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Monthly Archives: February 2012

Ginsburg: Abortion issue should have been left to the states

The U.S. Supreme Court may have jumped the gun by handing down a nationwide abortion rule rather than letting the law develop state by state, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said.

In remarks during a Columbia Law School event marking the 40th anniversary of Ginsburg becoming the school’s first tenured female professor, Ginsburg said of Roe v. Wade: “It’s not that the judgment was wrong, but it moved too far too fast.”

“The court made a decision that made every abortion law in the country invalid, even the most liberal,” Ginsburg said, according to the Associated Press. “We’ll never know whether I’m right or wrong … things might have turned out differently if the court had been more restrained.”

It’s not the first time Ginsburg has made that observation, but her comments made headlines over the weekend. Ginsburg also made headlines last week with her comments on whether Egyptian officials should look to the U.S. Constitution when drafting their own.

Ginsburg’s comments on Constitution spur controversy

Comments made by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg during her recent “listening tour” of Egypt have sparked controversy here in the U.S.

Asked what models  Egyptian officials should consult in drafting the country’s new founding legal document, Ginsburg replied:

“You should certainly be aided by all the constitution-writing that has gone one since the end of World War II. I would not look to the US constitution, if I were drafting a constitution in the year 2012. I might look at the constitution of South Africa. That was a deliberate attempt to have a fundamental instrument of government that embraced basic human rights, had an independent judiciary… It really is, I think, a great piece of work that was done. Much more recent than the US constitution – Canada has a Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It dates from 1982. You would almost certainly look at the European Convention on Human Rights. Yes, why not take advantage of what there is elsewhere in the world?”

Immediately conservative outlets seized upon the remarks, claiming the Justice was traveling the world bad-mouthing her nation’s founding document. Conservative bloggers, like Redstate.com’s Daniel Horowitz, went so far as to suggest that Ginsburg was “disqualified from serving on any court.”

But others jumped to Ginsburg’s defense – even Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby, who admittedly is “not a fan of Ginsburg’s jurisprudence.”

“I find her too left-leaning and too inclined to see the Constitution as an ‘evolving’ document that can be interpreted in the light of foreign law. … But to accuse her of insulting the Constitution or being ‘mealy mouthed’ in its defense is absurd,” Jacoby wrote.

Jacoby said that the justice’s remarks – like the remarks of many public figures in today’s hyper-politically-charged climate – were taken out of context my those who claims she is anti-Constitution.

“As anyone watching the full Ginsburg interview can see, she went out of her way to praise the US system,” Jacoby wrote. “She extolled the Framers of 1787 as ‘very wise,’ and explained how the Constitutional architecture — separation of powers, checks and balances, judicial independence, amendability — has secured the blessings of liberty for generations of Americans. ‘We have the oldest written constitution still in force in the world,’ she said proudly, ‘and it starts with three words: “We, the people.”’”

Sotomayor hears a case – on Sesame Street

I seems that a Supreme Court justice is always on duty, even when she is just trying to have a simple cup of coffee with a friend on her day off.

Such was the case when Justice Sonia Sotomayor visited Sesame Street recently and found herself presiding over the case of Bear v. Goldilocks. Good thing Sotomayor always has her judicial robe handy.

Sotomayor rendered a speedy resolution of the case – even if she totally disregarded the fact that the crime of breaking and entering had occured – and all parties were satisfied.

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Prop. 8 ruled unconstitutional – next stop, Supreme Court

The 9th Circuit ruled today that California’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, setting the stage for the case to land before the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court.

“All that Proposition 8 accomplished was to take away from same-sex couples the right to be granted marriage licenses and thus legally to use the designation of ‘marriage,’ which symbolizes state legitimization and social recognition of their committed relationships,” wrote 9th Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt in the 2-1 decision finding that the law violated the 14th Amendment. “Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples. The Constitution simply does not allow for ‘laws of this sort.’” (More here from Lawyers USA).

The court stopped short of ruling on the broader issue of the constitutional right of same-sex couples to marry generally, instead striking down the California ban known as Proposition 8 based on its specific application.

Now, proponents of Proposition 8 can either seek en banc review from the full panel of the 9th Circuit or petition the U.S. Supreme Court for certiorari – the more likely course of action considering parties on both sides were prepared from the start for the challenge to go all the way to Washington.

Scalia: Courts flooded with ‘nickel and dime criminal cases’

There are problems with the nation’s federal court system. And according to Justice Antonin Scalia, one of those problems is a flood of petty criminal cases – better suited for state courts – that have turned the U.S. Supreme Court into a “court of criminal appeals.”

Federal courts are clogged with “nickel and dime criminal cases,” Scalia told attendees of an American Bar Association meeting in New Orleans on Saturday, according to the Associated Press. He called the situation “probably regrettable” and added that it doesn’t reflect “what the federal courts were set up for.”

O’Connor’s got jokes

When retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor cracks political jokes, people laugh.

That was the case last weekend at an exclusive black-tie gathering of Washington’s elite when O’Connor drew the biggest laugh of the night, according to attendees.

At the Alfalfa Club dinner, which drew President Barack Obama, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. and Justice Anthony Kennedy among others, O’Connor quipped about GOP presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, noting: “one is a practicing polygamist, and he’s not even the Mormon,” the Huffington Post reports.

Breaking: Kagan was not a straight-A law student

As most of you can probably recall (we sure can), law school was a competitive place – and getting a not-so-perfect grade could make you feel as if you were putting your career in jeopardy.

But current law students can take heart! Even if you don’t ace every course, you too can end up on the U.S. Supreme Court.

According to Harvard Law School’s The Record, back when Elena Kagan was a law school student she earned [dramatic drum roll here….] B’s in several classes!

The Record piece goes on to list several other noted legal scholars and judges who earned a less-than-stellar grade or two during their time in law school.

Ginsburg on ‘listening tour’ of Egypt, Tunisia

Justice Sonia Sotomayor isn’t the only one traveling during the U.S. Supreme Court’s winter break. Her colleague, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, is on a “listening tour” of Egypt and Tunisia.

Though few details of the justice’s trip have been released – presumably due to security concerns, according to FindLaw – the justice is traveling with her daughter, Columbia law professor Jane Ginsburg. According to the State Department, Ginsburg plans to meet with Egypt’s  top judges and “listen and learn” about the country’s transition to democracy in the wake of the uprisings last year.

Ginsburg’s presence in Egypt and Tunisia is a show of support for officials there, Findlaw reports, and the justice is ready to offer her insights if requested. “Justice Ginsburg would be pleased to answer questions about the U.S. legal system and Constitution,” a State Department press release states.