In these other dispatches about fair and impartial courts:
- A new study finds that judges give lighter sentences to those who have undergone a brain scan and been found to be genetically predisposed to violence, The New York Times reported.
- The National Center for State Courts (NCSC) compared the salaries of TV judges like Judy Sheindlin (Judge Judy) and Judge Joe Brown to the salaries of Chief Justice Roberts and state judges. They found that Sheindlin’s salary is almost equivalent to the combined salary for all the nation’s state Supreme Court Justices. NCSC is a JAS partner organization.
Research led by University of North Carolina Law Professor Charles Daye (pictured) may provide some insight for Supreme Court justices in the soon to be argued Fisher v. Texas case, The National Law Journal reported.
A study titled “Does Race Matter in Educational Diversity? A Legal and Empirical Analysis,” found that law students benefit from a racially diverse campus, and argued that law schools should work to keep their campuses diverse.
Daye said that in surveys, students said they learn from each other, and value diversity. Today’s Court, without Sandra Day O’Connor and with Justice Elena Kagan’s recusal from the Fisher case, looks different from the court that decided Grutter v. Bollinger. Grutter upheld limited use of affirmative action in college admissions, the article states.
Daye says it is an important case. “We’re in a global world where lawyers will interact with a wide array of people, and judges will need to understand the perspectives of people of other races.”
The study answers two main questions: “Does race make a difference to what students bring to law school?” and “If so, are any differences reflected in the quality of education students receive?” The study found that students of different racial backgrounds come to law school with different experiences and perceptions. The differences make for a better educational experience overall, the students in the surveys said.
Writing in The Atlantic, Cohen said that John Paul Stevens, who retired in 2010, was the last justice with a military background. While Cohen said that it’s not necessary for judges to be former soldiers, he added that because military issues frequently come before the court, it is important to have some judges with military experience, he said. Cohen says diversity of background and experience is critical on the highest court in the land.
Cohen further chronicles the history of men who become Supreme Court justices. He points out that three current justices, Justice Anthony Kennedy; Justice Samuel Alito; and Justice Stephen Breyer, have only brief non-active duty military experience. He discussed current justices in contrast to past justices with military experience, including World War I veterans Harold Burton, Stanley Reed, Hugo Black, Fred Vinson, Frank Murphy, Sherman Minton, and Earl Warren.
He also wrote about World War II veterans who became Supreme Court justices: Lewis Powell, Byron White, Potter Stewart, William Rehnquist, and John Marshall Harlan. He said that three generations of justices since the end of World War II have never been in combat before serving on the bench. “Never before in our history, or in the history of the United States Supreme Court, has this occurred,” Cohen said.
In the spirit of choosing judges with diverse backgrounds and experiences, Cohen suggested that the next President should appoint a lawyer or trial judge with wartime military experience to the bench. Read more
The connection between a voter-ID case currently in Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court and suspended state Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin is explained in a Philadelphia Inquirer editorial.
With Melvin currently on trial and suspended from the bench, there is an empty seat on the Supreme Court. Both sides arguing the voter-ID case have said they will appeal whatever decision Judge Robert Simpson on the Commonwealth Court makes. If it goes to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, that could create a 3-3 split decision on the current voter-ID case, meaning the lower court’s ruling would stand.
The editorial suggested that the Supreme Court appoint an interim member to the Court, but acknowledged that legal experts disagree on whether court has the authority to do so. The editorial also suggested that Melvin step down from the bench to create a judicial vacancy. If Melvin stepped down, an interim member could certainly be appointed, the piece said.
It concluded that “by now, most of us are well-used to the concept of downsizing and doing more with less. But that shouldn’t be the case with justice. The Supreme Court should fight for a full complement.”
Court clerks in Florida will learn this week whether they will be spared a severe budget hit, an article in The Associated Press reported.
Florida’s budget reduced the court clerk budget by $30 million, sparking layoffs, branch closings and reduced office hours. On Aug. 16, The Joint Legislative Budget Commission will decide whether to give court clerks $29.5 million in court fees and fines to cover the gap.
The funds would not come from the state’s main budget account, which is why Governor Rick Scott has already signed off on the proposal.
On another court-funding matter, David Boies (left in photo) and Ted Olson (right in photo), co-chairs of the American Bar Association’s Task Force for the Preservation of Justice, discuss the impact of budget cuts on the court system on Vimeo.
Speaking recently at the Conference of Chief Justice/Conference of State Court Administrators Annual Conference, Olson and Boies advocate on behalf of more court funding to our justice system.
Boies said, “The court system is in a crisis. It’s probably the most severe funding crisis the court system has ever experienced in the history of the country.
Olson said, “If we don’t fund the courts, and fund the systems necessary to provide justice for people, we’re denying American citizens fundamental rights, and that has to be corrected.”
To read more about court funding, see Gavel Grab.
A third Wisconsin Supreme Court justice, Michael Gableman, has recused himself in a discipline case involving Justice David Prosser, making the case “all but dead,” the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel contends.
Gableman joins Justices Annette Ziegler and Patience Roggensack, leaving just three Supreme Court justices in the case. The court would need four justices to make a final decision on whether Prosser engaged in misconduct and to determine discipline. However, with Gableman recused from the case, the three remaining justices cannot make a final ruling, the article strongly suggested.
Milwaukee lawyer Franklyn Gimbel says that Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson can send the case to a special panel of three appeals court judges. Usually, this kind of panel hears judicial ethics cases, determines the facts and recommends action to the Supreme Court, which makes the final ruling.
Prosser has pushed for his colleagues’ recusal because all of the justices were present during the incident in question, except for Justice N. Patrick Crooks.
To read more about Prosser’s ethics case, see Gavel Grab.
In these other dispatches about fair and impartial courts:
- A woman in Huntsville, Alabama filed complaints with the state Democratic and Republican parties to disqualify some Supreme Court candidates, The Associated Press reported.
- Chosen by a nominating commission in May, Justice Brent E. Dickson was sworn in Monday as Indiana Supreme Court chief justice, succeeding Randall Shepard, according to Eagle Radio. Shepard is a JAS board member.
- Ninth Circuit Chief Judge Alex Kozinski recently wrote a letter to ranking members of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Senate Budget Committee, saying it is not feasible to cancel the court’s planned 2012 conference in Maui. He acknowledged that a different location should have been considered in the planning stages, and informed the Senators that the 2013 conference will be postponed by an entire year, the ABA Journal reported.
- Since the federal judiciary began its cameras in the courtroom pilot program over a year ago for fourteen federal trial courts, thirty-nine court proceedings have been recorded and archived, available on the U.S. Court’s website, according to WOUB News.
In an interview on “Face the Nation” on Sunday, former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor expressed her disappointment over the public’s current approval rating of the Supreme Court. A Huffington Post article cited O’Connor:
“In the past, when the public is asked about three branches of government, the judicial branch has had the highest respect. Now it’s the same for all, it’s all down. It’s a great disappointment to me.”
According to a CBS poll from The New York Times and CBS news, just 44 percent of Americans approve of the Supreme Court.
O’Connor additionally expressed her disappointment with the Citizens United ruling. When asked in the interview whether she believes the increase in super PAC spending has harmed American politics, O’Connor answered, “It hasn’t helped. I’ll put it that way.”
According to Politico, O’Connor said in the interview that the 2000 Bush vs. Gore Supreme Court decision may have triggered the diminishing public approval of the Court.
Openly lesbian prosecutor Pamela Ki Mai Chen was nominated to fill a judicial vacancy in the Brooklyn federal court by President Barack Obama, Thursday, Thomson Reuters News and Insight reported.
According to Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), Chen would be the second female Chinese–American judge and one of a small number of openly lesbian women on the federal bench.
After graduating from the University of Michigan and Georgetown University Law Center, Chen went into the private sector, but soon after joined the public sector at the Department of Justice.
University of Richmond School of Law professor Carl Tobias, who follows judicial elections, said Chen’s nomination is an example of the kind of diversity Obama and Schumer said they would bring to New York’s federal judiciary. “Obama has shattered all records in terms of diversity, both as to ethnic diversity and LGBT diversity,” Tobias said.
However, with the number of nominees in line for confirmation and the presidential election quickly approaching, Chen’s nomination could be overlooked. If Obama loses, Tobias says, Chen’s nomination could be withdrawn altogether. “It really is contingent on what happens in the election,” Tobias said. Read more
Suspended Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin will be tried on seven of the nine charges against her, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported.
District Judge James J. Hanley, Jr. dismissed two charges, one count of official oppression and one count of criminal solicitation, citing a lack of evidence to support them. Melvin’s formal arraignment date is August 14, a day she is also set to be in front of the state Court of Judicial Discipline. The Judges will decide whether Melvin will continue to receive her $195,309 salary.
Melvin’s lawyers maintain that it was not Melvin who directed employees to do political work on state time, but rather her sister, former state senator Janine Orie. Orie faces similar charges, based on accusations that she directed employees to work on Melvin’s campaign.
According to a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article, Senator Orie’s chief of staff Jamie Pavolt was asked about who directed the employees to do campaign work. Pavolt replied that although Senator Orie was her boss, “The dynamics of this family is, when you’re working for one member, you’re taking orders from all three.”
Defense attorneys attempted to show that Janine Orie was in fact not Melvin’s campaign manager. When the prosecutor called two women who worked on Melvin’s campaign to the stand, both confirmed that Orie was the office administrator, and “they never dealt with her on important campaign issues like strategy, opposition research, fundraising or polling,” the article said. Rather, they frequently spoke to Justice Orie Melvin herself.
To read more on Justice Joan Orie Melvin, see Gavel Grab.