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If Ariz. immigration law upheld, flurry of new state laws to follow

A Supreme Court ruling upholding the Arizona immigration law that authorizes police to check the immigration status of detained individuals could spur other state legislators to quickly move to adopt similar measures, state lawmakers say.

So far five states have enacted immigration measures like Arizona’s, but similar bills have been introduced in 36 states. State legislators and legal analyst told the AP that a Supreme Court ruling in Arizona’s favor would spur a new push to get those laws passed.

“There will be an enormous amount of energy spent in next few months examining the full range of possibilities,” Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform told the AP.

Lawmakers from about a dozen states told the AP that they stand at the ready to press forward should the Supreme Court rule that such measures are not preempted by the federal Immigration and Nationality Act.

Happy Birthday, Justice Kagan

As the most junior associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, it is Justice Elena Kagan’s duty to do things such as answer the door, take notes and serve coffee when the justices hold their private conferences.

But perhaps one of the other justices will see to it that there is birthday cake to go with that coffee when the justices conference this morning. On Saturday, Kagan celebrates her 52nd birthday.

And the Funniest Justice is…

He’s made cracks about bad dictionaries, deadpanned about deporting babies to China, and quipped that a justice’s job could at times violate the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

By making the audience and other justices of the Supreme Court laugh during oral arguments more than five dozen times, Justice Antonin G. Scalia sailed to an easy victory as this term’s Funniest Justice. Since DC Dicta began keeping count, Scalia is undefeated.

So the real race was for second place. And though Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. made a real contest of it, it was Justice Stephen G. Breyer who walked away with the silver this term, with Roberts coming in third.

According to the laugh count, as noted in the Court’s official transcripts, every justice earned at least one laugh this term except Justice Clarence Thomas, who hasn’t made a comment during oral arguments – humorous or otherwise – since Feb. 22, 2006. Let’s just hope that when he does speak, we’ll get a chuckle out of it.

Here is the final tally:

Justice Antonin Scalia: 63

Justice Stephen Breyer: 47

Chief Justice John G. Roberts: 26

Justice Anthony Kennedy: 11

Justice Elena Kagan: 7

Justice Samuel Alito: 5

Justice Sonia Sotomayor: 2

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: 1

Justice Clarence Thomas: 0

Arizona immigration law challenge could end in a tie

Gov. Jan Brewer and attorney Paul Clement, far right, leaving the Supreme Court Wednesday after oral arguments in Arizona v. U.S. (Photo: Kimberly Atkins, Lawyers USA)

There is bad news and good news for the Obama administration as it seeks to have Arizona’s controversial immigration enforcement law SB 1070 struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The bad news: four out of the eight justices who heard the case today seemed to side squarely on the side of Arizona officials who say the state statute does not conflict with federal immigration law. (Justice Elena Kagan recused herself, likely because she was involved in the challenge while she was Obama’s solicitor general).

If, as it seemed, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito and presumably Clarence Thomas (Thomas does not speak during oral arguments, but he is a vocal opponent of the doctrine of implied preemption) are inclined to rule in favor of the state, the best the federal government can do in its challenge is tie – assuming noted swing voter Justice Anthony M. Kennedy votes in the administration’s favor.

But the good news is that a tie would be a win in this case. If the Court splits, the case goes back to the 9th Circuit, which has already given a strong indication that it would strike down the law when it upheld a preliminary injunction preventing the law from going into effect.

Much more on the arguments later on Lawyers USA online.

Supreme Court saves AZ immigration law challenge for last

The Supreme Court is set to end its oral argument season with a bang this morning, as it hears the challenge to Arizona’s immigration law which authorizes police officers to check the status of any detained individual the officer suspects may be an illegal immigrant.

The law is being challenged by the Obama administration, which argues that federal immigration law preempts state measures such as Arizona’s SB 1070. But state officials say they have the right to enact state immigration laws, particularly where – as they claim here – federal law is ineffective.

Stay tuned to Lawyers USA online and this blog this afternoon for updates on the arguments.

Fugetaboutit: Supremes pass on NYC rent control law case

New Yorkers who live in affordable apartments – some of which have been handed down within families for years – can rest easy today. The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to take up a case challenging the city’s rent control laws.

The Court gave a hint that it could take up the challenge last month when it asked the city as state to respond to the petition by a landlord of an Upper West Side rental property. The owner claimed that city laws preventing him from increasing the rent on a tenant who has resided in an apartment since the 1970s amounts to an unconstitutional taking by the government. The rent is currently capped at a rate lower than the mortgage the tenant pays on a vacation home in the Hamptons.

But the justices took a pass, declining certiorari without comment Monday.

Romney’s SCOTUS wish list?

Is GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney already assembling a list of Supreme Court nominee prospects?

We don’ know. But lawyers and conservatives are tossing around names of people they’d like to see the former Massachusetts governor consider should he be elected president in November – and should a vacancy arise on the bench, according to Reuters’ David Ingram.

At the top of conservatives’ wish list is former Solicitor General Paul Clement, now a partner at Bancroft where he is handling blockbuster cases such as the challenge to the health care law and GOP lawmakers’ defense of the Defense of Marriage Act.

“He’s the type of person who fits the mold that the governor has pledged to look for,” said Mary Ann Glendon, a co-chairwoman of Romney’s Justice Advisory Committee, who stressed that “it’s much too soon to speculate about names.”

Other names on the GOP’s reported dream list are D.C. Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh, 7th Circuit judge Diane Sykes, 8th Circuit Judge Steven Colloton, 10th Circuit Judge Neil Gorsuch, and 6th Circuit Judge Jeffrey Sutton – though Sutton famously voted to uphold the federal health care law, which Romney opposes.

Happy birthday, Justice Stevens

As the justices of the Supreme Court gather to conference this morning, perhaps they will take a moment to wish their former colleague a happy birthday.

Today retired Justice John Paul Stevens turns 92.

By the way, he is still not the longest-living justice. That honor goes to Justice Stanley Forman Reed, who lived to age 95.

The Funniest Justice, week 13: Unquestionably funny

“I don’t want to repeat the question for the third time,” Justice Stephen G. Breyer said during an exchange with attorney Carter G. Phillips during yesterday’s oral arguments in the case Salazar v. Ramah Navajo Chapter.

“I wish you would,” said Justice Antonin G. Scalia to Breyer. “I’ve lost the question.”

As the audience laughed, Breyer retorted: “Well, here sometimes not everyone pays sufficient attention to these very clear questions.” More laughs.

The familiar Scalia & Breyer comedy act was in full effect at the court this week, but it was Breyer who was the week’s funniest justice, drawing five laughs during oral arguments in three cases. Scalia, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy and Justice Elena Kagan each scored two laughs.

Here’s the tally with only one week of oral arguments remaining in the term:

Justice Antonin Scalia: 61

Justice Stephen Breyer: 46

Chief Justice John G. Roberts: 25

Justice Anthony Kennedy: 11

Justice Elena Kagan: 7

Justice Samuel Alito: 5

Justice Sonia Sotomayor: 2

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: 1

Justice Clarence Thomas: 0

Senate Republicans jump into recess appointment challenge

Republican lawmakers are officially jumping into the legal fight over President Barack Obama’s recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. And leading the GOP senators’ fight is a man who was blocked from a judicial appointment by Senate Democrats years ago.

Senate Republicans said yesterday they plan to file an amicus brief in the case challenging Obama’s authority to make the controversial appointments, according to the Washington Post. The White House has defended the validity of the recess appointments, and said they were necessary to keep the agencies operating as GOP lawmakers stalled nominees’ confirmation votes.

The Republican lawmakers brief will be authored by Miguel Estrada, a partner in the Washington office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher whose own judicial nomination to the D.C. Circuit was filibustered by Senate Democrats in 2001. (The news came, interestingly enough, the same day Estrada argued a case before the U.S. Supreme Court.)

“We think it’s the appropriate case,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., according to the Post. “And I thought that Miguel’s own experience with the confirmation process, that it might make particularly good sense for him to represent us in this particular undertaking.”