Archives

For lunch today, some random morsels about happenings at the U.S. Supreme Court as the justices prepare to open the new term on Monday.

Life on the Roberts Court

Marcia Coyle, who writes about the Court for the National Law Journal, talks about the backstories underlying some landmark decisions reached under the reign of Chief Justice John Roberts, as detailed further in her book, “The Roberts Court.”

YouTube Preview Image

Linkrot, Tumblr and Technology at the Court  

As Adam Liptak reports in this New York Times piece, long gone are the days when the justices cited only to printed text in decisions that appeared only in books. “Since 1996,” he writes, “justices have cited materials found on the Internet 555 times.”   Apparently though no one told them links had to be maintained, because now close to half of the web links in opinions lead to nowhere.

This can sometimes be amusing. A link in a 2011 Supreme Court opinion about violent video games by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. now leads to a mischievous error message.

“Aren’t you glad you didn’t cite to this Web page?” it asks. “If you had, like Justice Alito did, the original content would have long since disappeared and someone else might have come along and purchased the domain in order to make a comment about the transience of linked information in the Internet age.”

Tumblr.jpg.CROP.rectangle3-large  And as noted here in The Atlantic, the microblogging platform Tumblr makes its first appearance at the court  this year, nestled in a brief filed by Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Lessig in the campaign finance case  McCutcheon  v. FEC. As Lessig explains on his own Tumblr page, the focus is on the origins of the word  “corruption”:

The basic argument of the brief is that the Framers of the Constitution used the word “corruption” in a different, more inclusive way, than we do today. The Tumblr captures 325 such uses collected from the framing context, and tags to help demonstrate this more inclusive meaning.

Scalia v. Ginsburg: The Opera                       

Scalia & Ginsburg     Just after last year’s term came to an end in June, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia — who when not sparring over decisions are actually friends, travel together and share a love of opera — sat down for a rare preview of an  opera written for and about them.  Listen here to part of the opera, as reported by NPR.

 

 

A professor, an economist and a judge sat in a room, crunched the numbers and reached this conclusion: More often than not, judges (in this case federal judges)  vote along party lines.

So say Lee Epstein, a professor at the University of Southern California, William M. Landes, an economist at the University of Chicago, and Richard A. Posner, a federal appeals court judge in Chicago, in their new book, The Behavior of Federal Judges, previewed in today’s New York Times by Adam Liptak

“Justices appointed by Republican presidents vote more conservatively on average than justices appointed by Democratic ones, with the difference being most pronounced in civil rights cases,” they write in the book.

A recent decision by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejecting Michigan’s constitutional ban of affirmative action policies bears out that party allegiance, Liptak notes.  “Every one of the eight judges in the majority was nominated by a Democratic president,” he said. “Every one of the seven judges in dissent was nominated by a Republican president.”

As Liptak adds:

Many judges hate it when news reports note this sort of thing, saying it undermines public trust in the courts by painting them as political actors rather than how they like to see themselves — as disinterested guardians of neutral legal principles.

But there is a lot of evidence that the party of the president who appointed a judge is a significant guide to how that judge will vote on politically charged issues like affirmative action.

True, federal judges are appointed, and perhaps that’s the news peg here, as they’ve long been perceived as above the fray of electoral posturing and politicking.

Is it any different in places where judges are elected?  Nobody’s run the numbers yet,  but one thing’s likely.  Judges who campaign are well-versed in the partisan give-and-take.