “I said, ‘This is John Roberts from Fox.’ And she said, ‘Oh, for a second I thought I was getting a call from the chief justice of the Supreme Court.’”