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Tag Archives: Supreme Court

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.

No plumbers needed at the Supreme Court

The eyes of the nation seem to be on the U.S. Supreme Court as the anticipation over the upcoming decision in the health care challenge reaches a fever pitch.

But something is strange to people who don’t follow the Supreme Court on a regular basis: although the justices and those who work for them know – and have likely known for months – how the Court has ruled in the matter, no one has said a peep.  No need for a plumber – the Supremes don’t leak.

“Everybody, from the ordinary citizen to reporters who are not used to covering the Court, are getting and education about how the Court works,” said veteran Supreme Court litigator Paul Clement yesterday at a media briefing hosted by the National Chamber Litigation Center in Washington.

Given the potential impact of the case on this year’s election, Clement said, “in addition to the Supreme Court press corps, you also have more political reporters who are covering this case. And the thing that I’ve found most amusing is their complete inability to believe that there will not be leaks. They are just so used to covering the other two branches of government that they just assume that leaks are absolutely inevitable and that there is no way in the world you could have a decision this monumental, and have that many people know about it, and have at least presumably half of the people have some beef about what is about to happen, and nobody’s talking about it.”

But at a time when the Court’s popularity numbers are falling, the fact that the Court is setting itself apart in this way is a good thing, Clement concluded.

“I think this is a good thing for the Court,” Clement said. “[M]aybe in the long run … people will have an appreciation that this really is a different branch of government.”

For more Supreme Court news, including a breakdown of all this week’s decisions, see our Supreme Court Report.

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.

Breyer robbed again

Poor Justice Stephen G. Breyer just can’t catch a break.

In the last year alone, Breyer suffered a broken collarbone in a bicycle accident, and he was robbed at machete point in his Carribean vacation home. Now comes news that Breyer’s Georgetown home was burglarized earlier this month.

The Washington Post reports that the robbers made off with silver valued at over $3,000. But fear not, a spokesperson for the Supreme Court said no Supreme Court-related documents were swiped.

For the latest Supreme Court news, see the Supreme Court Report on Lawyers USA online.

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.

Court will be Supreme presidential campaign issue

As President Barack Obama prepares to formally launch his reelection campaign and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney continues to stump, expect the Supreme Court to be a major campaign issue.

Two very high profile cases – the challenge to the federal health care law and the challenge to the Arizona immigration law authorizing local and state police with immigration enforcement powers – will be decided before the election, reminding voters of how important the Court is. And equally headline-grabbing cases – dealing with affirmative action in colleges and perhaps California’s same-sex marriage ban and the Defense of Marriage Act – lie on the horizon for the justices to take up next term.

All this comes at a time when the Court is nearly equally divided ideologically. And four of the nine justices are over the age of 70: Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg (79), Antonin Scalia (76), Anthony Kennedy (75), and Steven Breyer (73).

This week Obama indicated that he is fully aware of the major role the Court will play in the campaign.

“There are going to be some Supreme Court appointments probably if you look actuarially for the next president,” Obama said at a fundraiser with former President Clinton, according to the Washington Examiner. “There’s so much at stake here.”

Romney has already spoken about the importance of Supreme Court appointment power, and pledged to nominate judges with ideologies in line with the Court’s most conservative jurists.

(Romney photo by Gage Skidmore)

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

Arizona immigration law challenge could end in a tie

Gov. Jan Brewer and attorney Paul Clement, far right, leaving the Supreme Court Wednesday after oral arguments in Arizona v. U.S. (Photo: Kimberly Atkins, Lawyers USA)

There is bad news and good news for the Obama administration as it seeks to have Arizona’s controversial immigration enforcement law SB 1070 struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The bad news: four out of the eight justices who heard the case today seemed to side squarely on the side of Arizona officials who say the state statute does not conflict with federal immigration law. (Justice Elena Kagan recused herself, likely because she was involved in the challenge while she was Obama’s solicitor general).

If, as it seemed, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito and presumably Clarence Thomas (Thomas does not speak during oral arguments, but he is a vocal opponent of the doctrine of implied preemption) are inclined to rule in favor of the state, the best the federal government can do in its challenge is tie – assuming noted swing voter Justice Anthony M. Kennedy votes in the administration’s favor.

But the good news is that a tie would be a win in this case. If the Court splits, the case goes back to the 9th Circuit, which has already given a strong indication that it would strike down the law when it upheld a preliminary injunction preventing the law from going into effect.

Much more on the arguments later on Lawyers USA online.