CHIEF JUSTICE MARSHALL HOLDS SWEAR-IN RECORD
For all you inauguration buffs, who holds the record for administering the presidential oath of office? The Architect of the Capitol and the Office of the Curator have combed records and files to produce a list beginning with President George Washington on April 30, 1789, and ending with President Barack Obama on January 20, 2009, who will be sworn in by Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. (Roberts will again swear in Obama on January 20 and 21.)
The record holder is Chief Justice John Marshall, who gave the oath nine times to five presidents: Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson. Chief Justice Roger Taney administered the oath seven times to seven presidents: Martin Van Buren, William H. Harrison, James Polk, Zachary Taylor, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan and Abraham Lincoln. Chief justices Melville Fuller and Warren Burger each did it six times.
The chief justice of the United States did not always do the honors. The very first oath of office was administered to Washington by Robert Livingston, chancellor of the state of New York, on the balcony of Federal Hall in New York City. To see the full list, check out: http://1.usa.gov/Z62N. — Marcia Coyle
PROSECUTOR: CONDUCT IN SWARTZ CASE ‘APPROPRIATE’
The backlash against the U.S. Justice Department following the suicide of Internet prodigy and activist Aaron Swartz, charged in a controversial computer hacking case in Boston, was instant and loud. Prosecutors, accused of building a borderline case against Swartz and seeking to punish him with jail, largely refrained from entering the public fray.
But, as pressure mounted for DOJ to explain its decision to prosecute Swartz, Carmen Ortiz, the U.S. attorney in Boston, on January 16 said in a formal statement that “this office’s conduct was appropriate in bringing and handling this case.” The Swartz prosecutors, including veteran career attorney Stephen Heymann, acted “reasonably,” Ortiz said.
Critics, including Harvard Law School professor Lawrence Lessig, contend the government bullied Swartz, 26, who killed himself on January 11 in New York. His family blamed the prosecution as contributing to his death. Trial was scheduled for April in Boston federal district court. The fallout from the case and Swartz’s death isn’t likely to abate. Swartz’s advocates successfully collected more than 41,600 signatures — well above the 25,000 needed — on a petition submitted to the White House calling for the removal of Ortiz from the office she’s held since 2009. Now, the White House must respond. — Mike Scarcella
JUDGE TOUTS U.S.-BRAZILIAN TIES
Among his Portuguese-speaking friends and colleagues, U.S. District Senior Judge Peter Messitte‘s nickname is “Juiz de Fora.” Translated as “judge from the outside,” it’s the name of a Brazilian city as well as an apt description for a Maryland federal judge with strong ties to the South American country. Messitte’s latest efforts to build bridges between legal communities in the United States and Brazil include heading the new Brazil-U.S. Legal and Judicial Studies Program at American University Washington College of Law. The comparative law program was launched in late 2012 and is picking up steam this year, with plans for seminars aimed at bringing together Brazilian and American judges, lawyers and students. Messitte, who served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Brazil in the 1960s and speaks fluent Portuguese, said that, given Brazil’s growing economy and presence on the world stage, a specialized program made sense. He noted that law firms increasingly are expanding their practices in Brazil, citingSteptoe & Johnson LLP and K&L Gates as examples. “Getting an overview of what the legal system is — what the court system is, how judges operate, procedure — that’s valuable,” Messitte said. — Zoe Tillman
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor‘s memoir My Beloved World was published last week amid a burst of publicity and a seemingly endless round of interviews for the justice. The book’s timeline ends in 1992, but in media appearances she has talked about her new life on the high court. Asked the inevitable “living constitution” question, Sotomayor told 60 Minutes that she draws from all parts of the “toolbox” to interpret texts, including precedent and history, adding that “some of my colleagues don’t rely on history” — a reference to Antonin Scalia. She acknowledged to NPR that her embrace of affirmative action as a positive factor in her own life contrasts with the views of Clarence Thomas, “as much as I know Clarence, admire him and have grown to appreciate him.” Sotomayor is not entirely happy with life in D.C. In New York, she could get food delivered in 15 minutes, she told The New York Times, but in her new hometown, it takes 45 minutes or more, especially when delivered to the court. — Tony Mauro
Squire, Sanders & Dempsey has snatched up a team of antitrust partners from Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, including a former practice head. Mark Botti, formerly chief of Akin’s antitrust and unfair competition practice, and partners J. Brady Dugan and Anthony Swisher made the lateral move. Botti is predicting that the coming year will be filled with increased antitrust activity across a number of industries, including health care. “Health care is going through lots of changes due to increased government regulation,” Botti said. “Antitrust and regulated industries go hand in hand. Both the enforcement focus and direction of antitrust often involve some kind of regulated environment.” He said that the high number of antitrust practitioners in Washington raises the quality of practice, and that it was important for antitrust lawyers to take a modern view of the law. “You need to be very aware of the current thinking, not what happened five years ago.” — Matthew Huisman
HIDE AND SEEK
Last week, when the American Civil Liberties Union received two highly anticipated memos from the U.S. Justice Department about global positioning system surveillance, there wasn’t much to look at. The two memos, obtained through a public records request, were in large part redacted. Whole pages blacked out, even. Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the landmark surveillance case U.S. v. Jones last year, DOJ Criminal Division appellate lawyer Patty Merkamp Stemler issued guidance to all federal prosecutors on the application of the decision to the use of GPS tracking devices. The justices left open the question of whether agents must first obtain a warrant before installing a secret surveillance device on a vehicle. “The Justice Department’s unfortunate decision leaves Americans with no clear understanding of when we will be subjected to tracking — possibly for months at a time — or whether the government will first get a warrant,” ACLU attorney Catherine Crump wrote on January 16 on a blog. — Mike Scarcella
Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) delivered a speech on January 16 at Georgetown University Law Center, which had set up two microphones so students could ask questions. The first three questions came from the microphone to Leahy’s left, so the liberal senator took a few shots at his own political leanings. “There are those who say I automatically look to the left,” Leahy quipped. Then Leahy, who has appeared in two movies in the Batman series, launched into a story that included an impression of Clint Eastwood, whom he once stood next to while being photographed: “The photographer says, ‘Everyone move a little to their right,’ ” Leahy said. “Eastwood leans over to me and says, ‘Patrick, easy for me, not so easy for you.’ ” — Todd Ruger