Holder grilled on hoop skills

January 15, 2009

In moment of levity during today’s confirmation hearings for attorney general nominee Eric Holder, Sen. Herb Kohl asked Holder a question that has been on the minds of many on the Hill: Is Holder independent enough to beat President-elect Barack Obama in a game of hoops, or would he cave and let Obama win?

Here’s Holder’s answer:


Will GOP hold up Holder confirmation?

January 7, 2009

ericholder1Might the confirmation process for President-elect Barack Obama’s attorney general designate be tougher than previously expected?

Yesterday, ranking Senate Judiciary Committee Republican Arlen Specter blasted Eric Holder, questioning Holder’s independence and saying that his record in the Clinton Justice Department shows that he may be merely a presidential “yes” man.

specter“He’s had an outstanding academic and professional record, and I acknowledge that early on,” Mr. Specter said of Holder in a 25-minute Senate floor speech yesterday, according to The New York Times. “But aside from these qualifications on Mr. Holder’s résumé, there is also the issue of character, and sometimes it is more important for the attorney general to have the stature and the courage to say no instead of to say yes.”

Specter’s warnings about Holder could signal a rockier-than-expected confirmation for the nominee. Although Holder has enough Senate support to be confirmed, the hearings, which start Jan. 15, may feature some fireworks.

An Obama spokesman brushed aside Specter’s criticisms. “From prosecuting corrupt officials from both parties to supporting the appointment of independent counsels to investigate Democrats, Eric Holder has demonstrated throughout his career that he has the integrity and independence to be an outstanding attorney general,” spokesman Nick Shapiro said.

Meanwhile this morning, Senate Judiciary Committee members Sheldon Whitehouse and Benjamin Cardin are set to join leaders of groups including the NAACP, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the National Council of La Raza and the National Women’s Law Center to voice support for the nominee in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing room on the Hill.

Yuletide wrap

December 24, 2008


DC Dicta will be taking a holiday hiatus until after the New Year. But before you rush off to do all that last-minute gift shopping, here’s one last look at the legal news:

Chamber’s suing mad: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce filed a lawsuit Tuesday challenging the legality of a Bush administration rule requiring all companies working on federal contracts to electronically check the legal working status of their employees through the E-Verify system. (Lawyers USA)

IRA help must wait for New Year: Congress has passed a bill that will suspend the rule requiring retirees over the age of 70 1/2 to withdraw a certain amount from their retirement accounts in 2009. But the Treasury Department announced that no such similar suspension will be made for 2008, meaning anyone who has yet to meet the minimum distribution requirement must do so by Dec. 31. (Lawyers USA)

Holiday Pardons: President Bush issued 19 pardons this week – but none was for Scooter Libby. (Washington Post, New York Times)

FDA takes another look at BPA: First the FDA called the chemical safe, then a wave of scientific reports questioned that finding. Now the FDA is taking another look at the chemical bisphenol-A, a controversial component found in products such as baby bottles. (New York Times)

Pleading the Fifth – a little too late: A witness in convicted Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens’ corruption trial said he should have evoked his constitutional right not to testify instead of taking the stand and incriminating himself. (AP)

Luck be a justice tonight: How does someone become a Supreme Court justice? Says retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor: be “the right person in the right spot at the right time. Simply stated, you must be lucky.” (USA Today)

The year that was: As the year comes to a close, here’s a look at the most popular online stories of the year from Lawyers USA. (Lawyers USA)

Happy Holidays!

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: All about the judiciary

December 8, 2008

usscThis morning the Supreme Court hears arguments in two cases, the first considering whether the failure by the Department of Veterans Affairs to give notice to benefits claimants as required by law is prejudicial (Peake v. Sanders). The second case  asks whether a plaintiff states a Sherman Act claim by alleging that the defendant – a vertically integrated retail competitor with an alleged monopoly at the wholesale level but no antitrust duty to provide the wholesale input to competitors – engaged in a “price squeeze” by leaving insufficient margin between wholesale and retail prices to allow the plaintiff to compete (Pacific Bell v. Linkline Communications).


Supreme docket grows: The Supreme Court added two cases to its docket Friday – one considers whether the president may order that people picked up in the United States be detained indefinitely and without criminal charges, and the other asks whether direct evidence of discrimination must be shown in order to obtain a mixed-motive jury instruction in non-Title VII cases. (Bloomberg)

GOP scores in the 6th: The Washington Post‘s R. Jeffrey Smith reports that judges appointed by President George W. Bush to the 6th Circuit court of Appeals “acting in cooperation with other Republican appointees on the court, [have] repeatedly organized full-court rehearings to overturn rulings by panels dominated by Democratic appointees.” (WaPo).

tedkennedyKennedy leaves Judiciary Committee: Sen. Edward Kennedy said he will step down from the Senate Judiciary Committee – where he has led vocal fights against the confirmation of some GOP-nominated federal judges from the districts to the Supreme Court. Kennedy said he will focus on healthcare reform. (Boston Globe).

Are voters over strict constructionists?

November 6, 2008

obamablueDoes Barack Obama’s presidential victory represent voters’ dissatisfaction with the federal judiciary, and a desire for less conservative judges?

It does, says Kathryn Kolbert, president of People For the American Way.

In a memo posted on the group’s website, Kolbert said that voters were sending a message: strict constructionists in the vein of Antonin Scalia are out.

“As yesterday’s results make clear, Americans are comfortable with Senator Obama’s vision for the Judiciary, even when it was caricatured as extreme or outside the mainstream,” Kolbert wrote. “At the same time, voters were uninspired by Senator McCain’s frequent repetition of right-wing code words like ‘judicial restraint’ and ‘strict constructionist.'”

According to the group, exit polls showed that the issue of judge appointments was on voters’ minds as they went to the polls. Voters who said the Supreme Court was a factor in their votes broke for Obama 53 to 45, the memo said. Those who called it the most important factor went for Obama 57 to 41.

Kolbert also gave the largest prediction of possible Supreme Court vacancies in Obama’s first term – saying: “there might be three or more vacancies.”

The hand that rocks the voting booths rules the courts

October 29, 2008

As DC Dicta has noted, President George W. Bush is very proud of the federal judges he’s appointed over the last eight years, and hopes those jurists help to shape his legacy.

Right now, conservative justices hold a majority in 10 of the 13 federal circuits, “while judges appointed by Democrats have a dwindling majority on just one circuit,” notes a piece in today’s New York Times.

What’s more, even though Bush appointed 61 judges to President Bill Clinton’s 65, Bush’s nominees are so young that they will affect the shape of the judiciary for many years to come. Even the nation’s Chief Justice was the youngest appointed in more than 200 years.

So what does all that mean for the election? It raises a new stake: A McCain victory will give that administration a chance to shore up conservative control of federal courts, even ensuring a majority in all 13 circuits. An Obama win would allow Democrats to try to roll back the GOP advantage in the courts. Obama could could even appoint enough judges to regain a majority by the end of his first term, the story says.