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Monthly Archives: October 2012

Stevens presses lawmakers on gun control issue

Retired Justice John Paul Stevens, citing the rise of mass shootings such as the July incident in a Colorado movie theater, urged congress to act on gun control measures.

“The fact that Congress doesn’t address it is, I think, mind-boggling,” Stevens told attendees of a Washington luncheon yesterday, Reuters reports. Stevens also said he’d like to see both presidential candidates address the issue of gun control.

Stevens, in his dissent  from Justice Antonin G. Scalia’s majority opinion in Second Amendment case DC v. Heller in 2008, wrote that the constitutional right to “keep and bear arms” was created to protect citizens ability to form a militia, not to confer a individual right to gun ownership, as the Court’s majority held.

For more Supreme Court news from Lawyers USA, see our Supreme Court Report. Our sister company Federal News Service has the full transcript of Stevens’ comments here (sub. req-d).


Specter, former lawmaker focused on judicial issues, dies

Former Sen. Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania lawmaker who focused on issues affecting the judiciary, legal practice and consumer protection in a career that took him from the GOP to the Democratic Party, passed away over the weekend of non-Hodgkins lymphoma at 82.

Specter, a staple of the Senate Judiciary Committee, played a central role in 14 Supreme Court confirmation hearings, often working to build bipartisan support for nominees of both parties. Arlen himself voted to confirm justices from across the political spectrum from Justice Clarence Thomas to Justice Elena Kagan.

He also championed many issues important to lawyers, pressing legislation that would restore the “notice pleading” standard and overturn the U.S. Supreme Court rulings in Ashcroft v. Iqbal and Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly which set a higher pleading standard, a bill to amend the National Labor Relations Act to require employers to give unions more access to employees regarding representation before an election, and a measure to bar attorneys in any government department from requesting a waiver of the attorney-client privilege in exchange for consideration in criminal or civil investigations.

More on Specter’s career here from Lawyers USA.

The Funniest Justice, week 2: Million dollar laugh

During her oral argument Tuesday in the case Ryan v. Valencia Gonzales, attorney Leticia Marquez argued that criminal defense lawyers who lose the ability to effectively communicate with their client have a duty to raise the issue with the judge.

“Is he under duty to raise it as soon as possible, at the risk of forfeiture if he doesn’t?” asked Justice Anthony M. Kennedy.

“Well, that’s the million dollar question,” Marquez said.

“Well, that’s why I’m asking,” Kennedy replied to laughter from the crowd.

And with that, the swing-voting justice is on the board in our ongoing count to determine this term’s Funniest Justice. Justice Antonin G. Scalia and Justice Stephen G. Breyer also each earned a laugh this week. Here are our standings after week 2:

Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr.: 3

Justice Stephen G. Breyer: 3

Justice Antonin G. Scalia: 2

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy: 1

Justice Clarence Thomas: 0

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: 0

Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr.: 0

Justice Sonia M. Sotomayor: 0

Justice Elena Kagan: 0


Scalia gently jabs Posner in talk on history, the Constitution and public perception (access required)

Justice Antonin G. Scalia has thrown sharp barbs at 7th Circuit Judge Richard Posner in their ongoing public spat about the role of history in legal interpretation. But last week he took a softer approach in mocking the now infamous review Posner wrote of Scalia’s latest book.

As you recall, Posner questioned the wisdom of basing legal interpretations on merely text and history in his critical review in The New Republic of the book “Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts,” which Scalia authored with Bryan Garner. The review has led to some public bickering – via media outlets – between the esteemed jurists. In one interview, Scalia went so far as to say Posner lied in asserting that Scalia relied on legislative history in his opinion in the Second Amendment case DC v. Heller. Posner responded with a two-page letter to Reuters defending his claim.

But at event last week in Washington  hosted by the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, Scalia took a more gentle approach in keeping the public feud going. Read More »

Kennedy could be the decider in affirmative action case

The fate of the admission policy at University of Texas at Austin and other schools – which considers race among a host of other factors – could rest largely with one justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

As the court hears oral arguments in the case this morning, all eyes will be on Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who could provide the crucial swing vote in a decision that promises to be close.

Justice Elena Kagan has recused herself from the case, setting up the possibility of a 4-4 tie, in which case the lower court ruling upholding the school’s policy would stand. If Kennedy sides with the more liberal members of the court in upholding the measure, the school wins. But if he joins the four more conservative justices, the 5-3 ruling against the school could prevent schools across the nation from considering race in admissions.

More here from the Wall Street Journal and here form Lawyers USA.

Employers eye Supremes as they take up affirmative action case

The justices of the U.S. Supreme Court resume oral arguments this week, and one of the cases on tap is the closely-watched affirmative action ruling from the 5th Circuit upholding an admissions policy at the University of Texas at Austin, which the justices will hear Wednesday. Under that policy, admissions officials are allowed to take race into consideration, along with a number of other factors.

That case, Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, has drawn the attention not only of college officials across the nation, but also employers – from small businesses to fortune 500 companies – who say the Court’s ruling will have a direct impact on their ability to create and maintain diverse workplaces. More on that issue here from Lawyers USA.

The Funniest Justice, week 1: Chief charges out of the gate

“I would like to answer the question that the Chief Justice asked yesterday morning,” attorney Eric Schnapper told the Court during oral arguments Tuesday in the case Kloeckner v. Solis.

“You better remind me,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. said, drawing laughter from the audience and other justices.

That was one of three laughs the chief justice earned during this first week of oral arguments, bringing him out to an early lead in our term-long tally to determining this term’s Funniest Justice. Justice Stephen G. Breyer earned two laughs, and the reigning champion of funny, Justice Antonin G. Scalia, earned one laugh.

Here is the tally after one week:

Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr.: 3

Justice Stephen G. Breyer: 2

Justice Antonin G. Scalia: 1

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy: 0

Justice Clarence Thomas: 0

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: 0

Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr.: 0

Justice Sonia M. Sotomayor: 0

Justice Elena Kagan: 0

Obama wanted to try bin Laden in civilian court

If Osama bin Laden has been captured alive, President Barack Obama’s preference would have been to for him to have been tried in civilian court, according to author Mark Bowden.

In a Vanity Fair piece [HT: Law Blog] adapted from Bowden’s book “The Finish,” Obama is quoted:

“We worked through the legal and political issues that would have been involved, and Congress and the desire to send him to Guantanamo, and to not try him, and Article III. I mean, we had worked through a whole bunch of those scenarios. But, frankly, my belief was if we had captured him, that I would be in a pretty strong position, politically, here, to argue that displaying due process and rule of law would be our best weapon against al-Qaeda, in preventing him from appearing as a martyr.”

They may not have been an easy task, given the opposition Attorney General Eric Holder faced in his failed attempt to try accused terrorist Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a federal criminal court in New York.

FNS has debates covered

Did you know that our Federal News Service, a sister company of Lawyers USA, will be using covering the presidential debates – in a truly unique way?

As John Stodder explains, it’s social media coverage “with a twist.”

John writes:

On the blog, which is being launched in conjunction with the debates, correspondents for FedNews will post past comments on debate topics by Obama and Romney so readers can see for themselves how much the candidates have altered their stances since the 2008 campaign and on other public occasions. The conversation will continue on Facebook and Twitter.

“Meanwhile, Tumblr, a blog platform with 69 million blogs that is popular among college-age users, will be “Live-Giffing the 2012 Debates,” which means the editors of Tumbling the Election will post short, endlessly repeating videos documenting “the best debate moments, from zingers to gaffes to awkward silences,” and are inviting users to do the same during the debates.”

As usual, FNS will offer its subscribers near real-time verbatim transcripts of the candidates’ words – exactly as they are spoken.

Learn more about FNS here.


First day, first laughs

After just one day of oral arguments in the Supreme Court’s new term, a justice is already on the board in our tally of the term’s Funniest Justice.

Just to recap, DC Dicta keeps a weekly count of how many times the justices of the Court get a laugh out of the crowd during oral arguments, as demonstrated on the Court’s transcripts.

The first to score? Justice Stephen G. Breyer, who got two laughs during yesterday’s argument in Lozman v. Riviera Beach.

Can he hold on to defeat three-time champion Justice Antonin G. Scalia? And as an added bonus, who will be the funniest oral advocate this year? Check back with DC Dicta each week through the end of the term to find out!