U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Michael A. Scarcella/ALM)
Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in February was one of the biggest stories this year about the U.S. Supreme Court. Sonia Sotomayor urged mandatory pro bono for all lawyers. Richard Posner railed on “stupid” decisions by Chief Justice Roberts. And the court’s microphones picked up banter on the bench.
Here’s a look at some of our most-read stories about the high court.
On Oct. 7, a night dominated by the disclosure of Donald Trump’s audio-recorded boasts about grabbing women, Moira Smith, an in-house lawyer in Alaska, posted on Facebook a memory of her encounter with Clarence Thomas.
“He groped me while I was setting the table, suggesting I should sit ‘right next to him,’ ” Smith wrote. Smith was 23 at the time of the dinner party at the Falls Church, Virginia, home of her boss. Her claim came amid the outrage and ongoing national conversation about inappropriate sexual treatment of women by powerful men, male acquaintances and strangers. Thomas denied the allegation. “This claim is preposterous and it never happened,” he said.
Tony Mauro writes: I am not entirely sure when or why my relationship with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia became challenging. It had begun auspiciously.
Soon after he joined the court in 1986, I wrote him a note about a personal connection we had: My father had taken a course in Italian from his father at Brooklyn College decades earlier. But after some years went by, something happened. Perhaps it was my tongue-in-cheek observation in Legal Times in 1996 that Scalia’s newly grown beard had court-watchers debating whether he looked more like Luciano Pavarotti or Dom DeLuise.
The résumés of Chief Judge Merrick Garland’s clerks, taken together, form a somewhat homogeneous drawing. They are the standouts from only the most elite of law school classes, then the majority sail into U.S. Supreme Court clerkships and ride the fast track to law industry, government and intellectual success.
The NLJ crunched numbers on all former and current Garland clerks, looking at where the 75 lawyers attended law school and where they’ve worked since. Related: The Exacting Merrick Garland—As Told By His Clerks.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor said in remarks this year that all lawyers should be required to provide pro bono legal services. “I believe in forced labor” when it comes to improving access to justice for the poor, she said during an appearance at the American Law Institute’s annual meeting in Washington.
The intense debate over how transparent presidential nominees Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump should be about their health gives rise to another question: What about the health of Supreme Court justices?
The late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia might have offered his own solution to the awkward acronym problem George Mason University created by renaming its law school after him: Ban the acronym altogether.
The prominent and prolific Richard Posner railed against several “stupid” decisions by Roberts, and called the chief justice a “terrible manager” of the federal judiciary. For good measure, Posner said that Scalia’s 2008 gun rights decision District of Columbia v. Heller was “a terrible opinion” and that his support for the right to burn the American flag was “very silly.”
Posner’s remarks, recorded on video, were made in a conversation before a small audience of First Amendment advocates.
There was a yawn, and several hand-held chins resting on the bench. And then there was Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s neckwear. Ginsburg, who wears jabots with her black robe from a collection she has in a closet in her chambers, on Nov. 9—the morning after Donald Trump’s victory—chose the one she wears when she reads a summary of her dissenting opinion from the bench.
Her “dissent” jabot is different in style and color than the more typical all-white neckwear. She did not read anything that morning from the bench.
Aside from the trophy elk head on the wall of Justice Antonin Scalia’s court chambers, little in his office revealed the wicked pen, quick wit and, yes, often modest and charming justice-at-work. And nothing explained his incongruous “best friend” relationship with his polar opposite—the quiet, physically diminutive Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Whom do Washington’s lawyers want for the open U.S. Supreme Court seat? Whom does the legal community expect to get the nod? In lieu of a nomination more than three weeks after Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s death, The National Law Journal wanted to hedge the potential of high court candidates.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s public statement this summer that she regretted her comments about Donald Trump’s candidacy was extraordinary. When justices and judges voice regret or admit errors it’s usually about the law—think: a previous ruling—and not politics. Although rare, justices and judges do confess in public and in their opinions about mistakes and regrets.
In a historic gesture, Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. used American Sign Language from the bench to welcome 12 deaf or hard-of-hearing lawyers as new members of the U.S. Supreme Court bar.
So what did U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy whisper to Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. about Justice Sonia Sotomayor during the Texas abortion-clinic case? And, when you think about it, why are justices whispering to each other on the bench anyway?
In the contest for the hearts and minds of Americans—and, indirectly, of U.S. Supreme Court justices—videos increasingly have become public tools in high-stakes cases.
As startling as then-U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr.’s abandonment of the federal Defense of Marriage Act might have appeared—the U.S. Supreme Court later validated the Obama administration—presidential administrations of both political parties have exercised discretion to decline to defend certain laws. Donald Trump’s Justice Department is next up to balk at the duty to defend.
With President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team announcing nominations to important positions almost daily, speculation within the appellate bar is intensifying about who will be the next U.S. solicitor general, the government’s top lawyer before the U.S. Supreme Court.