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.


Palin’s selection injects Roe v. Wade into election discourse

September 2, 2008

Even before yesterday’s revelation about the pregnancy of her 17-year-old daughter, the selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to be the GOP vice presidential candidate almost instantly thrust the issue of Supreme Court appointments – and specifically, whether Roe v. Wade may be overturned in a McCain administration – into the forefront of election campaign chatter.

When GOP nominee Sen. John McCain unveiled his pick Friday, opponents immediately began pointing out that Palin described herself to be as “pro-life as any candidate can be.”

“Gov. Palin shares John McCain’s commitment to overturning Roe v. Wade,” said Obama spokesman Bill Burton in a statement issued before McCain and Palin made their first joint appearance.

“She shares John McCain’s commitment to overturning Roe v. Wade,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi the same day.

“The last thing women need is a president – and vice president – who are prepared to turn back the clock on women’s rights and repeal the protections of Roe v. Wade,” said Cecile Richards, the president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund in a statement Friday.

Then yesterday, after news of the pregnancy of Palin’s daughter, Bristol, broke, evangelical leaders rallied on Palin’s behalf, saying the decision of her daughter to keep the child reinforced the candidate’s pro-life stance.

“Before, they were excited about her, with the Down syndrome baby,” conservative activist Grover Norquist said. “But now with this, they are over the moon. It reinforces the fact that this family lives its pro-life values.”

“Fortunately, Bristol is following her mother and father’s example of choosing life in the midst of a difficult situation,” Family Research Council president Tony Perkins said. “We are committed to praying for Bristol and her husband-to-be and the entire Palin family as they walk through a very private matter in the eyes of the public.”

Meanwhile Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama echoed the sentiment expressed by Palin in a statement and by McCain through a spokesperson that the issue of the pregnancy be kept out of the campaign, and that the privacy of the family be respected.

Thinking of the next Supreme Court justice

July 15, 2008

We know that the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court are a healthy, spry bunch – even though two-thirds of the justices are age 68 or higher. Even the most senior members show no signs of slowing down, with Justice John Paul Stevens still enjoying tennis and swims in the Atlantic Ocean at the age of 88, and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg regularly hitting the elliptical trainers in the Court’s gym at the young age of 75.

But it is a presidential election year, and that means that members of the campaign teams of Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain are talking about who might be considered for the bench, should a seat become vacant.

“Regardless of who is elected president, there will be strong sentiments in favor of appointing a woman or someone who would reflect other elements of diversity such as an Hispanic or African-American,” veteran Supreme Court litigator and former U.S. solicitor general Theodore Olsen told Bloomberg News. Olsen is an advisor for McCain’s campaign.

So who might be on Obama’s judicial short list? Experts quoted in the Bloomberg piece point to potential candidates like former Solicitor General Seth Waxman, now a partner at WilmerHale, and and Harvard Law School Dean Elena Kagan.

McCain’s high court list may include names like former United States Deputy Solicitor General Maureen Mahoney, now a partner at Latham & Watkins, a lawmaker like Texas Sen. John Cornyn, or 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Michael McConnell.

Campaign issue of the day: Bankruptcy law

July 9, 2008

Presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama has unveiled his proposal to change bankruptcy laws. And his plan includes doing something Congress declined to do earlier this year: allow bankruptcy courts to renegotiate the terms of mortgages.

A similar provision in an early version of Congress’s housing rescue plan was dropped in April after the White House and some lawmakers opposed the plan.

Obama’s proposal would also remove some of the bureaucratic hurdles to filing for personal bankruptcy that were imposed in 2005, establish a nationwide “homestead” level of equity that would be protected from creditors, and impose a 120-day moratorium on credit reporting agencies reporting negative credit information.

In a speech in Powder Springs, Ga., Obama said the plan would particularly help military families and elders, creating a “fast-track bankruptcy practice” for military families, cutting paperwork and red tape for bankruptcy filing, and allowing elders to more easily keep their homes, which he called ” the cornerstones of a secure retirement,” according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Robert Lawless, an expert cited in Obama’s policy paper, but unconnected to the campaign, told the Wall Street Journal that the plan is ambitious.

“This goes as far as anybody who’s had the ability to get things enacted into law has proposed,” Lawless said to the WSJ. (Sub. Req’d). “It is more targeted, rather than saying, ‘I want to go in and undo the 2005 bankruptcy law.’ I don’t’ think there’d be any political interest in doing that.”

Tucker Bounds, spokesman for Republican opponent Sen. John McCain responded in a statement to the Associated Press: “Eighteen Democrats and John McCain worked together on the bipartisan Senate bankruptcy bill, and Barack Obama’s rigid partisanship and self-promoting political attacks show that he’s a typical politician – which is the problem in Washington, not the solution.”