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Best of DC Dicta in 2012

Another year is coming to a close, which means it’s time to look at the year’s most-read DC Dicta posts:

5. Stormy Court

Hurricane Sandy shut down most of the East Coast in October. Washington, DC was a virtual ghost town, with every local and federal government facility closed down – except the U.S. Supreme Court. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.’s decision to hold oral arguments as scheduled on Oct. 29 was one of the most talked about SCOTUS events of the year.

See “Sandy shuts down everything … except the Supreme Court


4. Silent justice

By now everyone knows that oral arguments are not exactly Justice Clarence Thomas’ favorite part of the job. The justice hasn’t asked a question or made a comment during arguments in over six years.

See “Justice Thomas’ anniversary


3. Health care ruling

It was one of the biggest rulings in modern history – duh!

See “Supreme Court upholds health care law, mandate in 5-4 ruling


2. Bobbles the mind

There was much interest in The Green Bag’s latest addition to their bobblehead collection: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

See “Ginsburg latest justice to receive bobbling honor”


1. Still funny after all these years.

Since DC Dicta began counting the laughs at oral arguments to determine who is the Funniest Justice each year, the ultimate result has always been the same: Antonin Scalia is undefeated.

See “And the Funniest Justice is…


Supreme Christmas visitor

The holiday season can often mean the arrival of unexpected visitors. But for 94-year-old Edith Mathis, an assisted living home resident in Richmond Hill, Ga., her Christmas day visitor wasn’t just any friend of the family.

Justice Clarence Thomas dropped by the facility on Christmas Day to say hello to Mathis, who knew Thomas’ grandparents in Pin Point, Ga., Thomas’ home town. More here from WTOC.

Contraceptives challenge now before Supreme Court

The challenge over a provision of the federal health care law that requires most employers to provide health insurance coverage for emergency contraceptives for their employees has landed before the U.S. Supreme Court.

SCOTUSblog’s Lyle Denniston reports that two employers – companies privately owned by individuals who object to such coverage for religious reasons – have asked the Court to rule on their challenge to the law on the basis that it interferes with their First Amendment-protected religious freedoms. The application in the case Hobby Lobby Stores v. Sebelius asks the justices to weigh in before a federal appeals court rules, and is before Justice Sonia M. Sotomayor. The justice may act on the petition alone or refer it to the full Court for consideration.

The challenge is one of a series of lawsuits that have been filed across the country over the contraception provision of the law.

UPDATE: Sotomayor rejected the request for an emergency injunction blocking enforcement of the law, but did not rule on the merits of the case.

The Supremes: Who could be in, and who could be out?

The game of predicting who might step down from the U.S. Supreme Court – and who might be subsequently nominated – never gets old around these parts. We at Lawyers USA have even joined in on the fun.

Now, Bloomberg Law is the latest to make predictions. Check out it’s take on which four justices may soon decide to hang up their robes in the next few years, and the eight lawyers who may be waiting in the wings:

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Another Second Amendment case heading to the SCOTUS?

Just days before Friday’s horrific shooting at a Connecticut elementary school, a 7th Circuit ruling raised the possibility that the U.S. Supreme Court could soon take up another Second Amendment case.

Last week’s ruling, by Judge Richard Posner – who interestingly enough has been vocally critical of Justice Antonin G. Scalia’s opinion in the landmark Second Amendment case D.C. v. Heller – wrote the majority opinion striking down Illinois’ statewide ban on carrying concealed weapons. That ruling creates a split of sorts with other circuits that have largely upheld local and state gun control laws.

Meanwhile, the recent events seem to have boosted public interest in the Second Amendment. Cornell University Law School’s Legal Information Institute reported on its Facebook page Saturday: “On an average day, the Second Amendment is viewed 700-900 times at the LII. Yesterday, it was 12,304.”

Attorney’s fee tab secretly grows in DOMA defense

House Republicans signed authorized an increase the maximum amount Paul Clement and his colleagues at Bancroft can be paid to defend the Defense of Marriage Act from $1.5 million to $2 million – and Democrats were in the dark about the move for three months.

This week Democrats learned on the measure, which was signed off three months ago by House Administration Chairman Dan Lungren, R-Calif., this week, Roll Call reports. This is the third time GOP lawmakers have lifted the cap on the tax payer-funded attorney fees that can be paid in their defense of the law, which denies to same-sex married couples benefits available to other married couples.

The quietly-authorized increase angered Democrats including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who in a statement called the move “unconscionable” and “irresponsible.”

The U.S. Supreme Court granted cert in the 2nd Circuit DOMA challenge last week, and is expected to hear the case in March.

Scalia draws parallels – and media attention

Justice Antonin G. Scalia is drawing a lot of media attention for comments he made this week as the Supreme Court prepares to hear two same-sex marriage law challenges.

During an appearance at Princeton University Monday, Scalia was asked by a gay student why he compares laws barring sodomy to those barring bestiality.

Scalia replied that he has drawn parallels, not comparisons, to make a point. “I don’t think it’s necessary, but I think it’s effective,” Scalia said according to several news organizations including CBS News. “It’s a form of argument that I thought you would have known, which is called the ‘reduction to the absurd. If we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality, can we have it against murder? Can we have it against other things?”

The comments are drawing wide attention as they come just days after the Court agreed to consider the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act as well as California’s voter-instituted law barring recognition of same-sex marriage in that state.

The occasional regret of Sotomayor

In her upcoming biography, Justice Sonia M. Sotomayor writes that she occasionally feels regret over one title she has never had: mother.

According to the Associated Press, Sotomayor writes in “My Beloved World,” which will be released in English and Spanish next month, that decision not to have or adopt children was based in part on the fact that she is diabetic, a condition she’s had since childhood. One several occasions during her life, she writes according to the AP, the disease caused her to lose consciousness and be found by a college roommate, a client, and even a friend’s dog. But, she writes, such episodes were never frequent and have been rare in the last decade.

Sotomayor is expected to start making press appearances to promote the book soon, including an interview on CBS’ “60 Minutes” next month.

Standing in the way of same-sex marriage cases?

Now that cases involving issue of same sex marriage – both on the state and federal level – have officially landed on the Supreme Court’s docket, the question turns to whether the justices will face the constitutional issue head on, or dispose of the cases on procedural grounds.

On Friday the Court agreed to take up the constitutional challenges to both the federal Defense of Marriage Act and California’s voter-approved measure Proposition 8, which bans gay marriage in that state. The parties and other stakeholders are hoping the Court rules on whether or not the laws violate constitutional equal protection principles.

But in both cases, the justices asked the parties to address whether the petitioners have standing to sue. That puts into play the possibility that the Court could avoid addressing the constitutional issue at all.

For more on the cases and other Supreme Court news, check out our Supreme Court Report.


The Funniest Justice, week 6: International laughter

During oral arguments Wednesday in the case Chafin v. Chafin, Justice Stephen G. Breyer wanted to know whether a Scottish court, in determining someone’s habitual residence, would consider a U.S. court decision.

“I think they would pay attention to what other courts have said,” Breyer said. “Am I right or wrong? I want to know if I’m right or wrong.”

But instead of the arguing attorney giving him an answer, his colleague did.

“We have a brief in the case telling us that the question Justice Breyer is posing,” Ginsburg said. “They would say it’s irrelevant.”

“They would?” Breyer said.

“Justice Ginsburg, that is correct,” attorney Stephen Cullen finally said.

Well, thank for Justice Ginsburg’s answer,” Breyer replied. “She is very helpful.”

Breyer was the top laugh earner this week, adding three chuckles to his score in our ongoing tally of the term’s Funniest Justice. Justice Antonin G. Scalia earned two laughs to hold onto his solid lead in the race, and Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. made the crowd giggle once.

Here is the full tally for the term so far:

Justice Antonin G. Scalia: 12

Justice Stephen G. Breyer: 8

Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr.: 5

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy: 3

Justice Sonia M. Sotomayor: 3

Justice Elena Kagan: 1

Justice Clarence Thomas: 0

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: 0

Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr.: 0