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ABA president slams Gingrich’s judicial plan

Presidential candidate and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s controversial ideas for the federal judiciary – recall that he said he’d ignore adverse Supreme Court decisions and even arrest subpoenaed judges and have them hauled before Congress to explain themselves – have gotten the attention of American Bar Association President William T. Robinson, III. And he clearly isn’t a fan of Gingrich’s plans.

“[H]is headline-grabbing proposals represent more than just campaign rhetoric,” Robinson wrote in an in an op-ed in the Des Moines Register last week, days ahead of the Iowa caucuses . “They seek to undo more than 200 years of constitutional democracy and undermine the one safe haven Americans have to resolve a dispute: our courts.”

Aside from the separation of powers issues Gingrich’s proposal poses, Robinson said Gingrich’s plan threatens to undermine the judiciary at a time when elected officials should be buttressing the government’s third branch.

“The judiciary isn’t a powerful interest group. Courts cannot raise money or marshal voters, unlike Gingrich,” Robinson wrote. “Our courts are easy targets because judges do not respond to these attacks. They are, by design, not supposed to react to the whims and passions of politicians.”

ABA puts ‘for sale’ sign on historic DC building

ABA BuildingLooking for some stately digs in the heart of downtown DC, just a pebble’s toss from the White House? You’re in luck! The American Bar Association is putting its Washington building on the sales block.

The ABA, according to the National Law Journal’s BLT blog, is seeking $65 million for the property, located on the corner of 15th and H Streets in Northwest Washington. That asking price would represent a sizable profit for the building, purchased in the depressed housing market of the early ‘90s for $20 million. “We have bidders who have come in higher than the price we thought we would get,” ABA Executive Director Jack Rives told the BLT.

Despite the building’s grand marble and columned exterior, ABA officials said the decision to look for a new location was based on the fact that they’ve outgrown the interior, which treasurer Alice Richmond described as a “rabbit warren” of small offices.

So far the ABA has considered 8 new locations, and plans to have further news about the move by the fall.

Ginsburg wishes confirmations were less partisan (access required)

There was a time where Supreme Court nominees were overwhelmingly supported by the Senate. But the last three Supreme Court justices were confirmed with votes that largely fell long partisan lines, save a few exceptions. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg likes the old way better.

“With ABA encouragement, may the U.S. Senate some day return to the collegial, bipartisan spirit that Justice [Stephen] Breyer and I had the good fortune to experience,” Ginsburg told an applauding audience during an address to the American Bar Association House of Delegates yesterday.

Ginsburg, who received the ABA Medal – the association’s highest honor – at the event in San Francisco, said she was concerned about partisan opposition when she was first nominated to the D.C. Circuit in 1980.

“It was late the [President Jimmy] Carter’s term, and not clear that any more of his judicial nominees would get through,” Ginsburg explained. “And there was more than a little concern that opposition might be spurred by my affiliation with the American Civil Liberties Union as one of the union’s general counsel and co-founder of its Women’s Rights Project.”

But she received the ABA’s highest rating – “well qualified” – buoying her nomination, she said.

“And that rating made me invulnerable to attack as unfit for the appointment,” Ginsburg said.

When she was nominated by President Clinton to the Supreme Court 13 years later, “no senator so much as mentioned my ACLU connection” during the confirmation hearings, Ginsburg said.

Ginsburg was confirmed with a Senate vote of 96-3. Breyer was confirmed by a vote of 87-9.

By contrast, Justice Elena Kagan was confirmed last week with a 63-37 vote with only five GOP senators backing her, Justice Sonia Sotomayor was confirmed last year by a vote of 68-31 with eight Republican backers, and Justice Samuel Alito’s 2006 Senate confirmation vote was 58-42, with four Democrats voting in his favor. Each received a “well qualified” rating from the ABA.

See Ginsburg’s remarks here, courtesy of ABA Journal.

Friday morning docket: No Roe reversal, Ginsburg says

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said yesterday that, despite legal challenges being waged by those seeking to reverse Roe v. Wade, abortions will remain legal and available.

“Over a generation of young women have grown up, understanding they can control their own reproductive capacity, and in fact their life’s destiny,” Ginsburg said in a discussion at the Aspen Ideas Festival yesterday, according to Politico. “We will never go back to the way it once was.”

Ginsburg said restricting access to abortions would have a disproportionately negative effect on poor women. “If people realize that, maybe they will have a different attitude,” Ginsburg said.

Ginsburg also praised her late husband of 56 years, Martin Ginsburg as the “smartest man I knew” and “the first boy I met that cared that I had a brain.”

On her own health, Ginsburg – who has had two bouts with cancer – said: “I’m just fine.”

In other news:

ABA wants a cool COLA: The American Bar Association has filed an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to rule in a case that would decide the constitutionality of Congress denying cost-of-living salary adjustments for federal judges. (Lawyers USA)

DOMA headed to the SCOTUS? A federal judge in Boston ruled that the federal Defense of Marriage Act – which prohibits certain federal recognition of same-sex marriages – is unconstitutional yesterday , spurring conservative activists to call for an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. (Boston Herald)

Matter of FACTA: New regulations from the Federal Trade Commission affecting businesses that furnish information to credit reporting agencies went into effect July 1. (Lawyers USA)

Oil health risks? In an effort to learn more about potential health risks to workers aiding in the Gulf Coast oil spill cleanup efforts, House lawmakers have asked Exxon Mobil executives for documents discussing health effects experienced by workers who responded to the Exxon Valdez oil spill. (Lawyers USA)

It’s a wrap: Another U.S. Supreme Court term is in the record books. And while some decisions – like the Second Amendment ruling that struck down Chicago’s handgun ban – dominated headlines, other cases decided during the term will have a much broader impact on civil and criminal litigators. (Lawyers USA)

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