Tag Archives: SCOTUS

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.


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.

Did Roberts change his vote in the healthcare case?

In the days since the U.S. Supreme Court upheld most of the federal health care law, Supreme Court watchers have been posing a new question about the Court’s deliberations in the case: did Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. change his vote?

According to CBS News’ Jan Crawford, he did – spurring Justice Anthony M. Kennedy to lead a month-long effort to convince Roberts to return to the other side.

“He was relentless,” one of Crawford’s two sources said of Kennedy. “He was very engaged in this.”

According to Crawford’s report:

“It is not known why Roberts changed his view on the mandate and decided to uphold the law. At least one conservative justice tried to get him to explain it, but was unsatisfied with the response, according to a source with knowledge of the conversation.”

Meanwhile, check out Lawyers USA’s analysis of the decisions legal impact.

Stevens: Court may regret Citizens United ruling

Retired Justice John Paul Stevens said his former colleagues may be ruing the day the Citizens United v. FEC decision was handed down.

In a speech last night at the University of Arkansas, Stevens said the Supreme Court will soon have to decide whether the decision, which held that the right of corporations, unions and other groups to make unlimited super PAC contributions in election campaigns is protected by the First Amendment, also applies to foreign groups including terrorist organizations.

Stevens said based on the words “not true” famously uttered by Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr. in response to President Barack Obama’s criticism of the Citizens United decision at the 2010 State of the Union address, “there will not be five votes” to extend Citizens United to foreign entities.

“The court must then explain its abandonment of, or at least qualify reliance upon, the proposition that the identity of the speaker is an impermissible basis for regulating campaign speech,” Stevens said, according to CNN’s Bill Mears. “It will be necessary to explain why the First Amendment provides greater protection for some nonvoters than that of other nonvoters.

Justices will wrap the term by June, then jet off

If you were wondering whether to put off your Fourth of July travel plans for fear that you will miss the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in the health care law case  or in the Arizona immigration law challenge, fear not.

The justices will almost surely wrap up the term, pending blockbuster cases included, by the end of June – the Court’s traditional conclusion time frame. That’s because, according to the AP, the justices have planes to catch.

Several of the justices, who often accept teaching positions during the summers in exotic locales,  are set to begin professorial gigs the first week of July, the AP reports. Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. will be jetting off to Malta. Justices Antonin G. Scalia and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg are headed to Austria. Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr. will be going to Italy.

More here from the AP, and more on all the latest news from the Supreme Court from Lawyers USA’s Supreme Court Report.

Sticks and stones: Will threat of label affect the Court?

Are liberal members of Congress and the press trying to influence the outcome of the Supreme Court health care challenge by threatening to call the nation’s chief justice a name?

That is what a Wall Street Journal editorial asserts. And what is  the nasty label that is designed to sway Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr.? Activist.

The editorial points to recent press coverage suggesting that overturning the health care law would be a radical move tantamount to reversing New Deal era legislation, as well as recent comments made by  Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy on the Senate floor, where he said he hopes Roberts has “a strong institutional sense of the proper role of the judicial branch.”

“The conservative activism of recent years has not been good for the Court,” Leahy said.

The full editorial can be found here, and Lawyers USA’s coverage of the Supreme Court, including the health care case, can be found on our Supreme Court Report.

Supreme Court not as popular as it used to be

In the court of public opinion, the U.S. Supreme Court isn’t faring too well.

Approval numbers for the Court have hit a half-century low, according to poll released this week by the Pew Research Center. The survey shows that only 52 percent of Americans rate the Court favorably, a drop from 58 percent in 2010.

At the same time, 29 percent rate the Court unfavorably, a jump from 25 percent in 2010.

Contrast 1994, when 80 percent of the public rated the Court favorably, and only 16 percent had a negative view.

The Court’s dwindling popularity is not a partisan issue, according to the poll: 56 percent of Republicans, and 52 percent of both Democrats and independents gave the Court a favorable rating.

On the issue of the health care law specifically, the public is deeply divided: 41 percent of those surveyed said they approve of it, while 49 percent disapprove.

But within those camps, views of the Court were similar. Among the health care law’s supporters, 52 percent have a favorable view of the Supreme Court, while 34 percent view it unfavorably. Among the law’s opponents, 55 percent rate the Court favorably, and 28 percent gave an unfavorable vote.

And the Funniest Justice is…

He’s made cracks about bad dictionaries, deadpanned about deporting babies to China, and quipped that a justice’s job could at times violate the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

By making the audience and other justices of the Supreme Court laugh during oral arguments more than five dozen times, Justice Antonin G. Scalia sailed to an easy victory as this term’s Funniest Justice. Since DC Dicta began keeping count, Scalia is undefeated.

So the real race was for second place. And though Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. made a real contest of it, it was Justice Stephen G. Breyer who walked away with the silver this term, with Roberts coming in third.

According to the laugh count, as noted in the Court’s official transcripts, every justice earned at least one laugh this term except Justice Clarence Thomas, who hasn’t made a comment during oral arguments – humorous or otherwise – since Feb. 22, 2006. Let’s just hope that when he does speak, we’ll get a chuckle out of it.

Here is the final tally:

Justice Antonin Scalia: 63

Justice Stephen Breyer: 47

Chief Justice John G. Roberts: 26

Justice Anthony Kennedy: 11

Justice Elena Kagan: 7

Justice Samuel Alito: 5

Justice Sonia Sotomayor: 2

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: 1

Justice Clarence Thomas: 0

Supreme Court saves AZ immigration law challenge for last

The Supreme Court is set to end its oral argument season with a bang this morning, as it hears the challenge to Arizona’s immigration law which authorizes police officers to check the status of any detained individual the officer suspects may be an illegal immigrant.

The law is being challenged by the Obama administration, which argues that federal immigration law preempts state measures such as Arizona’s SB 1070. But state officials say they have the right to enact state immigration laws, particularly where – as they claim here – federal law is ineffective.

Stay tuned to Lawyers USA online and this blog this afternoon for updates on the arguments.

Fugetaboutit: Supremes pass on NYC rent control law case

New Yorkers who live in affordable apartments – some of which have been handed down within families for years – can rest easy today. The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to take up a case challenging the city’s rent control laws.

The Court gave a hint that it could take up the challenge last month when it asked the city as state to respond to the petition by a landlord of an Upper West Side rental property. The owner claimed that city laws preventing him from increasing the rent on a tenant who has resided in an apartment since the 1970s amounts to an unconstitutional taking by the government. The rent is currently capped at a rate lower than the mortgage the tenant pays on a vacation home in the Hamptons.

But the justices took a pass, declining certiorari without comment Monday.