Gavel Grab

Archive for June, 2008

The Voice of a Legal Generation?

There has been a lot of attention paid to Chief Justice John Roberts citing Rock and Roll legend, Bob Dylan, in his dissent in the case Sprint v. AT&T. Here is the excerpt from Roberts’ dissent:

“The absence of any right to the substantive recovery means that respondents cannot benefit from the judgment they seek and thus lack Article III standing,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote. “ ‘When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose.’ Bob Dylan, Like a Rolling Stone, on Highway 61 Revisited (Columbia Records 1965).”

According to this New York Times article by Adam Liptak, Bob Dylan’s lyrics have been cited in 26 legal opinions in lower courts around the country, as well as other Rock legends. Roberts’ predecessor, William Rehnquist, also cited classical music group Gilbert and Sullivan in an 1980 dissent in the case of Richmond, Inc v. Virginia.

What other lyrics are courts citing? A full breakdown, listed in an accompanying New York Times chart, reads like a Who’s Who of ’60s and ’70s musical legends: the Beatles, Joni Mitchell, the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, and even the Grateful Dead.

Even though the courts, public, and legal community have fun with Justices citing song lyrics in decisions, it’s ironic that that many in the same community have issues with citing international law. In the past few years, Justice Scalia and Thomas, as well as Rehnquist, have chastised judges over the use of international law in opinions. Former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor was among the Justices who have shown not to have an issue with using international law. The question then must be asked, why are song lyrics preferred over international law in citations?

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Reminder to Olbermann: Stick to the Issues

It’s American to argue, and we certainly don’t always agree with court opinions. But we should be careful not to diminish respect for America’s court system, or personalize our attacks on judges.

A televised commentary Thursday night by MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann pushed hard against that line. Olbermann, angered by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to strike down D.C.’s handgun ban, called Justice Antonin Scalia the “worst person in the world.”

Granted, Olbermann’s commentary has a touch of satire. He does, after all, have a “worst person in the world” five nights a week.

But as the Terri Schiavo case made clear, when the harshest comments came from the political right, the same line applies to everyone. Public respect for justice is enhanced when we keep our comments on a higher plane. When it comes to the courts, we should stick to issues, not personalities.

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links for 2008-06-28

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links for 2008-06-27

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links for 2008-06-26

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Thwarting Challenges in Kansas

On November 4, voters in Johnson County, Kansas, have the chance to end their current system of merit selection that has been in place since 1977. The opposition’s goal is to have the current system of judicial selection end for the sake of electing judges. Now, a group of former judges, Johnson County Bar officials, and attorneys, have risen to educate and maintain the current system of judicial selection. The group, Johnson Countians for Justice, have stood up to thwart this challenge to the 30-year-old system and keep special interests out of judicial elections in the county. Stay tuned to Gavel Grab for more updates in this battle.

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links for 2008-06-25

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Tort Wars And the Courts — The Latest

Mississippi Supreme Court

A New York Times report on a recent U.S. Chamber of Commerce meeting shows once again how supreme court elections are being swept up in a never-say-die arms race, with trial attorneys and business leaders vowing to spend each other into submission–and to make courts accountable to their checklists instead of the law.

For more on the judicial election wars, see The New Politics of Judicial Elections in the Great Lake States, 2000-2008 and The New Politics of Judicial Elections 2006.

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links for 2008-06-24

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1st Black Louisiana Supreme Court justice dies at 84

The Justice at Stake Campaign would like to observe the loss of Revius Ortique Jr., a former Civil Rights Attorney and Louisiana’s First African American Supreme Court Justice. Here is an New Orleans Times-Picayune obiturary discussing Justice Ortique’s life.

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