Justice Thomas pleads for less “myth-making” of the court and justices

Justice Thomas pleads for less “myth-making” of the court and justicesIn an op-ed Thursday in the Los Angeles Times, law professor Rick Hasen suggested that “there is something disconcerting about Supreme Court justices becoming political rock stars.” He cautioned against turning the justices into gods and devils. Hasen isn’t the only commentator addressing the hagiography of the justices. Speaking on Monday at the University of […]

The post Justice Thomas pleads for less “myth-making” of the court and justices appeared first on SCOTUSblog.

Justice Thomas pleads for less “myth-making” of the court and justices

In an op-ed Thursday in the Los Angeles Times, law professor Rick Hasen suggested that “there is something disconcerting about Supreme Court justices becoming political rock stars.” He cautioned against turning the justices into gods and devils. Hasen isn’t the only commentator addressing the hagiography of the justices. Speaking on Monday at the University of Pennsylvania Law School as part of a panel that included Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick encouraged members of the media to reconsider recent portrayals of Ginsburg. She suggested that depictions of her as cultural icon and judicial celebrity reduce the complexity of her personality and contributions to the law.

Yesterday at the Law Library of Congress, Justice Clarence Thomas weighed in, echoing Hasen’s and Lithwick’s thoughts. Thomas said he regretted the “myth-making around the court and who we are” as justices and people, which has created a contrast between the “real world” of the Supreme Court and how it is portrayed outside the court. Judges and justices “don’t have the time, energy, or ink to engage in the narrative battles” ascribed to them by some in the media, Thomas said.

Journalists might write that a justice decided a case “callously” – especially a death penalty case – but “those are people who’ve never stayed up in the middle of the night voting on it,” Thomas continued.

Several times in his remarks with Judge Gregory Maggs of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, Thomas spoke about Justice Antonin Scalia. He said that Scalia and he “trusted each other so much” because “getting it right was important to both of us.”

Thomas attributed this similarity with Scalia to their shared Catholic educations. He said that the “beauty of having gone to parochial schools is that they taught us that there was a right way to think about things,” whether physics, history, or other subjects.

Before turning to law, Thomas expected to become a priest. Discussing his decision to leave the seminary, Thomas explained that “it was 1968.” “Anyone here who was around in 1968 knows what that means. The wheels were coming off the wagons in a lot of ways.”

Although he never became a priest, Thomas said that “the sense of vocation never leaves you.” He approached the law as his new “calling.” Although he expected to practice law in Georgia after graduating from Yale Law School, he didn’t receive any job offers in Savannah or Atlanta.

He moved to Jefferson City, Missouri, “and if it weren’t for that I wouldn’t be on the Supreme Court,” Thomas said. “I’d be a tax lawyer or something.”

Thomas said of being a justice, “everything I do is in preparation for doing this job. If you’re called to do it, it consumes you.”

The reason for such effort stems from the justices’ duty to explain the court’s reasoning to the public. Thomas recalled his grandfather’s simple but wise admonition to him in childhood: “If it don’t make no sense, it don’t make no sense.”

Thomas compared judging to climbing a mountain. One sees more of the surrounding area at each higher elevation. The elevation in Thomas’ metaphor refers to experience. With each year, he said, “you see more, you understand more, not because you’re smarter, but because you’ve been doing it longer.”

Returning again to Scalia and the effort they and the other justices apply to their work, Thomas said simply, “we took an oath to do it.”

The post Justice Thomas pleads for less “myth-making” of the court and justices appeared first on SCOTUSblog.

from http://www.scotusblog.com

Partial stay for Republican legislators in North Carolina redistricting case

Partial stay for Republican legislators in North Carolina redistricting caseRepublican legislators scored a partial victory on redistricting last night as the Supreme Court agreed to block part of a decision by a three-judge federal court invalidating the state’s legislative maps. The lower court had ruled that several state legislative districts were the product of racial gerrymandering, while others violated state law, but yesterday the […]

The post Partial stay for Republican legislators in North Carolina redistricting case appeared first on SCOTUSblog.

Partial stay for Republican legislators in North Carolina redistricting case

Republican legislators scored a partial victory on redistricting last night as the Supreme Court agreed to block part of a decision by a three-judge federal court invalidating the state’s legislative maps. The lower court had ruled that several state legislative districts were the product of racial gerrymandering, while others violated state law, but yesterday the justices put part of that ruling on hold while the legislators appeal the merits of the lower court’s decision.

In a brief order, the Supreme Court indicated that the lower court’s order would be stayed to the extent that it required state house districts in Wake County (which includes the state capital, Raleigh) and Mecklenburg County (which includes Charlotte) to be redrawn. The five districts at issue in those two counties had been struck down on the ground that they violated a provision of the state constitution regulating the timing of redistricting. Last night’s order means that the lower court’s ruling on the remaining districts will go into effect, leaving replacement maps drawn by a special master in place while legislators appeal.

Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas indicated that they would have blocked all of the lower court’s ruling, while Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor would have allowed all of the lower court’s decision to go into effect. If the other five justices disagreed with the result reached last night, they kept that disagreement to themselves.

This post was originally published at Howe on the Court.

The post Partial stay for Republican legislators in North Carolina redistricting case appeared first on SCOTUSblog.

from http://www.scotusblog.com

Alito denies stay in Pennsylvania redistricting case

Alito denies stay in Pennsylvania redistricting caseThe Supreme Court today declined to intervene in a partisan-gerrymandering challenge to Pennsylvania’s federal congressional maps. Justice Samuel Alito, who hears emergency appeals from the geographic district that includes Pennsylvania, rejected requests from Republican legislators and voters to put a ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on hold while they appeal the state court’s finding […]

The post Alito denies stay in Pennsylvania redistricting case appeared first on SCOTUSblog.

Alito denies stay in Pennsylvania redistricting case

The Supreme Court today declined to intervene in a partisan-gerrymandering challenge to Pennsylvania’s federal congressional maps. Justice Samuel Alito, who hears emergency appeals from the geographic district that includes Pennsylvania, rejected requests from Republican legislators and voters to put a ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on hold while they appeal the state court’s finding that the current map resulted from partisan gerrymandering – that is, drawing district lines to favor one political party at the other’s expense. The state supreme court had instructed the state legislature to draw new maps by the end of this week, and the legislators had hoped that the U.S. Supreme Court would block that order.

On January 18, the justices granted a request by Republican legislators in North Carolina to block a ruling by a three-judge federal court that struck down that state’s federal congressional maps as the product of partisan gerrymandering, and the Pennsylvania legislators and voters had hoped for the same result in their case. There is no way to know why the Supreme Court put the North Carolina ruling on hold while refusing to do so in Pennsylvania, but two factors may have contributed to the Pennsylvania denial: The state supreme court relied on the state constitution, of which it (rather than the U.S. Supreme Court) is generally the final arbiter; and the state supreme court has not yet issued an order describing its reasoning in any detail. However, the fact that Alito did not refer the request to the full court, as Chief Justice John Roberts did with the North Carolina case, strongly suggests that he did not view the case as an even remotely close call.

This post was originally published at Howe on the Court

The post Alito denies stay in Pennsylvania redistricting case appeared first on SCOTUSblog.

from http://www.scotusblog.com

SCOTUS Map: January 2018

SCOTUS Map: January 2018Civic education was a recurring theme in the justices’ off-bench remarks this month. On January 11, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made an appearance alongside her biographer at Georgetown University Law Center’s Week One class, “Supreme Court Topics: The Role of Dissenting Opinions.” A report on the event is available at the Georgetown Law website. A […]

The post SCOTUS Map: January 2018 appeared first on SCOTUSblog.

SCOTUS Map: January 2018

Civic education was a recurring theme in the justices’ off-bench remarks this month.

On January 11, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made an appearance alongside her biographer at Georgetown University Law Center’s Week One class, “Supreme Court Topics: The Role of Dissenting Opinions.” A report on the event is available at the Georgetown Law website.

A couple of weeks later, the justice was in Park City, Utah, for the premiere of the documentary RBG at the Sundance Film Festival. In an onstage interview with Nina Totenberg of National Public Radio, Ginsburg was asked about the #MeToo movement. “It’s about time,” she responded. “For so long women were silent, thinking there was nothing you could do about it, but now the law is on the side of women, or men, who encounter harassment and that’s a good thing.” The Salt Lake Tribune, CNN, NPR and Deadline covered Ginsburg’s remarks. Video of the conversation is available online.

There was a justice for every time zone in the contiguous United States in January.

On January 22, Justice Stephen Breyer appeared at the University of North Florida as part of the school’s Presidential Lecture Series, where he warned that younger generations’ ignorance of American civics and history would prove detrimental to democracy. The Jacksonville Daily Record reports that Breyer said, “The biggest threat is that high school students and college students my grandchildren’s age—the next generation and the generation after that—do[] not understand our history, our documents, and our government.” It wasn’t all talk about the law and the Constitution, however — according to the Florida Times-Union, Breyer also ribbed the Jacksonville crowd about the Jaguars’ playoff loss to the New England Patriots. Additional coverage comes from the Jacksonville Business Journal and the UNF Spinnaker.

On January 23, Justice Sonia Sotomayor was in Seattle to help launch the Washington-specific version of iCivics (the civic-education organization founded by retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor) and to speak at the Council on Public Legal Education’s Summit II. “No one is born a citizen,” Sotomayor told the audience. “You have to be taught what that means.” The Seattle Times and Crosscut covered the event. While in town, the justice also visited Washington Middle School.

At least two of Sotomayor’s colleagues were in the Garden State on the same day that she was in the Evergreen State. Justice Samuel Alito attended the dedication of Sunnybrae Elementary School’s Little Free Library to his mother, Rose Alito, who had served as the principal of the school. Meanwhile, Justice Neil Gorsuch delivered a speech about civility and civics at Stockton University. “For us, civics education isn’t just an ideal. It’s indispensable,” the Press of Atlantic City quoted Gorsuch as saying. “The founders gave us a Republic, but it’s for each generation to keep it.” According to CBS Philly, Gorsuch also divulged his first accomplishment as the newest head of the Supreme Court cafeteria committee: restoring the joint’s meatball subs to their former glory. “The marinara sauce had somehow been replaced by shrimp cocktail sauce. We got that fixed.” Additional coverage comes from WHYY and Stockton University News.

Sotomayor traveled to Texas next, giving a talk at the University of Texas at San Antonio on January 25 and participating in a Q&A session at the University of Houston Law Center on January 26. “You don’t have to be a Supreme Court justice to be successful,” she told students in San Antonio. “You just have to take a step every day that makes you better than where you started.” Sotomayor also addressed the mid-January visit she received from paramedics to treat symptoms of low blood sugar: “I didn’t have a scare, everyone else did. Everybody else sees it and they panic.” Coverage of her Texas tour comes from the San Antonio Express-News, KSAT-TV, Houston Public Media and the Houston Chronicle.

Justice Clarence Thomas took part in a meet-and-greet with students at the University of Kansas School of Law on January 25.

On the same day that President Donald Trump delivered his first State of the Union, Ginsburg visited Rhode Island, where she lamented the partisan animosity gripping the country. The justice ultimately landed on an optimistic note. “We will see this time end, this fierce partisanship,” she said at a morning fireside chat at the Roger Williams University School of Law. The Providence Journal and the Boston Globe summarized her RWU visit, while Rhode Island Public Radio covered Ginsburg’s evening discussion at Temple Beth-El in Providence.

Two days later, at the Adas Israel Congregation in Washington, D.C., Ginsburg spoke about the current political climate and the federal judiciary, which she called “our nation’s hallmark and pride.” Asked whether there is a moment when judges should respond to the undermining of democratic norms, Ginsburg answered: “The judiciary is a reactive branch of government. It doesn’t generate the controversies that come before it. It has no agenda; it’s reactive to what’s out there… If people ask me about an opinion, all I can say is, read it. Judges do depend on the bar to explain the importance of an independent judiciary.” On proposals to impose term limits on Supreme Court justices, Ginsburg had this to say: “It is a subject on which I am biased and prejudiced. I will admit that most countries in the world have a compulsory retirement age. Most of our states have a compulsory retirement age for judges. Some have fixed non-renewable terms. I’m grateful to the Founding Fathers for writing into the Constitution that the judges shall hold their office during good behavior.” Coverage comes from POLITICO, The Washington Post and Forward. Video is available via Adas Israel (select “Play,” then “Previous Broadcasts”).

The post SCOTUS Map: January 2018 appeared first on SCOTUSblog.

from http://www.scotusblog.com

This week at the court

This week at the courtThe Supreme Court is now in recess. The justices will meet next for their February 16 conference. The calendar for the February sitting, which begins on February 20, is available on the Supreme Court’s website.

The post This week at the court appeared first on SCOTUSblog.

This week at the court

The Supreme Court is now in recess. The justices will meet next for their February 16 conference. The calendar for the February sitting, which begins on February 20, is available on the Supreme Court’s website.

The post This week at the court appeared first on SCOTUSblog.

from http://www.scotusblog.com

Pennsylvania legislators go to justices on redistricting

Pennsylvania legislators go to justices on redistrictingThe Supreme Court yesterday received yet another request to intervene in a state’s redistricting battle – this time from Republican legislators in Pennsylvania, who asked the justices to temporarily block a ruling by the state’s supreme court invalidating the state’s federal congressional map. A divided Pennsylvania Supreme Court had ordered the legislature to draw new […]

The post Pennsylvania legislators go to justices on redistricting appeared first on SCOTUSblog.

Pennsylvania legislators go to justices on redistricting

The Supreme Court yesterday received yet another request to intervene in a state’s redistricting battle – this time from Republican legislators in Pennsylvania, who asked the justices to temporarily block a ruling by the state’s supreme court invalidating the state’s federal congressional map. A divided Pennsylvania Supreme Court had ordered the legislature to draw new maps by February 9, ruling that the current map was the product of partisan gerrymandering and violates the Pennsylvania constitution.

In their brief filed today, the Republican legislators – who include the president pro tempore of the state senate and the speaker of the state’s house of representatives — told the justices that the state supreme court’s decision “has cast Pennsylvania’s Congressional elections into chaos on the eve of the 2018 primary elections,” which are scheduled for May 18; March 6 is the deadline for candidates to file to run in the primaries. With those deadlines in mind, the legislators asked the justices to rule on their request by January 31.

Election law expert Rick Hasen described the legislators’ request as a “longshot bid,” because the Pennsylvania Supreme Court relied on the state constitution – of which the state supreme court, rather than the U.S. Supreme Court, is generally the sole arbiter. The legislators argue that, because the federal constitution gives state legislatures power over federal congressional elections, the state court’s ruling infringes on their authority. In 2015, the Supreme Court rejected an argument by the Arizona legislature that the state’s use of an independent redistricting commission violated the U.S. constitution; we’ll have a better sense soon of what the justices might think of the Pennsylvania legislators’ reasoning.

This post was originally published at Howe on the Court.

The post Pennsylvania legislators go to justices on redistricting appeared first on SCOTUSblog.

from http://www.scotusblog.com

North Carolina redistricting wars return

North Carolina redistricting wars returnLess than a week ago, the Supreme Court granted a request by North Carolina Republicans to block (at least temporarily) an order by a three-judge federal court in that state that would have required the state legislature to submit a new federal congressional map today. The federal court ruled that the state’s Republicans had engaged […]

The post North Carolina redistricting wars return appeared first on SCOTUSblog.

North Carolina redistricting wars return

Less than a week ago, the Supreme Court granted a request by North Carolina Republicans to block (at least temporarily) an order by a three-judge federal court in that state that would have required the state legislature to submit a new federal congressional map today. The federal court ruled that the state’s Republicans had engaged in partisan gerrymandering when they drew the map to ensure their “domination of the state’s congressional delegation,” but the Supreme Court’s January 18 order freed Republicans of the need to come up with a new plan while they file an appeal.

This afternoon North Carolina asked the justices to step into the redistricting battles again – this time, in a dispute over the state legislative maps. Describing the situation as “a case of déjà vu all over again,” the state urged the court to block a decision by a three-judge federal court invalidating those maps. It argued that, just as the federal congressional maps “were invalidated based on a novel theory of partisan gerrymandering, the state maps have run afoul of an equally novel theory of non-racial racial gerrymandering.” “Even though it is undisputed that” the plan invalidated by the recent ruling “was drawn without any consideration of race,” the state continued, “the three-judge court still rejected it for failing to adequately remedy the ‘effects’ of a prior finding of racial gerrymandering” in an earlier plan. That decision, the state asserted, is “unprecedented.”

The state suggested two possible options for resolving the case, both of which involve putting the lower-court ruling on hold: The justices could either wait until they rule on another racial-gerrymandering challenge – from Texas – that is already slated for oral argument (almost certainly in April), or they could go ahead and hold oral argument in this case in April and issue a decision by late June. At a minimum, the state stressed, “the people of North Carolina should not have to prepare for an election under a map drawn without the involvement of the General Assembly just because a Court without jurisdiction inexplicably found racial gerrymandering in a plan drawn without consideration of race.”

North Carolina’s request will go to Chief Justice John Roberts, who handles emergency appeals from the geographic region that includes the state. Roberts can either rule on the application himself or refer it to his colleagues, but he will likely first ask the challengers to weigh in first – and will probably do so quite soon.

The post North Carolina redistricting wars return appeared first on SCOTUSblog.

from http://www.scotusblog.com

Justices release March calendar

Justices release March calendarThe Supreme Court released the calendar for its March sitting, which begins on March 19. The justices will hear nine hours of oral argument over six days, with three of those days featuring two hours of argument each and the other three slated for just one hour each. One of the highest-profile cases of the […]

The post Justices release March calendar appeared first on SCOTUSblog.

Justices release March calendar

The Supreme Court released the calendar for its March sitting, which begins on March 19. The justices will hear nine hours of oral argument over six days, with three of those days featuring two hours of argument each and the other three slated for just one hour each.

One of the highest-profile cases of the sitting will be argued on Tuesday, March 20: National Institute of Family Life Advocates v. Becerra, a First Amendment challenge to a California law that requires crisis pregnancy centers – which oppose abortion – to disclose specific kinds of information (either notices regarding the availability of low-cost abortions or disclaimers stating that they do not provide medical help, depending on the type of services that the centers offer) to the pregnant women who seek their assistance. The justices will close out the sitting on Wednesday, March 28, with another much-anticipated case: Benisek v. Lamone, in which a group of Maryland residents allege that the state’s Democratic election officials gerrymandered a federal congressional district to retaliate against them for their support of Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, a Republican who served in Congress for decades.

The other cases slated for argument in March, along with the issues presented in each case, are:

Salt River Project v. Solarcity Corp. (March 19): Whether an order denying state-action immunity to public entities is immediately appealable under the collateral-order doctrine.

Sveen v. Melin (March 19): Whether a state law providing that the designation of a spouse as a beneficiary (for example, of a life insurance policy) is automatically revoked if the couple divorces violates the Constitution’s contracts clause – which bars states from enacting laws that impair contracts – when the state law is applied to a contract that was signed before the law was enacted.

Upper Skagit Indian Tribe v. Lundgren (March 21): Whether a lawsuit against an Indian tribe can go forward, despite the tribe’s sovereign immunity, when a court is exercising jurisdiction over property, rather than a tribe.

United States v. Sanchez-Gomez (March 26): Whether the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit should have reviewed a challenge by a group of individuals who were detained before trial to a policy of using full restraints for a variety of nonjury proceedings when the case was interlocutory and the court of appeals had recognized that the individuals’ own claims were moot.

China Agritech v. Resh (March 26): Whether previously absent members can file new class actions because the limitations period is tolled while the earlier would-be class actions are pending.

Hughes v. United States (March 27): Whether an inmate who enters into a plea bargain under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(c)(1)(C) – which specifies that an attorney for the government will agree that a specific sentence is appropriate – is eligible to have his sentence reduced later if the sentencing guidelines are changed.

Koons v. United States (March 27): Whether a defendant who is subject to a statutory mandatory minimum sentence, but who substantially assisted the government and received a sentence below the mandatory minimum, is eligible for an additional sentence reduction if the Sentencing Commission retroactively lowers the advisory sentencing guidelines range that would have applied in the absence of the statutory mandatory minimum.

This post was originally published at Howe on the Court.

The post Justices release March calendar appeared first on SCOTUSblog.

from http://www.scotusblog.com

Justices add frog case to merits docket

Justices add frog case to merits docketThis morning the Supreme Court issued additional orders from last week’s conference. On Friday, the justices announced that they would review Hawaii’s challenge to the most recent iteration of the president’s “travel ban.” Today the court granted review in an environmental-law case, Weyerhaeuser Co. v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The star of Weyerhaeuser’s case […]

The post Justices add frog case to merits docket appeared first on SCOTUSblog.

Justices add frog case to merits docket

This morning the Supreme Court issued additional orders from last week’s conference. On Friday, the justices announced that they would review Hawaii’s challenge to the most recent iteration of the president’s “travel ban.” Today the court granted review in an environmental-law case, Weyerhaeuser Co. v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The star of Weyerhaeuser’s case is the dusky gopher frog, an endangered species that can only survive in a habitat that meets several specific criteria – including, for breeding, small temporary ponds in a forest where the tree tops are relatively widely spaced. The legal dispute now before the court arose when the FWS designated over 1500 acres of privately owned forest in Louisiana as a “critical habitat” for the frog, which would stand in the way of plans to develop the land, at a cost of up to $34 million. The sticking point is that the dusky gopher frog doesn’t live on the designated land, which doesn’t meet all of the criteria for its survival, and hasn’t been seen there in over 50 years. The landowners’ challenges to the designation failed in the lower federal courts, but now the Supreme Court has agreed to decide two questions presented by the landowners: whether the Endangered Species Act allows an agency like FWS to designate private land as a critical habitat when it is neither a habitat nor critical; and whether courts can review the agency’s decision not to exclude an area from the designation of a critical habitat because of the economic effects of designation.

The justices also asked the federal government to weigh in on two petitions for review, in Sterba v. PNC Bank and Strang v. Ford Motor Co. In Sterba, the U.S. solicitor general will provide the government’s views on which choice-of-law rules (federal or state) bankruptcy courts should apply to decide which statute of limitations applies to a creditor’s claim. In Strang, the government will offer its views on whether the widow of a retired Ford employee who wanted to receive his pension as a lump-sum payment because he was dying can sue Ford under ERISA alleging a breach of fiduciary duty. There is no deadline for the solicitor general to file his briefs in these cases, but he is likely to do so this summer.

This post was originally published at Howe on the Court.

The post Justices add frog case to merits docket appeared first on SCOTUSblog.

from http://www.scotusblog.com

A “view” from the courtroom: Open for business, with a hiccup

A “view” from the courtroom: Open for business, with a hiccupToday is the first weekday of the federal government shutdown, but few court-watchers are surprised that the Supreme Court is open for business. As Andrew Hamm reported for this blog on Sunday, the court operated as usual during the 2013 and 1995 government shutdowns, even conducting its entire two-week argument session in October of 2013. […]

The post A “view” from the courtroom: Open for business, with a hiccup appeared first on SCOTUSblog.

A “view” from the courtroom: Open for business, with a hiccup

Today is the first weekday of the federal government shutdown, but few court-watchers are surprised that the Supreme Court is open for business.

As Andrew Hamm reported for this blog on Sunday, the court operated as usual during the 2013 and 1995 government shutdowns, even conducting its entire two-week argument session in October of 2013. Although the federal courts get some of their budgets from a congressional appropriation, they can operate for about three weeks on court-fee balances and other funds, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

Today is a scheduled day for orders and opinions for the Supreme Court, after which the court is taking its four-week midwinter recess.

So, the justices take the bench as normal at 10 a.m. Or at least five of them do. Four are absent, which is not unusual for these non-argument sessions.

Some justices absent for today’s opinions (Art Lien)

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is on her way back from the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, where over the weekend she participated in a festival interview session related to the festival premiere of the documentary “RBG.” She was introduced by Sundance founder Robert Redford and interviewed by NPR’s Nina Totenberg. Among the newer nuggets of information to emerge were two of Ginsburg’s favorite recent movies. She cited “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” and “Call Me By Your Name.”

Justice Stephen Breyer is speaking this evening at the University of North Florida, in Jacksonville.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor is absent not because of her minor health scare on Friday related to her diabetes (paramedics were called to her apartment over concerns about her blood-sugar level), but because she is headed to Seattle for a civics education event, the court’s Public Information Office says.

Justice Samuel Alito is absent today as well, and we have no information about his whereabouts.

The bar section of the courtroom is pretty full, with many lawyers scheduled to be sworn in as members of the Supreme Court Bar. That’s where today’s hiccup will come a little later.

The public gallery is sparsely attended, with only about two rows filled, and many of those people appear to be guests of the bar admittees. Even though this is one of the few government buildings open for business (although Smithsonian museums are open through today), it is not quite high season for visiting student groups.

The chief justice announces that Sotomayor has the opinion today in National Association of Manufacturers v. Department of Defense.

“She’s asked that I read the opinion for her,” Roberts says.

The case is about whether challenges to a federal regulation known as the “waters of the United States” rule must be filed in federal district courts. That is where the NAM filed its challenge to the rule promulgated by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers. The federal government argued that such challenges must be filed in the federal courts of appeals under the Clean Water Act’s enumeration of seven categories of EPA actions for which judicial review lies exclusively in the appeals courts.

“The parties have asked us to wade in” to the question, the chief justice says, with the pun eliciting chuckles throughout the courtroom. He makes clear fairly quickly that the court has sided with the NAM and that challenges to the WOTUS rule must be filed in the federal district courts.

Roberts’ reading of Sotomayor’s summary includes several other water-related puns, such as a reference to the government seeking to keep its interpretation “afloat” by turning to some theory or authority. Some of the wordplay appears in the written opinion and some doesn’t. We think the puns originate with Sotomayor, and not the chief justice.

Roberts declares that the decision is unanimous. (So, we are still awaiting an instance when the chief justice announces an opinion for an absent justice in which he is in the minority.)

Next, Roberts says that “Justice Ginsburg has our opinion today in Artis versus the District of Columbia.” He does not mention whether Ginsburg has asked that he read her summary. He just starts reading it.

The case is a fairly technical one about the time for refiling a claim under the supplemental jurisdiction statute. The court holds that the statute’s instruction to “toll” a state limitations period means to hold it in abeyance, or stop the clock. The decision is 5-4, with the chief justice joining the court’s liberal bloc to form the majority, and Justice Neil Gorsuch filing a dissent joined by Justices Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Alito.

Roberts next says with a smile that “Justice Thomas has our opinion today in District of Columbia versus Wesby, and he’s going to announce it himself.”

This is a case about whether police officers in the nation’s capital had probable cause to arrest attendees at a raucous “bachelor party” in an unoccupied house.

The facts of this case provided for one of the livelier arguments of the term back in October. And while Thomas sometimes has a knack for draining all of the fun aspects of a case out of the opinion announcement, that’s not true today.

From the bench, he refers to an “utter bacchanal” involving “strippers,” “lap dances” and casual sex on a mattress in the bedrooms, with used condoms strewn about.

Some partygoers believed they were invited by a hostess known as “Peaches,” who it turns out was not at the party and was not authorized to use the house. When the police arrived in response to a neighbor’s complaint, partygoers scattered. The police reached Peaches on the phone, and she claimed to be renting the house. But when the police reached the home’s owner, he said there was no such agreement and the party was not authorized. The police then arrested 21 partygoers for unlawful entry. (Charges were dropped, and 16 of the partygoers sued for false arrest.)

Thomas quickly summarizes the court’s conclusion that the police had probable cause to make the arrests and that the officers had qualified immunity. Sotomayor filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment. Ginsburg filed an opinion concurring in the judgment in part. (In her opinion, Ginsburg chides Thomas for his account of the facts going “beyond those cited by the Court of Appeals.”)

With that, the court moves to its normally routine ritual of swearing in new members of the bar.

Clerk of the Court Scott Harris introduces a few individual admittees, and then a large group from the U.S. Air Force Judge Advocate General corps. But there are about six or seven others seated with the other bar admittees who have slightly mystified looks on their faces when Roberts gives his traditional welcome to the new bar members and Harris swears in the acknowledged groups.

When the swearing-in concludes, Marshal Pamela Talkin bangs her gavel to end the court session and everyone stands, including the justices. But as this is going on, Roberts and Harris are trading looks that suggest they are aware that one group of admittees has been overlooked.

The chief justice raises his hands slightly and says, “I’m sorry, we’re not quite ready to adjourn.”

Harris says, “We have one more group.”

Everyone settles back down as the neglected group is announced and then sworn in.

And then, the five justices head for the curtains, ready to begin their midwinter recess.

Talkin announces that court will next meet on February 20.

It goes unsaid that that will happen assuming funds are available.

The post A “view” from the courtroom: Open for business, with a hiccup appeared first on SCOTUSblog.

from http://www.scotusblog.com