Court blocks release of dozens of convicted sex offenders

April 6, 2009

cjrobertsLate Friday, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. issued an order that prevents the release of some sex offenders who have completed their prison terms, but remain under civil confinement.

The portion of the federal law allowing such civil confinement had been invalidated by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that Congress overstepped its authority by allowing convicted sex offenders who served their terms, but were deemed dangerous by the government, to be held civilly.  The law, the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, was passed by Congress and sighed into law by President George W. Bush in 2006.

Friday Solicitor General Elena Kagan asked the high court to grant an immediate interim stay of the federal appellate court ruling while considering a permanent stay request. Roberts, in turn, granted the permanent stay pending consideration of certiorari in the case.

Roberts’ ruling will keep about 77 convicted offenders to remain in custody in North Carolina. Without the stay, the inmates could have been released as early as next week.

More here from the AP and here from SCOTUSBlog.


More justice chatter: Ginsburg on recovery, Roberts on Ginsburg

March 17, 2009

The Supreme Court may be in recess until next week, but we are hearing from a number of justices as they traverse the country for speaking engagements.

ginsburgLawyers USA‘s Nora Lockwood Tooher was there when Ruth Bader Ginsburg addressed an audience in Boston, where she said the support of her fellow justices and retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor helped her through her recent recovery from cancer surgery.

“We are in many ways like a family,” Ginsburg said of the Court’s justices.

Ginsburg said that the advice O’Connor – who like Ginsburg had cancer surgery during her tenure on the bench without missing a day – gave was to have surgery on a Friday, “get over it over the weekend, and go back Monday.” More on Ginsburg’s talk here from Lawyers USA.

cjrobertsMeanwhile, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. spoke at an Idaho university Friday, where he noted that Ginsburg once told him former Chief Justice William Rehnquist was the best boss she’d ever had.

“I haven’t heard she has revised that assessment,” Roberts said, drawing laughter, according to The Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Roberts focused most of his comments on President Abraham Lincoln, Lincoln, whose 200th birthday is being celebrated this year. Roberts said that Lincoln, as a lawyer and a president, always had an inherent sense of justice. “He could not ignore his internal compass,” Roberts said.

During the speech Roberts was confronted by an audience member claiming to wield documentation showing that President Barack Obama does not meet the citizenship requirement for the presidency. The Supreme Court has already refused to hear several petitions in cases questioning Obama’s citizenship.

Roberts told her to give the documents to security officers, but otherwise declined to discuss the case.

Another recusal?

February 10, 2009

cjrobertsThe new scuttlebutt on blogs like Drug and Device Law Blog and the BLT is about the potential for another high court recusal – this time in one of the biggest cases on the docket.

pfizerChief Justice John G. Roberts owns stock in drug company Pfizer. Pfizer recently acquired drugmaker Wyeth – the same Wyeth that is a party in the case Wyeth v. Levine, which will determine if FDA approval of a drug trumps plaintiff’s ability to bring state tort claims arising from prescription-related injuries.

Attorney Seth Waxman, representing Wyeth, sent a letter to the Court saying he didn’t believe recusal was necessary, because the procedures involved in the sale means that it won’t be final until sometime this summer – long after the case is decided.

As Drug and Device Law Blog points out, the justices customarily vote on cases after they are heard in oral argument, and Wyeth was heard back in November, long before the acquisition was announced. Still, whether the events will affect the chief’s participation remains to be seen.

Chief justice vexed by politics of judicial confirmations

February 5, 2009

Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. expressed concern that the process of confirming federal judges has become too politicized.

cjrobertsSpeaking at the University of Arizona’s law school Wednesday, Roberts said that the judiciary operates completely independent of the politics that are involved in both the executive and legislative branches. Politicized confirmation processes threaten that independence, Roberts said.

“I think we need to have a broader recognition that we are not part of the political process, that we are not representatives of either an administration or a confirming Senate on the court,” Roberts said, according to an AP report. “Your perspective on everything changes the moment you take the judicial oath.”

He said he is not alone in his worry over partisan judicial confirmations. “The courts as a whole are very concerned about partisanship, politicization, seeping into the judicial branch,” he said.

Roberts did add that he thinks his own Senate confirmation was fair, noting that he received “significant support from both sides of the aisle. But that’s not always the case, and what do we do about it?”

Biden gives Supreme apology

January 28, 2009

bidenrobertssmallJust when we thought we were done with the topic, another twist emerges in the ongoing fallout from Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr.’s presidential oath flub.

Vice President Joe Biden – who cracked wise about Roberts’ trouble with the oath, much to President Barack Obama’s visible chagrin (see it here) – called and apologized to the chief justice for the remark.

Biden called Roberts some time last week, and the two had “a good conversation” according to Someone Who Knows.

The funniest justice, week 8: When the whole world laughed

January 22, 2009

cjrobertsThere was only one day of oral arguments at the Supreme Court this week. And the three cases heard yesterday did not provide much opportunity for laughter in the courtroom (that is, aside from the laughter in the press gallery as reporters rehashed the presidential oath flub heard around the world).

Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. did manage to make the crowd laugh once inside the courtroom. While some court watchers were expecting him to make some sort of self-effacing comment regarding the trouble he had with President Barack Obama’s oath Tuesday – Roberts does, after all, have a pretty good sense of humor – he made no reference to it at all. (Legal Times’ Tony Mauro thinks he may have heard something in the way Roberts pronounced the word “clerk.” DC Dicta didn’t catch that, but we always defer to Tony’s ear, being the astute reporter that he is.)

Justice Stephen Breyer was the only other justice to get a laugh, which creates a real three-way contest in the quest to be the Funniest Justice of the term. Usually Justice Antonin Scalia runs away with it by now, but Nino better think of some funny quips quickly if he wants to stay in top.

Here are the laugh standings after eight weeks of oral arguments:

Justice Antonin Scalia: 29

Justice Stephen Breyer: 22

Chief Justice John Roberts: 20 (Not counting the laughs he may have received Tuesday)

Justice David Souter: 9

Justice Anthony Kennedy: 9

Justice John Paul Stevens: 6

Justice Samuel Alito: 2

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: 1

Justice Clarence Thomas: 0 (Thomas hasn’t made a remark during oral arguments since Feb. 22, 2006).

Obama, Roberts redo the oath

January 21, 2009

You really can’t make this stuff up.

Just when we thought the whole Oath-gate episode was finally winding down comes word that Chief Justice John G. Roberts re-administered the oath of office to President Barack Obama about an hour ago.

According to CNN, Obama retook the oath at about 7:35pm Wednesday in the White House Map Room. The move was perhaps to quell the conspiracy theories questioning whether the first oath, which was badly botched, actually took.

Constitutionally, Obama became president at noon Tuesday – no matter what he or the Chief Justice said. But the new administration just wanted dotted “i”s and crossed “t”s.

“We believe that the oath of office was administered effectively and that the president was sworn in appropriately yesterday,” White House counsel Greg Craig said in a statement.

UPDATE: And now we have the official redo photo: