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New SCOTUS Term, Same Divide

columnscourt.jpgIn preparation for today’s double header hearings with Jack Goldsmith at the Senate Judiciary Committee and Blackwater at the House Government Oversight Committee, I thought everyone would enjoy a read on the potential legal ramifications of mercenary hires in war zones, and the liability for their actions.  Good analysis, and a lot of questions that need asking.

We’re going to try and liveblog as much of both hearings as we can — both start at 10 am ET.  C-Span3 will definitely be broadcasting the Blackwater hearing, and am still working on where we can find the SJC one.  (UPDATE:  The SJC will be webcasting the hearing.  Just confirmed it with staffers.)

The new SCOTUS term has begun, and it is shaping up to be a doozy based on the case selections.  ACS Blog has a useful compendium of the docket, helpfully cataloguing the days, times, and cases for the first week term.   Today’s docket includes two sentencing guidelines cases, including the Kimbrough case which presents a good opportunity for the court to address the substantial disparity in sentencing between crack and powder cocaine, and should prove to be a very lively argument.  Jeralyn has a good rundown of both cases at TalkLeft.

The WaPo and the NYTimes have a summary of the various cases on the docket for the term.  As always, the go to site is SCOTUSBlog for the play-by-play on arguments and briefs.  They already have transcripts of yesterday’s arguments up for reading.  The cases range from challenging detention at Guantanamo to a civil rights case which could potentially undermine discrimination cases across the board to voter IDs and beyond. 

The next time someone tells you that voting doesn’t matter, you can rattle off the case subjects from this term — and then ask them how they feel about Roberts and Alito.

Stephen Griffin at Balkinization had a bit on the new SCOTUS book from Jeffrey Toobin that I found particularly illuminating on several levels.  Wanted to share this passage with everyone:

Here’s one insight from Toobin that seems intuitively correct, but I haven’t seen emphasized by anyone else. “Bush had a businessman’s contempt for lawyers generally, and he viewed the process of choosing judges with impatience.” (p. 260) “All of the top officials who were considering Miers’s appointment –Bush, Cheney, Card, Rove, and Miers herself—had relatively little idea what Supreme Court justices actually do all day. . . .Everyone in Bush’s inner circle came out of the corporate world, where they believed that good judgment and instincts mattered more than reflective analysis. The same was true for corporate lawyers. Bush would never have dreamed of asking prospective members of his cabinet for writing samples, and he didn’t require them of Miers either. For the president, it was not a problem that Miers had no writing to offer.” (p. 288) Now think about this in relation to executive power and you have a worthwhile insight into what has been going on at the White House.

First of all, if the corporate lawyers weren’t thinking reflectively about long-term consequences and ripple out problems from their clients’ actions, then they were doing a piss poor job for their clients.  Beyond that, though, Incurious George has populated the government with people who don’t make him feel uncomfortably underthoughtful.  How is that for a measuring stick for excellence?

I do agree with Andrew Cohen of the Bench Conference Blog, some real clarity rather than nuance would be awfully nice.  One case which was declined for the term (H/T to Toby) is going to make religious right folks unhappy:  the court let stand a prior NY court ruling which “forces religious-based social service agencies to subsidize contraceptives as part of prescription drug coverage they offer employees.”  Guess that short ride didn’t seem so short to the court.

(Photo of the columns at the porch entrance via chris24w.)

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com