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Monthly Archives: June 2012

AG Holder in the hot seat

The House of Representatives could hold a vote as early as next week on whether to hold Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. in contempt of Congress after a House panel recommended the charge in a party-line vote yesterday.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee recommendation came after allegations that the Holder and the Department of Justice withheld subpoenaed documents related to the controversial Operation Fast and Furious. The request spurred President Barack Obama to invoke executive privilege to prevent disclosure of some of the subpoenaed documents.

If the full Republican-controlled House votes to hold Holder in contempt, the matter will be referred to District of Columbia U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr.  — a Justice Department employee —  to decide whether to criminally prosecute his boss.

More here from the Washington Post.

Lawmakers ask Court to televise health care decision announcement

Lawmakers are joining media organizations in urging the U.S. Supreme Court to allow broadcast coverage of its upcoming decision in the case challenging the federal health care law.

Leahy

In a letter sent to Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. Sen. Patrick Leahy,  D- Vt., who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the committee’s ranking member Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, urged the Court to allow cameras in the courtroom for the announcement of the decision, which is expected next week.

“Given the fundamental constitutional questions raised and the effects the decision will have, the Court should be aware of the great interest Americans have in the outcome of this case,” the letter states.

Grassley

“Broadcasting the Court’s ruling would permit millions of citizens the opportunity to view what so few can from the court’s small and limited public gallery.”

The Court has never allowed cameras or any other type of electronic devices to be brought into the courtroom, and it is unlikely that the request will be granted. On occasion, the court has released same-day audio of oral arguments, but never for decision announcements.

Ginsburg shows her funny side

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is well aware that when it comes to the number of laughs Supreme Court justices earn during oral arguments, she is, as she put it during remarks made Friday, “the least funny justice who talks.”

But Ginsburg was quite funny during her speech at the annual convention of the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy in Washington. She noted that even during oral arguments, she’s funny when it counts. Even the New York Times picked up on her funniest moment this term during oral arguments in the case Zivotofsky v. Clinton in November.

When a lawyer pointed out that only those born in Jerusalem before 1948 have the option of listing Palestine as their place of birth on their passports, Justice Elena Kagan, who was born in 1960, said: “Well, you have to be very old to list Palestine.”

“I intervened on behalf of persons aged 64 and older,” Ginsburg told the ACS crowd Friday, drawing laughter, “mindful that next year I will turn 80, God willing. ‘Not all that old,’ I told my colleague.”

And discussing the questions presented in the pending health care law challenge, she gently jabbed at her bench mate Justice Antonin G. Scalia by summarizing one issue in the case as: “may the mandate be chopped, like a head of broccoli, from the rest of it?”

More on Ginsburg’s speech, including her prediction of sharply-divided opinions, can be found here on Lawyers USA.

News groups ask for live coverage of SCOTUS health care ruling

In what is likely another futile effort to get cameras in the U.S. Supreme Court’s marbled courtroom, several media organizations have asked that the upcoming announcement of the decision in the health care law challenge be televised.

Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press executive director Lucy Dalglish told the Associated Press that she knows such a request has little chance of being granted, so she has also asked for a quick release of the audio of the opinion’s announcement. When the case was argued over three days in March, the Court released audio of each day’s proceedings within hours.

Keep up to date on all the Court’s news on Lawyers USA’s Supreme Court Report.

Insurers to keep some health care law provisions regardless of challenge

The impact of the Supreme Court’s decision on the health care law may be felt by fewer insured Americans now that several health care insurance companies have vowed to adhere to some of the law’s provisions regardless of the justices’ decision.

UnitedHealth Group, Aetna and Humana have announced in separate statements that they will adhere to certain popular  provisions of the law. Some of those include coverage for young adults under their parents’ plans, independent reviews of appeals of coverage denials, and coverage of pre-existing conditions.

More here form Bloomberg News, and stay on top of the latest Supreme Court news, including analyses of the Court’s latest decisions, from Lawyers USA’s Supreme Court Report.

 

O’Connor praises former clerk’s judicial nod

President Barack Obama announced new federal judicial nominations yesterday, and one candidate for Washington’s federal court of appeals has a high-profile advocate on his side.

“It’s a wonderful choice,” retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor told The New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin about the nomination of Sri Srinivasan to the D.C. Circuit. “I’m sure he would be a good appellate court judge.”

Srinivasan clerked for O’Connor during the Court’s October 1997 term, and went on to work on the solicitor general’s office as well as the Washington office of O’Melveny and Myers. He’s now back at the Justice Department serving as Principal Deputy Solicitor General.

O’Connor told Toobin that there should be no roadblock to his confirmation.

“He’s not anybody who’s been politically active, he’s been very serious in his work habits, and people have had an ample opportunity to see his work,” she said. “I think he’s been steady and impressive.”

Supremes’ popularity continues to slip

Just 44 percent of Americans give the thumbs up to the work the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court are doing, according to the newest New York Times poll, the latest in a series of surveys to demonstrate just how far the high court’s approval ratings have plummeted in recent years.

While the drop on popularity – compare the 1980s when two-thirds of Americans gave the Court high marks – is due in part to the nation’s growing distrust of the government in general, but also partly due to the Court’s growing image as a politically polarized body given its 5-4 splits on controversial cases like Bush v. Gore and Citizens United v. FEC.

More here from the Times. Stay tuned to Lawyers USA for the latest developments from the Court.

Is Ted Olson the highest-paid lawyer?

It is no surprise that BigLaw attorneys charge lots of money, and that veteran Supreme Court litigators are at the top of the pecking order of that group. But it is a bit of a jolt to hear of a lawyer billing a whopping $1,800 per hour.

According to court bankruptcy case filings that give a rare glimpse into the billing rates of lawyers at Gibson Dunn, that is the amount partner Ted Olson pulls in for 60 minutes of his time, reports the Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog.

The rate charged by former solicitor general, who is known for his work on countless high-profile high court cases from Bush v. Gore to the current challenge to California’s Proposition 8, is the highest on record according to a database of publicly-disclosed rates. Also pulling in the big bucks at the firm is Justice Antonin G. Scalia’s son Eugene, who bills a respectable $980 per hour despite the fact that his father once said: “There’s something wrong with a system where getting someone just a little bit brighter is worth that kind of money.”

The other Ariz. immigration case: Parties seek civil class action

The Obama administration’s pending Supreme Court challenge to Arizona’s immigration law SB 1070, which among other things requires police to check the immigration status of detained individuals who are suspected of being in the country illegally, isn’t the only court battle surrounding the controversial measure.

A group of immigrants and immigrants’ rights groups are seeking to bring a class action lawsuit alleging that the law violates individuals’ Fifth Amendment right to due process, First Amendment right to free speech and 14th Amendment right to equal protection, according to the Arizona Republic.

“A lot of focus has been placed on the federal government’s lawsuit, but our case focuses on the civil-rights violations that SB 1070 will cause,” attorney Chris Newman with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network told the paper. More on that story here, and more Supreme Court news can be found on Lawyers USA’s Supreme Court report.

Prop 8 battle inches closer to Supreme Court

The battle over California’s voter-enacted ban on same-sex marriage, Proposition 8, takes a step closer to the U.S. Supreme Court today. The 9th Circuit will rule on a request by the law’s supporters for an en banc rehearing of the case following a February ruling by a three-judge panel striking down the law.

SCOTUSblog’s Lyle Denniston reports that the judge expected to deny the request, so the question is whether the February order will go immediately into effect or whether it will again be stayed pending Supreme Court review.

For more Supreme Court news, including details on Monday’s rulings on qualified immunity and taxpayers’ Equal Protection rights, check out our Supreme Court Report.

UPDATE: The 9th Circuit declined to reconsider the panel’s ruling, sending it a step closer to Supreme Court consideration. More here from Lawyers USA.

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