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The U.S. Supreme Court appears to have backed away from a controversial proposed rule change that critics said would have threatened the privacy of groups that file amicus curiae or friend-of-the-court briefs with the justices. Following a public comment period that apparently led the justices to reconsider their proposal, the justices last week issued new rules that will take effect on Oct. 1. The original proposal would have had the effect of requiring amicus filers to disclose if parties or their counsel were members of the amicus group or had helped finance the brief. The aim was to prevent parties from getting two bites at the apple � one, a brief filed by the party itself and the second, a brief filed by an amicus group but written or financed by the party. Amicus groups across the spectrum protested that the rule would invade the cherished privacy of their membership rosters. Former members of the solicitor general’s office also protested that the rule as written originally would have required government lawyers to reveal, for example, whether they paid dues to the American Civil Liberties Union or the National Rifle Association. As finally promulgated last week, Sup. Ct. R. 37.6 deals with both objections. Lawyers for government entities are exempted altogether, and the disclosure for everyone else is limited to parties and their counsel who made monetary contributions to the amicus group specifically for the preparation or submission of the brief. The clerk’s commentary states that those parties and counsel who merely pay membership dues to the amicus group “need not be disclosed.” David Gossett of Chicago’s Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw, who filed the lead comment on the rule changes on behalf of many Supreme Court practitioners, said, “I am gratified that the Court paid such careful attention” to comments about the amicus and other rules. CONSIDERING THAT the 2008 presidential campaign has got off to a ludicrously early start, it should come as no surprise that speculation about potential Supreme Court nominees in the next administration is already under way. On his widely read SCOTUSblog, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld partner Thomas Goldstein (also a contributor to NLJ-affiliate Legal Times) spins out an interesting list of names if a Democrat is elected, including Judges Johnnie Rawlinson and Kim Wardlaw from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Merrick Garland of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, and Judge Sonia Sotomayor from the 1st Circuit. Moving off the appellate bench, Goldstein also mentions governors Deval Patrick of Massachusetts and Jennifer Granholm of Michigan, Harvard Law School Dean Elena Kagan, and, yes, Senator Barack Obama, D-Ill., unless that would put him in the awkward position of a president appointing himself. Also raising eyebrows is Goldstein’s assumption, based on knowledgeable sources, that Justice David H. Souter may be the first, or one of the first, to depart from the court. Souter, 67, is said to be eager to return to New Hampshire � so eager that he may beat Justices John Paul Stevens, 87, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 74, to the exit door. Some of Goldstein’s picks are “silly,” said Curt Levey of the Committee for Justice, which has campaigned for President George W. Bush’s judicial nominees. “Speculating about who’s leaving the Supreme Court is almost always wrong,” Levey said.

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