Monday, February 17, 2014

President's Day News & Notes (Supreme Court style)

The Southern District of Florida is pretty quiet today, so here's some Supreme Court news for those of you in the office:

1.  Justice Stevens is still active.  Here are some good stories:

In his early days as a justice, Stevens recalled, Brennan persuaded him to attend the exclusive Gridiron Club dinner put on by Washington journalists. Brennan insisted on loaning Stevens his suit with tails for the occasion.
The problem, Stevens said, was that "Brennan was a good deal heavier than I was." As a result, Stevens worried all evening that the suit "would not protect my dignity." But it all turned out well. Stevens was seated next to the famed dancer and actress Ginger Rogers. "It was one of the best evenings I ever had, and I owe that to Bill Brennan."
As on other occasions since retiring in 2010, Stevens was critical of some of the decisions the court has handed down since he left. Both Snyder v. Phelps and United States v. Alvarez, he said, were too protective of false speech. The Snyder case went in favor of virulent protesters at military funerals, and Alvarez struck down a federal law that made it a crime to falsely claim to have won a military Medal of Honor.
The Alvarez ruling, Stevens said, "sends a terrible message to the youth of our nation and to the general public as well" by announcing a constitutional right to lie.
Neither Snyder nor Alvarez were 5-4 decisions, so the fact that Stevens would have voted differently than his successor Elena Kagan would not have made a difference in the outcome.
Still, Stevens' remarks underscored what a difference a single justice can make, even on a nine-member court. He recounted how, in Harte-Hanks Communications v. Connaughton, a libel decision he authored in 1989, he was first assigned to write a propress majority opinion. When he read the record, however, he changed his mind, deciding it was a rare instance when the press should be held liable for defaming a political candidate. The rest of the court followed Stevens' lead.
The behind-the-scenes maneuvering in the court's long line of libel cases is the focus of a powerful new book that was discussed at the conference. Written by court scholar Steve Wermiel and Lee Levine, partner at Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz, "The Progeny: Justice William J. Brennan's Fight to Preserve the Legacy of New York Times v. Sullivan" makes it clear that court opinions can be the product of months — and sometimes years — of negotiations and rewrites.

Scalia also displayed his famous sarcastic wit throughout, lastly directing it at Chicago deep dish pizza during questioning after his speech. He said he liked both Chicago and New York style pizza, but Chicago style “shouldn’t be called pizza” he said. “It’s very tasty, but it’s not pizza.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Scalia is addicted to fame and attention.

He is known to be smart and witty; he must constantly prove himself worthy and receive positive feedback in he form of smiles, ahhs and general attention.

No different than a class clown, without the attention he seeks, he feels depressed and isolated - empty.

Quite sad. For him and US. Now, we have a buffoon on The Court, who is more interested in showmanship (yet afraid of the unforgiving eye of the camera) than what he was tasked to do.