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Obama Renews Criticism of Citizens United Ruling Amid Shutdown

President Obama, in the midst of a partial government shutdown, has repeated his criticism of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. It “contributed to some of the problems we’re having in Washington right now,” in his opinion, he said.

Huffington Post reported the following remarks by the president about the blockbuster ruling that cleared the way for unlimited independent spending by corporations and unions to influence the election of federal candidates:

“I continue to believe that Citizens United contributed to some of the problems we’re having in Washington right now.”

“You have some ideological extremist who has a big bankroll, and they can entirely skew our politics. And there are a whole bunch of members of Congress right now who privately will tell you, ‘I know our Read more

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Friday Gavel Grab Briefs

In these other dispatches about fair and impartial courts:

  • A lengthy Washington Blade article examined U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s recent action to block the federal district court nomination of  Judge William Thomas, who would become the first openly gay African American man to serve on the federal bench if confirmed (see Gavel Grab for background).
  • Texas Gov. Rick Perry named Jeff Brown, a justice on the 14th Court of Appeals in Houston, to the state Supreme Court, according to the Austin American-Statesman.
  • You can view a video of Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, discussing her career and her role on the court with Harvard  Law School Dean Martha Minow, by clicking here.

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Friday Gavel Grab Briefs

In these other dispatches about fair and impartial courts:

  • Vince Sicari, a part-time municipal judge in New Jersey, was told by the state Supreme Court he can’t moonlight as an actor and comedian, due to a conflict with judicial conduct codes. Sicari told the Associated Press he was quitting his judicial job.
  • To learn about U.S. Supreme Court justices hitting the road before their new term starts, check out: Philadelphia Inquirer, ”At court and Constitution Center, Ginsburg is a force”; Lexington Herald -Leader, ”Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan says justices can disagree and remain friends”; Delaware NPR, “Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor shares life lessons during UD visit”; and Associated Press, “Justice Clarence Thomas touches on life, law.”

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Wednesday Gavel Grab Briefs

In these other dispatches about fair and impartial courts:

  • Last year, a panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals blocked enforcement of a Montana law (see Gavel Grab) making it a crime for political parties to endorse nonpartisan judicial candidates. Now the full appeals court has ruled that the panel’s decision will stand, the Associated Press reported.
  • U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. has appointed federal appellate Judge José A. Cabranes to sit on a panel that reviews appeals from rulings of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. A New York Times article was headlined, “Newest Spy Court Pick is a Democrat but Not a Liberal.”
  • The U.S. Supreme Court’s justices “are not necessarily the most technologically sophisticated people,” Justice Elena Kagan said. Clerks use email, but  ”The court hasn’t really ‘gotten to’ email,” she said, according to a Politico article about her appearance in Providence, R.I.
  • Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s remarks about the importance of civic education in protecting fair courts were the topic of a Legal Record article. Justice O’Connor recently joined Justice at Stake as its First Honorary Chair.
  • Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, visiting a local school, drew on resources from iCivics, an online civic education program founded by Justice O’Connor (see previous item). Justice Bradley’s presentation was reported by the Door County Daily News.

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Supreme Court Roundup: Analysis, Opinion, and Big-Game Hunting

Now that the Supreme Court has completed its term, there’s a mix of analysis, opinion and human-interest articles for readers desiring to learn more about its justices and its jurisprudence.

In the New York Times, Adam Liptak has an interesting profile of voting by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. It is entitled, “Bound Together on the Court, but by Beliefs, not Gender.” The three female justices “voted together at least 93 percent of the time” in the term just concluded, Liptak reports.

At Atlantic online, Andrew Cohen’s essay is headlined, “The Chief Justice Wants the Supreme Court to Stop Talking So Much.” Cohen says, “[W]hat I find most troublesome about the remarks is that they come from a man leading what is already by far the least transparent of Washington’s primary institutions.” Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., on the other hand, stated two years ago, “We are the most transparent branch of the government” (see Gavel Grab).

Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the law school at the University of California, Irvine, has a New York Times op-ed entitled, “Justice for Big Business.” Chemerinsky identifies Read more

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Tuesday Gavel Grab Briefs

In these other dispatches about fair and impartial courts:

  • Ever wondered what famous rock and roll musician your favorite U.S. Supreme Court Justice would be? Check out this list by University of North Carolina political science professor Kevin T. McGuire, who even imagines Justice Sandra Day O’Connor as Irish singer-songwriter Sinead O’Connor.
  • While speaking at a judicial conference in Indianapolis this week, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan thanked former Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) for voting to put her on the bench. The Associated Press reports that Lugar voted to confirm both Kagan and Justice Sonia Sotomayor, which led to conservative groups ousting him from Congress in last year’s Republican primary.
  • Records obtained by the Albuquerque Journal show that real estate investor Edgar Lopez offered input on judicial appointments for former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson’s staff. The Huffington Post says that Lopez provided local political background information on judicial nominees to Richardson on a dozen occasions at least.
  • The National Constitution Center announced yesterday that law professor and legal commentator Jeffrey Rosen has been named President and Chief Executive Officer of the Center. Rosen is succeeding David Eisner, who stepped down in October 2012, according to a Constitution Center press release.
  • One of the Michigan Supreme Court’s most controversial justices, Elizabeth Weaver, has written a book that criticizes the “dark money” of judicial campaign expenditures in state supreme court races. The ABA Journal notes that the book’s release has been reported by news sources such as the Associated Press, and Justice at Stake’s blog (see Gavel Grab).

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Commentary: Influential D.C. Circuit Long a ‘Political Football’

Taking a dim view of a Senate Republican’s proposal to shrink the Washington, D.C.-based federal appeals court, legal journalist Linda Greenhouse says the court long has been a “political football” and that court-shrinking efforts are not new.

In the New York Times Opinionator blog, Greenhouse says there are historic roots to “shrinking the court in a congressional power play against an incumbent president.” As Exhibit A, she mentions Congress reducing the Supreme Court from 10 to seven justices in 1866, when it did not find President Andrew Johnson in favor, and it left a Johnson high court nominee hanging. (The Supreme Court was expanded back to nine seats in 1869.)

Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa has proposed shrinking from 11 judges to eight the membership of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, a stepping stone to the Supreme Court and a court widely viewed as the nation’s second most influential appeals court (see Gavel Grab). Justice at Stake has opposed the legislation in a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee leaders. Read more

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Wednesday Gavel Grab Briefs

In these other dispatches about fair and impartial courts:

  • The U.S. Supreme Court announced this week that audio recordings of oral arguments in the two same-sex marriage cases scheduled next week will be released the same day they are heard. Adam Liptak says in the New York Times that the justices did this a year ago after oral arguments on President Obama’s health care reform.
  • A records manager for the D.C. federal court clerk’s office, Bryant Johnson is known for being a personal trainer for Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan. According to the Washington Post, Ginsburg has been training with Johnson since 1999 after being treated for colon cancer.
  • Pennsylvanians should ignore a call from former state governors to establish merit selection of judges, and maintain their right to vote for judges in partisan elections instead, argues a Pocono Record editorial. State judges should be willing to face the voters at the ballot box, it says.
  • Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia seems to believe that what’s said under oath means little to nothing, says the Atlantic Wire. During arguments concerning Arizona’s voter registration law, Scalia was reported as saying “So it’s under oath. Big deal,” the article notes.

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Court’s Approach to Voting Rights Law is Debated

The ways in which the Supreme Court considers striking down an act of Congress drew debate following sharply divided oral arguments this week (see Gavel Grab) over the constitutionality of Section 5 of the federal Voting Rights Act.

Although the Senate voted 98-0 to extend the 1965 federal law in 2006, Justice Antonin Scalia suggested that senators acted out of a political motive, rather than on a need for voter protection. “I don’t think there is anything to be gained by any senator to vote against continuation of this act. . . .They are going to lose votes if they do not reenact the Voting Rights Act,” he said.

A Washington Post editorial criticized the justice under the headline, “Justice Scalia’s contempt of Congress.” The editorial said, “This is a stunning line of argumentation. Congress is empowered to write legislation enforcing the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. But if Justice Scalia doubts the purity of lawmakers’ motives, then apparently this power is limited.”

Warned a New York Times editorial, “If the Supreme Court substitutes its judgment for Congress’s, it will enable state and local governments to erode nearly half a century of civil rights gains.”

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Tuesday Gavel Grab Briefs

In these other dispatches about fair and impartial courts:

  • While Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan supported bringing cameras into the courtroom during their confirmation hearings, both have since expressed concern that Americans would not understand the televised proceedings. In the New York Times, Adam Liptak said that supreme courts in other countries have welcomed cameras into their courtrooms.
  • In a Washington Post opinion, George Will declares it “unseemly” for Supreme Court justices to attend the State of the Union address since it has turned into a political rally for the president and legislative members of the same party. Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Sam Alito did not attend this year’s speech.
  • Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s silence on the bench continues to be an enigma for many, says a Washington Post article. Although he does not ask questions directly during oral arguments, he will occasionally urge his fellow justices, such as Stephen Breyer, to ask ones he has written down, the article says.

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