DC Dicta asks: Does it take a judge to be a justice?

February 17, 2009

Every single current Supreme Court justice is a former federal appellate judge. And Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. likes it that way.

cjrobertsThe high court has been an all fed-bred team since Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, a former state judge and state legislator, retired. By contrast, when Roberts’ predecessor Chief Justice William Rehnquist took the center seat, former federal judges were in the minority.

But since that time, Roberts said, the Court has become more efficient, with the justices approaching issues in a relatively similar way. “The practice of constitutional law – how constitutional law was made – was more fluid and wide ranging than it is today, more in the realm of political science,” Roberts said in speech at the University of Arizona’s Rehnquist Center, as reported by The New York Times‘ Adam Liptak. But since then “the method of analysis and argument shifted to the more solid grounds of legal arguments. What are the texts of the statutes involved? What precedents control?”

But apparently President Barack Obama doesn’t agree, meaning Roberts’ beloved bench of federal alums may not last too long. Obama’s “new” vision of Washington means he’s likely be looking in more places than the federal judiciary for Supreme Court picks – after all, his solicitor general pick Elena Kagan, who has never been a judge or even argued before the Supremes, is still on the list of potential picks.

Others said to be on Obama’s mind include Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and Harvard Law uber-academic Cass Sunstein.

But is experience more important than having justices from a diversity of experiences who approach legal analysis in different ways? What do you think?


DC Dicta asks: Who should argue – the Supreme Court pro or the case veteran?

October 23, 2008

When the Supreme Court agrees to hear a dispute who should argue the case: the lawyer who has argued it before lower courts or a Supreme Court pro who is well-known by the high court’s justices?

That is the question behind a behind-the-scenes standoff in the case Carcieri v. Kempthorne, which is scheduled to be argued before the Court on Nov. 3.

Ted Olson, former U.S. solicitor general turned Supreme Court veteran, has filed his appearance with the court to argue on behalf of the petitioner in the Indian land case. But so has Joseph S. Larisa Jr., the attorney who has argued the case in the lower courts. (Lawyers USA‘s sister publication, Rhode Island Lawyers Weekly, named Larisa one of the 2006 “Lawyers of the Year,” so he’s apparently no slouch.)

The Supreme Court clerk told the two that they’d better work it out, and gave the attorneys an Oct. 30 deadline to do so.

Officials in Charlestown, R.I. – where the land dispute is based – are backing Larisa. The governor and the state attorney general, however, are behind Olson. Larisa has proposed several times that the standoff be settled by a coin toss. Olsen, the governor and attorney general didn’t think so. “They have not suggested any other option other than ‘Ted wins,'” Larisa told Legal Times. “Less than 13 days to go until oral argument and we cannot agree on a simple coin toss. It is the town’s position that the AG and governor are now affirmatively hurting preparation for oral argument.”

So who do you think should argue the case? Vote now!

DC Dicta Asks: What Supreme Court cases will you be following?

September 18, 2008

The start of the U.S. Supreme Court’s oral argument season is less than three weeks away, and the justices are poised to tackle a number of issues of high interest to practicing attorneys and Supreme Court-watchers this term – from federal preemption of state law tort claims to the limits of Fourth Amendment search and seizure protections. More here from Lawyers USA.

So now we ask you: What cases will you be following closely this term? Start a discussion in the comments section below.

DC Dicta asks: What do you think of the Supreme “Boston Legal” episode?

May 7, 2008

DC Dicta does not normally watch the show “Boston Legal,” but with all of the hubbub over a recent episode featuring the fictitious legal team before the U.S. Supreme Court – including an interview in Legal Times with show creator (and, like DC Dicta, Boston University School of Law alum) David E. Kelley – we had to check it out.

Now we want to know what you think. Kelley is known for his over-the-top drama, particularly on this show. Did you like the episode or is it – as some have criticized – too unrealistic and disrespectful of the high court? Give us your two cents in the comments section below. (Unfortunately this clip does not show what DC Dicta thought was the funniest part of the episode – when William Shatner’s Denny Crane was flirting with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg during opposing counsel’s argument.)

Edwards donors, many of them lawyers, favor Obama over Clinton

March 28, 2008

Remember when DC Dicta asked who the donors of former presidential candidate John Edwards would turn to after Edwards’ departure from the race?

Well CQ Politics has the answer: Sen. Barack Obama.

Backers of Edwards, who had strong support from trial attorneys, have turned to Obama by a 2-to-1 margin over Sen. Hillary Clinton, according to the report.

Obama pulled in $200,000 from Edwards donors who had not previously given to Obama last month. Clinton pulled in $114,000 in first-time donations from Edwards contributors last month.

Of course these numbers represent only a drop in the bucket for these candidates: Obama took in $56 million overall last month, as Clinton pulled in a personal best $35 million. But in a tight race as this one, every dollar counts.

Said one lawyer and former Edwards backer: “I looked at both the candidates and basically the reason I chose to shift allegiance over to Obama was how I perceived his message of hope.”

DC Dicta asks: Where will Edwards’ trial lawyer backers go?

January 30, 2008

Former Sen. John Edwards has ended his bid for the Democratic nomination today after failing to win a single early primary race (ABC News). 

Edwards, a former trial attorney, had strong financial support among lawyers nationwide.

So DC Dicta poses this question to you: which remaining Democratic candidate do you think will become the new trial attorneys’ darling: Illinois Sen. Barack Obama or New York Sen. Hillary Clinton?
Give us your two cents in the comments section below.

Meanwhile, the WSJ’s Law Blog has been keeping track of the JDs remaining in the presidential race.

There were eight to start. But then Sens. Chris Dodd (Louisville Law) and Joe Biden (Syracuse Law) dropped out early. Then former Sen. Fred Thompson (Vanderbilt Law) threw in the towel, and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani (NYU Law) and Edwards (UNC Law) will reportedly do the same today.

So now three remain: Sens. Obama (Harvard Law) and Clinton (Yale Law), and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (Harvard Law).