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10 justices hear oral arguments

Spotted at the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday morning: Retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

O’Connor sat in the courtroom as the Court’s nine sitting justices took up the issue of whether the use of a drug sniffing dog outside of a house is a search for Fourth Amendment purposes. O’Connor frequently drops by her former stomping grounds when she is in Washington.

Stevens wants four more words

Retired Justice John Paul Stevens wants four words added to the Constitution – a move he said would better allow the federal government to respond in times of crisis.

The addition of “and other public officials” to the Supremacy Clause of Article VI, Stevens recently said during a Chicago Bar Association talk, would give the federal government the authority to use state officials to carry out national policies, the Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog reports.

The federal government needs that power to better protect the public from threats and terrorism, Stevens said. “[I]t would be prudent to adopt the amendment that I have proposed before the next time-bomb explodes.”

More Supreme Court news from Lawyers USA’s Supreme Court report.

Federal government – including Supremes – closed as capital assesses damage

Today all federal government offices – the U.S. Supreme Court included – are closed except for essential personnel as local officials survey the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy. The region’s public transit system remains closed and local officials report widespread reports of downed trees and power lines.

The Supreme Court will resume oral arguments tomorrow as scheduled. Arguments that were to be heard today will take place Thursday.

Sandy shuts down everything … except the Supreme Court (Updated)

UPDATE: The Court has canceled its Tuesday sitting due to Hurricane Sandy, rescheduling oral arguments that were to take place tomorrow for Thursday, SCOTUSblog reports.

. . .

As Washington and other East Coast cities stand virtually shut down as Hurricane Sandy is set to make landfall today, here’s one thing that we know: Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. is hard core.

The only government entity in the region – federal, state or local – that is not closed this morning is the U.S. Supreme Court, which will release orders and then hear oral arguments in two cases this morning. That decision rested entirely with the chief justice, who opted against canceling today’s session despite the shutdown of the Metro public transit system and other federal courts in the region.

Roberts perhaps felt the ante was raised by his predecessor, the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who famously refused to cancel oral arguments during a 1996 blizzard. One justice, Justice John Paul Stevens, missed the argument because he couldn’t get a flight out of Florida. Another, Justice David Souter, was late due to road conditions. Other justices were picked up and taken to the Court in four-wheel-drive vehicles.

Kennedy draws laughs with talk of opera and beer

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy may not be one of the funniest Supreme Court justices during oral arguments, but he showed his funny side during a speech Wednesday at the Heritage Foundation in Washington.

Kennedy recounted a story about a casual gathering of lawyers and other judges when he was an 11th Circuit judge. “I said, do you have any questions?” Kennedy said, according to a transcript of the event from Lawyers USA‘s sister company Federal News Service. “And somebody said, ‘how do you read all of those briefs, all that written material?’”

Kennedy replied that he read every brief, and would bring home briefs from the most difficult cases to reread while listening to opera. “I have one-opera and two-opera briefs,” Kennedy said, drawing laughter from the crowd. But after answering, Kennedy said he feared his talk of opera “came across as kind of highfalutin.”

“Here’s this guy talking about the opera, East Coast intellectual or trying to be one,” he said of himself, drawing more laughs. “I thought I kind of lost the audience, but a fellow raised his hand and said, ‘well, I have a rule like that when I write those briefs.’

“I said, ‘oh, yeah?’” Kennedy continued. “He said, ‘I have a one-six-pack brief and two-six-pack brief.’  I said, ‘I remember your last one. I think it was a three-six-pack brief.’”

Get the full transcript here, and find out more about Federal News Service and its transcription and media monitoring services here.

 

Delay in DOMA cases?

New filing are expected at the U.S. Supreme Court in pending certiorari petitions involving the constitutional challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act, a law prohibiting the federal recognition of same-sex marriages even where they are allowed under state law.

The filings, from both the Obama administration and House Republicans defending the law, could be in response to a recent 2nd Circuit ruling striking down the law and extending constitutional protections for gays and lesbians. The justices had been expected to soon decide whether to take any or all of the cases up, but could delay that move in order to consider all DOMA-related challenges at once, SCOTUSblog’s Lyle Denniston explains.

In addition to the DOMA petitions, the justices have also been asked to take up the case challenging California’s voter-approved Proposition 8, which bans gay marriage in that state.

Ginsburg on the art of persuasion

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg says her job has required her to master the art of persuasion.

“None of us operating in that setting can hope to prevail if we try to be King or Queen. You have to accommodate to the views of other people,” Ginsburg said that a Yale University event Friday, according to the West Hartford News.

Ginsburg said she learned the skill as a litigator, taking on laws that promoted gender inequality. “The major problem that gender equality advocates faced in the ’70s was that the laws differentiating between men and women did so for a benign purpose – to protect women,” Ginsburg said, according to the report. “We had to show the court how these classifications are harmful to everyone. To men, to women and to children.”

Her favorite method of achieving that goal: evoking daughters. ‘‘I would try to get men to think not so much about what good husbands or fathers they had been but how do they want the world to be for their daughters,” she said, according to the AP.

For all of Lawyers USA’s Supreme Court coverage, check out our Supreme Court Report.

Kagan and Scalia go hunting

Justice Antonin G. Scalia and Justice Elena Kagan are officially hunting buddies.

The two justices of the U.S. Supreme Court spent Saturday hunting together in Wyoming according to Kagan, who talked about their plans while speaking Friday at an event at the University of Tennessee, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel.

Kagan, who has been target shooting with Scalia several times, told the crowd that last spring Scalia proclaimed: “It’s time to move on to the big game.”

“I’m hoping to bag myself an antelope,” she said Friday.

 

Chief justice: New technology poses legal challenges

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., speaking Wednesday at Rice University, said that the biggest legal challenge for federal judges, including the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, is emerging technologies.

“Is being able to see through walls a violation of search and seizure protections? I think it will be a good opportunity to see how prescient the framers were if the Constitution will be able to deal with these questions,” Roberts said during remarks at the school, the Houston Chronicle reports. “What is the fundamental protection offered by the Constitution when applied to new technology and situations? It’s a question that comes along all the time.”

Earlier this year, the Court held that police’s warrantless installation of a GPS device on a suspect’s car violated the Fourth Amendment, and since then other courts as well as lawmakers have struggled to delineate the parameters of that ruling.

A ticket for Scalia

He may be the most senior associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, but Justice Antonin G. Scalia is not above the law.

Scalia, who was in Philadelphia Monday attending an event at Union League – the tony private club depicted in the classic Eddie Murphy film “Trading Places” – was reminded of that fact that when he returned to his car to find a parking ticket.

Despite the police business parking Packard displayed on his dash, Scalia was apparently cited for parking in a loading zone, according to the National Constitution Center’s blog. But one this is certain: the ticket was not part of a partisan conspiracy. The Center jokes in its blog post that the city’s Parking Authority is on of the few GOP-controlled agencies in the mostly Democratic city government.

It’s also worth noting that the city’s parking officials do not fool around – they are famous for being the stars of the television show “Parking Wars” for five years, the blog notes.

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