Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Justice Scalia during oral argument on Arizona voting law: "No problemo"

Yes, Justice Scalia lapsed into Spanglish during oral argument on the question of whether Arizona can require proof of citizenship to vote in federal elections:

JUSTICE SCALIA: You think "may require
only" means shall require only? Is that -- is that your
submission? "May require only" means shall require
MR. SRINIVASAN: It "may require only" in
effect means shall require information that's necessary,
but may only require that information. I think the
statute would make very little sense if the EAC
discharged its statutory responsibility by having a
Federal form that required nothing other than the name.
That wouldn't be within anybody's conceivable conception
of a rational objective of Congress that would enable
the EAC to -­
JUSTICE SCALIA: It would not be a problem
if the State could require it. It would not be a
problem. When -- when the commission fails to do what
enables the State to assess qualifications, the State'll
do it. No problemo.

 The NY Times says that oral argument seemed split along ideological lines:

 The Supreme Court appeared divided along familiar lines on Monday as it heard arguments over whether Arizona can require proof of citizenship from people seeking to register to vote in federal elections.
Several of the court’s more liberal justices sounded doubtful about a state law that imposes requirements beyond those called for by a federal law.
“Many people don’t have the documents that Arizona requires,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor said.
The Arizona law, enacted in 2004 by a ballot initiative, requires prospective voters to prove that they are citizens by submitting copies of or information concerning various documents, including birth certificates, passports, naturalization papers or Arizona driver’s licenses, which are available only to people who are in the state lawfully.
The question for the justices was whether that state law conflicted with the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, which allows voters to register using a federal form that asks, “Are you a citizen of the United States?” Prospective voters must check a box yes or no, and they must sign the form, swearing that they are citizens under penalty of perjury.
Several members of the court’s conservative wing indicated that the state was free to impose additional requirements to make sure only citizens vote.
Justice Antonin Scalia said the federal form was inadequate. “So it’s under oath,” he said. “Big deal. If you’re willing to violate the voting laws, I suppose you’re willing to violate the perjury laws.”
“Under oath,” he added, “is not proof at all. It’s just a statement.”
Patricia A. Millett, a lawyer for several groups challenging the Arizona law, responded that “statements under oath in criminal cases are proof beyond a reasonable doubt” sufficient to lead to the death penalty.
She added that tens of thousands of people had been rejected from the registration rolls because of the Arizona law, though there was no evidence that they were not citizens.

Meantime, Justice Kagan was speaking on Gideon and said that indigent defendants weren't entitled to Cadillac lawyers, just Ford Tauruses (via BLT):

Indigent defendants aren't entitled to "the best defense money can buy," U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan said on Friday at a U.S. Justice Department event marking the 50th anniversary of the high court's landmark Gideon v. Wainwright decision, which guaranteed that people accused of crimes have the right to a lawyer even if they can't pay.
Speaking before a standing-room only crowd in DOJ's Great Hall with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. and former Vice President Walter Mondale, Kagan said the provision of a "Cadillac" lawyer isn't a right for poor defendants. But they should at least have a "Ford Taurus" defense, complete with a lawyer who has the skills, resources and competence necessary to thoroughly advise a client.
"We don't have the resources to make [a Cadillac defense] happen," Kagan said. "And I'm not sure if we did have the resources that that's exactly what we should want."
But even a Taurus defense is hard to come by, she said. In the five decades since the March 18, 1963, decision, states have faced challenges adhering to the high court's unanimous decision that found that "lawyers in criminal courts are necessities, not luxuries." If a person facing a felony charge is too poor to hire a lawyer, the court ruled, the government is obligated to provide one for free. Subsequent decisions expanded the right to juvenile proceedings and certain misdemeanors.


Anonymous said...

First, what a joke. He is eroding confidence in the judiciary.

Second, I love Kagan, but really, we need to settle for a Taurus. Maybe if a defense lawyer was present at the DOJ function for indigent defense we could have heard a different take.

Anonymous said...

Anybody see what Phil Reizenstein just did? That was Cadillac lawyering for an indigent defendant. It can happen. The indigent can be provided the best. It just happened in Miami.

Crime Pays said...

It appears he may have been speaking Latin. Res ipsa lame-o.