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Biden swears by Sotomayor

While tradition dictates that the chief justice of the United States swears in the president during inauguration ceremonies, the vice president gets to choose the person who administers his oath.

And Vice President Joe Biden’s choice is Justice Sonia M. Sotomayor.

In a statement, Biden called it “one of the greatest pleasures of my career to be involved in her selection to the court.”

“From the first time I met her, I was impressed by Justice Sotomayor’s commitment to justice and opportunity for all Americans, and she continues to exemplify those values today. Above all, I’m happy for the chance to be sworn in by a friend – and someone I know will continue to do great things,” Biden said.

The BLT Blog’s Tony Mauro points out that female Supreme Court justices have been a popular choice among vice presidents on inauguration day. Sandra Day O’Connor swore in Dan Quayle, and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg administered the oath to Al Gore.

No Supreme Court fete for Obama

There will be plenty of hubbub during the upcoming inauguration season that will kick off President Barack Obama’s second term. But don’t expect a reception at the U.S. Supreme Court; there will be none.

Unlike in 2008, when Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and the other justices welcomed Obama and Vice President Joe Biden at reception at the Court, no such event will be held in January, the Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog reports.

Not every election results in a Supreme Court fete. Reelected presidents like Obama don’t usually get a second Court welcome. But not all newly-elected president’s do either – just ask former President George W. Bush, who didn’t get one at all (perhaps the justices were wary to do so for appearances sake after the Bush v. Gore decision).

Friday morning docket: Shakeup over ‘shakedown’ comment

All eyes were on Capitol Hill yesterday as lawmakers grilled BP CEO Tony Hayward over the company’s handling of the ongoing oil spill in the Gulf.

But one lawmaker’s apology to Hayward has sparked a firestorm. Texas Republican Rep. Joe Barton criticized the White House meeting with BP execs that culminated with the company setting up a $20 billion escrow account in order to pay claims relating to the spill.

“I’m ashamed of what happened in the White House yesterday,” Barton told Hayward. “I think it is a tragedy of the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown. In this case a $20 billion shakedown.”

“I do not want to live in a country where any time a citizen or a corporation does something that is legitimately wrong, (they are) subject to some sort of political pressure that … amounts to a shakedown,” Barton continued. “So I apologize.”

The comments drew almost immediate ire from Democrats as well as Barton’s fellow Republicans. House Republican leaders John Boehner, Eric Cantor and Mike Pence issued a joint statement asserting: “Congressman Barton’s statements this morning were wrong. BP itself has acknowledged that responsibility for the economic damages lies with them and has offered an initial pledge of $20 billion dollars for that purpose.”

Vice President Joe Biden called Barton’s remarks “incredibly insensitive, incredibly out of touch.”

Barton quickly backtracked.

“I think BP is responsible for this accident, should be held responsible, and should, in every way, do everything possible to make good on the consequences that have resulted from this accident,” Barton said. “And if anything I said this morning has been misconstrued to the opposite effect, I want to apologize for that misconstruction.”

Meanwhile, today the Clinton presidential library will release another batch from the 160,000 pages of documents it has identified on Elena Kagan’s tenure in Clinton’s White House. About 80,000 pages of e-mails – about 11,000 of them written by Kagan – will be sent to senate lawmakers vetting her Supreme Court nomination today.

In other news,

Too much time for the crime? Most federal trial judges believe mandatory sentences are too long, according to survey results released by the U.S. Sentencing Commission. (Lawyers USA)

Safety first: The Food and Drug Administration has announced that it will begin posting safety data on recently approved drugs and biologics on its website in an effort to better educate patients and health care professionals. (Lawyers USA)

Suing mad: The Obama administration has decided to sue Arizona over the state’s controversial immigration law, according to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. (Washington Post)

Gay marriage trial wraps: The federal trial over California’s gay-marriage ban wrapped up with closing arguments from both sides this week. (WSJ’s Law Blog)

Biden backs Obama’s Citizens United slam

As some political and legal pundits spend the morning debating whether it was proper for President Barack Obama to call out the Supreme Court during his State of the Union address last night, others are pondering whether it was fitting for Justice Samuel Alito to make his disapproval of Obama’s comments visibly apparent.

But Vice President Joe Biden took to the airways this morning to defend the president’s remarks about the ruling in Citizens United v. FEC, calling the ruling, which removed limits on corporate spending in federal election campaigns, “the last thing we need.”

“The president didn’t question the integrity of the court. He questioned the judgment of it,” Biden said on “Good Morning America” this morning, according to the AP. “A lot of these multinational corporations are owned as much by foreign interests as they are by domestic interests.”

“I think it’s an outrageous decision,” Biden said later. “Not outrageous in the fact that these guys are bad guys, but outrageous in the way you read the Constitution [to allow] excessive amounts of money be able to influence the outcome of elections.”

He echoed Obama’s call for a congressional remedy. “I think it was dead wrong and we have to correct it,” said Biden.

Biden gives Supreme apology

bidenrobertssmallJust when we thought we were done with the topic, another twist emerges in the ongoing fallout from Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr.’s presidential oath flub.

Vice President Joe Biden – who cracked wise about Roberts’ trouble with the oath, much to President Barack Obama’s visible chagrin (see it here) – called and apologized to the chief justice for the remark.

Biden called Roberts some time last week, and the two had “a good conversation” according to Someone Who Knows.

Biden gets a Supreme zinger in

bidenJust minutes ago, Vice President Joe Biden swore in members of the White House staff. Before doings so, he couldn’t help himself from making a joke:

“My memory is not as good as chief Justice Roberts,” Biden said, indicating he would read the oath to the new appointees instead of attempting to say it by heart as Roberts did with the presidential oath yesterday, to problematic results.

Biden’s quip drew laughs from the new staffers, as well as reporters.

UPDATE: As some tipsters have pointed out to DC Dicta, there was one person in attendance who clearly did not find Biden’s quip funny in the least: President Barack Obama. In this clip you can clearly see Obama grimace and shake his head at Biden’s remark. Obama also gave the vice president a little pat with his hand as if to say: “Just get on with it, Joe.”

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The Funniest Justice, week 7: Serious Supremes

supremeobamaIt’s been a busy week at the Supreme Court. Aside from hearing oral arguments, The justices handed down four decisions (more on those here, here, here and here). They even had a couple of high-profile visitors stop by.

Perhaps the seriousness of the opinion topics and the upcoming historic transfer of executive power caused the justices to be more serious and less silly on the bench this week. The laughs were few and far between, according to our ongoing review of court transcripts.

Unlike other weeks, where the crowd laughed dozens of times, this week the justices only garnered five rounds of giggles in the Court: two from quips made by the Court’s reigning funny man Justice Antonin Scalia,  two from Justice Stephen Breyer’s comments, and one from a funny made by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr.

(Looking at the picture, perhaps they saves all their laughs for the incoming president and vice president?)

Here are the laugh standings so for this term, based on Court transcripts:

Justice Antonin Scalia: 29

Justice Stephen Breyer: 21

Chief Justice John Roberts: 19

Justice David Souter: 9

Justice Anthony Kennedy: 9

Justice John Paul Stevens: 6

Justice Samuel Alito: 2

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: 1

Justice Clarence Thomas: 0 (Thomas hasn’t made a remark during oral arguments since Feb. 22, 2006).

DC Dicta’s greatest hits of 2008

With 2008 almost in the history books, it’s a good time to take a look back at the most popular posts of the year here at DC Dicta. Looking back, the hottest items on the blog revolved around presidential campaign moments, Supreme Court shenanigans, celebrity testimony on the Hill, and the beleaguered Justice Department. Let’s count them down:

10. Mukasey: ‘Not every violation of the law is a crime’

mukaseyagComments made by Attorney General Michael Mukasey in August – particularly the quote: “Not every wrong, or even every violation of the law, is a crime” – circulated around the blogosphere and ultimately became a catchphrase to represent the problems plaguing the Justice Department in recent years.

9. The Funniest Justice: Antonin Scalia

scaliasideNo one leaves ‘em laughing in the courtroom like Justice Antonin Scalia, who handily won the title of Funniest Justice for the October 2007 term.

8. Kennedy winks in EEOC’s direction?

kennedy2After January oral arguments in Kentucky Retirement Systems v. EEOC, this post noted that Justice Anthony “Swing Vote” Kennedy seemed to indicate pretty clearly that he believed the retirement benefits system in question discriminated on the basis of age – just as the EEOC contended. Although he did go on to find the program discriminatory, he was in the Court’s minority, writing the dissent in a case that did not at all adhere to the Court’s usual conservative vs. liberal breakdown. (Scalia and Ginsburg joined Kennedy’s dissent – when does that every happen?)

7. Actor to lawmakers: Let patients bring pharma suits

quaidMr. (Dennis) Quaid went to Washington. The actor, whose newborn twin daughters were accidentally given a nearly-lethal dose of the drug herapin, told lawmakers in May that without the right to sue pharmaceutical companies, consumers will become “uninformed and uncompensated lab rats.”

6. U.S. News law school rankings leaked!

When the folks at Above The Law put up a document showing the 2009 U.S. News & World Report law school rankings a few days before they were published in March, we sent you there.

5. McCain’s switch on Souter; Obama: Thomas isn’t too bright

thomas2Ah, remember that video of then presidential candidate Barack Obama basically saying Justice Clarence Thomas wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer? Of course you do! Many of you watched it right here in August.

4. Biden calls Court a Supreme campaign issue

bidenDuring the campaign season, now Vice President-elect Joe Biden was one of the most frequently searched subjects leading to DC Dicta. When he talked about the importance of the election in terms of potential Supreme Court nominees in August, the related post was one of the most popular blog items for weeks afterwards.

3. Cover blown off Chief Justice’s school visit

robertssmallWho knew Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. was so popular? Well, he obviously does – since he tried to clandestinely visit a local high school in March for a talk with students. But somehow word got out, newspaper reporters were there waiting for him, and DC Dicta readers wanted to know all about it.

2. 400 requests for reduced crack sentences in two days

crackWhen new reduced federal sentencing guidelines for crack cocaine offenses, approved last year by the U.S. Sentencing Commission, went into effect retroactively in March, one day later more than 400 court orders from around the country slashing prison terms had been processed by the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

And the most hit blog post of the year (drumroll, please!):

1. High court denies Enron investors’ petition

enronThis Jan. 22 post noted that the Supreme Court, on the heels of its decision in Stoneridge Investment Partners v. Scientific-Atlanta Inc., denied a petition by Enron investors seeking to pursue similar claims against bankers from firms including Merrill Lynch and Credit Suisse Group. The move ended the investors’ actions claiming the bank companies colluded with Enron officials’ fraud.

DC Dicta’s greatest hits of 2008

With 2008 almost in the history books, it’s a good time to take a look back at the most popular posts of the year here at DC Dicta. Looking back, the hottest items on the blog revolved around presidential campaign moments, Supreme Court shenanigans, celebrity testimony on the Hill, and the beleaguered Justice Department. Let’s count them down:

10. Mukasey: ‘Not every violation of the law is a crime’

mukaseyagComments made by Attorney General Michael Mukasey in August – particularly the quote: “Not every wrong, or even every violation of the law, is a crime” – circulated around the blogosphere and ultimately became a catchphrase to represent the problems plaguing the Justice Department in recent years.

9. The Funniest Justice: Antonin Scalia

scaliasideNo one leaves ‘em laughing in the courtroom like Justice Antonin Scalia, who handily won the title of Funniest Justice for the October 2007 term.

8. Kennedy winks in EEOC’s direction?

kennedy2After January oral arguments in Kentucky Retirement Systems v. EEOC, this post noted that Justice Anthony “Swing Vote” Kennedy seemed to indicate pretty clearly that he believed the retirement benefits system in question discriminated on the basis of age – just as the EEOC contended. Although he did go on to find the program discriminatory, he was in the Court’s minority, writing the dissent in a case that did not at all adhere to the Court’s usual conservative vs. liberal breakdown. (Scalia and Ginsburg joined Kennedy’s dissent – when does that every happen?)

7. Actor to lawmakers: Let patients bring pharma suits

quaidMr. (Dennis) Quaid went to Washington. The actor, whose newborn twin daughters were accidentally given a nearly-lethal dose of the drug herapin, told lawmakers in May that without the right to sue pharmaceutical companies, consumers will become “uninformed and uncompensated lab rats.”

6. U.S. News law school rankings leaked!

When the folks at Above The Law put up a document showing the 2009 U.S. News & World Report law school rankings a few days before they were published in March, we sent you there.

5. McCain’s switch on Souter; Obama: Thomas isn’t too bright

thomas2Ah, remember that video of then presidential candidate Barack Obama basically saying Justice Clarence Thomas wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer? Of course you do! Many of you watched it right here in August.

4. Biden calls Court a Supreme campaign issue

bidenDuring the campaign season, now Vice President-elect Joe Biden was one of the most frequently searched subjects leading to DC Dicta. When he talked about the importance of the election in terms of potential Supreme Court nominees in August, the related post was one of the most popular blog items for weeks afterwards.

3. Cover blown off Chief Justice’s school visit

robertssmallWho knew Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. was so popular? Well, he obviously does – since he tried to clandestinely visit a local high school in March for a talk with students. But somehow word got out, newspaper reporters were there waiting for him, and DC Dicta readers wanted to know all about it.

2. 400 requests for reduced crack sentences in two days

crackWhen new reduced federal sentencing guidelines for crack cocaine offenses, approved last year by the U.S. Sentencing Commission, went into effect retroactively in March, one day later more than 400 court orders from around the country slashing prison terms had been processed by the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

And the most hit blog post of the year (drumroll, please!):

1. High court denies Enron investors’ petition

enronThis Jan. 22 post noted that the Supreme Court, on the heels of its decision in Stoneridge Investment Partners v. Scientific-Atlanta Inc., denied a petition by Enron investors seeking to pursue similar claims against bankers from firms including Merrill Lynch and Credit Suisse Group. The move ended the investors’ actions claiming the bank companies colluded with Enron officials’ fraud.

Once and future veep chief of staff

klainVice President-elect Joe Biden has tapped an attorney with an impressive resume to be his chief of staff at the White House. According to the Associated Press and several other news outlets, this week the Obama-Biden team will announce the selection of Ron Klain as Biden’s chief of staff.

Klain, a magna cum laude grad of Harvard Law, clerked for Supreme Court Justice Byron R. White for two years. He went on to become chief of staff and counselor to Attorney General Janet Reno, associate counsel to President Bill Clinton, and chief of staff to Vice President Al Gore.

Klain, a top advisor in the campaign, currently serves executive vice president and general counsel of Revolution LLC, a Washington, DC-based company launched by AOL co-founder Steve Case in 2005.

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