Today at the Supreme Court: Hillary and habeas

March 24, 2009

ussc1Today the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a man convicted of first degree murder failed to establish a habeas claim of ineffective assistance of counsel based on his attorney’s advice to abandon an insanity plea. The opinion in Knowles v. Mirzayance can be found here on the Court’s website.

hillaryAlso today the Court heard oral arguments in a case testing whether a Hillary Clinton documentary – a created to air during her presidential primary bid last year – was subject to McCain-Feingold campaign finance disclosure rules in the case Citizens United v. FEC. More on that case here.


Friday morning briefing: Budget, taxation and representation

February 27, 2009

capitolfrontPresident Barack Obama unveiled his budget proposal this week, sending folks in the capital in numbers-crunching mode as they scrutinize the plan in search of the administration’s priorities. On Capitol Hill, a bill that would give bankruptcy judges the power to change the terms of mortgages in foreclosure proceedings hit a snag when Democratic lawmakers couldn’t quite hammer out all the details yesterday. Across the street, the Supreme Court justices conference today, and may serve up some fresh new grants of certiorari before the day is over.


‘Loaded’ voting bill passes: The Senate approved a bill to give the District of Columbia a seat in the House of Representatives. But the bill included an amendment that D.C. officials may not like too much: it repeals the District’s post-Heller gun restriction laws. (DCist, WaPo)

stevenssmileSeparation of powers: Justice John Paul Stevens doesn’t think Supreme Court justices should take their oaths in the White House. The practice, which has become popular with the most recent new justices, creates “incorrect symbolism” for the independent judicial branch, Stevens said. (AP)

State secrets in foreclosure crisis: The housing foreclosure crisis that has put millions of Americans out of their homes is being worsened by old, antiquated state laws that give homeowners far fewer legal protections than renters or credit card customers, according a new report from the National Consumer Law Center. (Lawyers USA)

Stimulating conversation: The recently enacted American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 contains several new tax credits and changes for both business and individual taxpayers. Most of the credits, however, are subject to income phase-outs. (Lawyers USA)

Short-term gains: Federal judges could get a pay post this year. Next year, not so much. (Legal Times)

DC Dicta’s greatest hits of 2008

December 22, 2008

With 2008 almost in the history books, it’s a good time to take a look back at the most popular posts of the year here at DC Dicta. Looking back, the hottest items on the blog revolved around presidential campaign moments, Supreme Court shenanigans, celebrity testimony on the Hill, and the beleaguered Justice Department. Let’s count them down:

10. Mukasey: ‘Not every violation of the law is a crime’

mukaseyagComments made by Attorney General Michael Mukasey in August – particularly the quote: “Not every wrong, or even every violation of the law, is a crime” – circulated around the blogosphere and ultimately became a catchphrase to represent the problems plaguing the Justice Department in recent years.

9. The Funniest Justice: Antonin Scalia

scaliasideNo one leaves ’em laughing in the courtroom like Justice Antonin Scalia, who handily won the title of Funniest Justice for the October 2007 term.

8. Kennedy winks in EEOC’s direction?

kennedy2After January oral arguments in Kentucky Retirement Systems v. EEOC, this post noted that Justice Anthony “Swing Vote” Kennedy seemed to indicate pretty clearly that he believed the retirement benefits system in question discriminated on the basis of age – just as the EEOC contended. Although he did go on to find the program discriminatory, he was in the Court’s minority, writing the dissent in a case that did not at all adhere to the Court’s usual conservative vs. liberal breakdown. (Scalia and Ginsburg joined Kennedy’s dissent – when does that every happen?)

7. Actor to lawmakers: Let patients bring pharma suits

quaidMr. (Dennis) Quaid went to Washington. The actor, whose newborn twin daughters were accidentally given a nearly-lethal dose of the drug herapin, told lawmakers in May that without the right to sue pharmaceutical companies, consumers will become “uninformed and uncompensated lab rats.”

6. U.S. News law school rankings leaked!

When the folks at Above The Law put up a document showing the 2009 U.S. News & World Report law school rankings a few days before they were published in March, we sent you there.

5. McCain’s switch on Souter; Obama: Thomas isn’t too bright

thomas2Ah, remember that video of then presidential candidate Barack Obama basically saying Justice Clarence Thomas wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer? Of course you do! Many of you watched it right here in August.

4. Biden calls Court a Supreme campaign issue

bidenDuring the campaign season, now Vice President-elect Joe Biden was one of the most frequently searched subjects leading to DC Dicta. When he talked about the importance of the election in terms of potential Supreme Court nominees in August, the related post was one of the most popular blog items for weeks afterwards.

3. Cover blown off Chief Justice’s school visit

robertssmallWho knew Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. was so popular? Well, he obviously does – since he tried to clandestinely visit a local high school in March for a talk with students. But somehow word got out, newspaper reporters were there waiting for him, and DC Dicta readers wanted to know all about it.

2. 400 requests for reduced crack sentences in two days

crackWhen new reduced federal sentencing guidelines for crack cocaine offenses, approved last year by the U.S. Sentencing Commission, went into effect retroactively in March, one day later more than 400 court orders from around the country slashing prison terms had been processed by the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

And the most hit blog post of the year (drumroll, please!):

1. High court denies Enron investors’ petition

enronThis Jan. 22 post noted that the Supreme Court, on the heels of its decision in Stoneridge Investment Partners v. Scientific-Atlanta Inc., denied a petition by Enron investors seeking to pursue similar claims against bankers from firms including Merrill Lynch and Credit Suisse Group. The move ended the investors’ actions claiming the bank companies colluded with Enron officials’ fraud.

Monday status conference: Enron, lame ducks, and lawyers for Obama

November 17, 2008

ussc1The Supreme Court added a number of new cases to its docket Friday – including a case considering whether a West Virginia appellate judge should be able to rule in a case involving his largest campaign contributor, and whether a former Enron official acquitted of some criminal charges may be retried on the counts his jury hung on.

Today the 110th Congress also begins its last session of the term, and the biggest item remaining on lawmakers’ agenda is a potential financial rescue package for U.S. automakers, which is currently stalled on the onramp.


President-elect Barack Obama has selected Gregory Craig to be the top lawyer in the White House. Craig, best known for representing former President Bill Clinton in his impeachment proceedings, will be Obama’s White House counsel, according to the Washington Post. Criag also represented John Hinckley Jr. the Ronald Reagan attempted assassination case, and William Kennedy Smith in his high profile rape trial.

In the case of Craig and a number of Obama transition team legal eagles, there are a lot of familiar faces from the Clinton era. More from Legal Times.

Alcoholic energy drinks such as Sparks are igniting lawsuits by litigants claiming the beverages can mask the effects of alcohol and encourage excessive drinking. More here from Lawyers USA.

Evidence uncovered in connection with former CBS newsman Dan Rather seems to support his claim that GOP operatives had influence over the networks news coverage. More here from the New York Times.

Are Supreme retirement rumors greatly exaggerated?

November 11, 2008

The election of Democrat Barack Obama has Supreme Court watchers all but planning retirement parties for Supreme Court Justices John Paul Stevens (who is 88), Ruth Bader Ginsburg (a 75-year-old cancer survivor), and David Souter (69, but often rumored to be miserable and longing to return to his New Hampshire home).

But wait just one minute, says ABC News Supreme Court correspondent and author Jan Crawford Greenburg. On her blog, Greenburg writes that none of the three justices show any sign of wanting to step down.

“[J]ustices can surprise,” Greenburg writes. “Liberals don’t always retire during Democratic administrations. Sometimes, they step down in Republican ones, and vice versa for their conservative colleagues.” Prime example: Justice Thurgood Marshall rode out the entire Carter administration, and retired when President George H.W. Bush was in the White House.

stevenssmileAs DC Dicta has noted, Stevens remains as sharp and spry as ever, never hesitating to make his voice heard during oral arguments or with his pen in lengthy statements and dissents.

ginsburgsmallAnd Ginsburg is no frail flower. As Greenburg and Legal Times’ Tony Mauro have noted, Ginsburg has told friends that she hopes to stay on the bench until she’s at least Stevens’ age.

souter3Souter isn’t showing any signs of fatigue, either. He was particularly vocal during yesterday’s oral arguments in Melendez-Diaz v. Mass. and Chambers v. U.S. He’s is said to enjoy his job – if not Washington’s atmosphere – and he’s younger than counservative Justice Antonin Scalia and noted swing voter Justice Anthony Kennedy.

President-elect’s first press conference: The economy, the dog, and Nancy Reagan

November 7, 2008

President-elect Barak Obama just concluded his first post-election press conference, which was all about the economy given the record-breaking dip the markets took over the past few days.

Obama, calling this “the greatest economic challenge of our lifetime,” said job one is getting a stimulus package passed – either in the current Congress and administration, or if that is not possible, in his own administration after January.

He also cautioned everyone that there are no quick fixes for the economic crisis and other issues the country is facing.

“I do not underestimate the enormity of the task that lies ahead,” Obama told reporters. “Some of the choices that we make are going to be difficult. … It is not going to be quick and it is not going to be easy to dig ourselves out the hole that we are in. [But] America is a resilient country and we will succeed.”

There were a few funny moments, like when Obama addressed the “major issues” associated with the selection process of the First Puppy – the dog he promised his daughters Sasha and Malia in his inauguration speech. They want to rescue a canine, but they need a hypoallergenic dog because of Malia’s allergies (Note to the president-elect: DC Dicta also has dog allergies, but found a hypoallergenic pooch at a dog shelter in Arlington, Va. So it’s possible!)

Also, when asked if he’s talked to any former presidents seeking advice, Obama said he’s spoken to “all of them.” Then he corrected himself: he meant all of the living ones.

“I didn’t want to get into any Nancy Reagan thing about doing séances,” Obama quipped, drawing laughs from the press.

Friday morning docket: the president-elect edition

November 7, 2008


All eyes are on President-elect Barack Obama this morning as he makes selections for key posts in his new administration, and readies to make his first press conference today to talk about issue number one: the economy.


Who will be the 10th Justice? The selection of solicitor general is one of the most important decisions Obama will make. And again, Elena Kagan’s name is coming up.  More here from USA Today and from The AM Law Daily.

Will an Obama administration be good for law firms? That could be the case if his agenda includes increased banking, healthcare and environmental regulations – spurring the need for attorneys in these fields. More here from Legal Blog Watch.

Lieberman a hot potato: Senate Democrats are trying to figure out what to do with Joe Lieberman, whose chairmanship is in jeopardy after the former Dem touted John McCain and badmouthed Obama during the campaign. More here from The New York Times.

The smoke has settled: The ‘Bong Hits 4 Jesus’ case, which went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court two years ago, has finally ended in a settlement. More here from The Anchorage Daily News.

Uncle Sam wants a chunk of tobacco fund: Department of Justice officials are seeking to get federal income tax from a fund set up for sick smokers as a result of a class action lawsuit. More here from Daily Business Review.

Guantanamo habeas case opens: A judge has convened the first habeas corpus hearing to take place since the Supreme Court ruled last year that detainees had the right to seek the legal relief. More here from The NYT.