About 70 minutes into what had been a meandering and technical Supreme Court argument on Tuesday about whether two Georgia students could sue their college for nominal damages, a series of questions about Taylor Swift brought the issue into focus.
Justice Elena Kagan asked about “the most famous nominal damages case I know of in recent times, which is the Taylor Swift sexual assault case.”
Ms. Swift, the pop superstar, sued a Denver radio host she said had groped her. She sought $1 in nominal damages.
“I’m not really interested in your money,” Justice Kagan said, describing Ms. Swift’s thinking. “I just want a dollar, and that dollar is going to represent something both to me and to the world of women who have experienced what I’ve experienced.”
The jury sided with Ms. Swift and awarded her the dollar she had asked for. “It was unquestionable physical harm, but she just asked for this one dollar to say that she had been harmed,” Justice Kagan told Andrew A. Pinson, Georgia’s solicitor general. “Why not?”
Mr. Pinson admitted that he was only vaguely familiar with the case. But he said that proving a point, as opposed to obtaining compensation, “is not something that federal courts exist to do.”
Justice Amy Coney Barrett followed up with her own thoughts about Ms. Swift’s case. “What Taylor Swift wanted was, you know, vindication of the moral right, the legal right, that sexual assault is reprehensible and wrong,” Justice Barrett said.
And Justice Neil M. Gorsuch said the court should be wary of penalizing plaintiffs who act on principle, including “those like Ms. Swift who have some scruple or reason not to seek more, who could.”
By the end of the argument, it seemed that the singer’s stance would help that of the students in the case before the justices, Uzuegbunam v. Preczewski, No. 19-968.
2. Here's an article about another white collar conviction that was reversed, this time by the 3rd Circuit, where prosecutors stretched the criminal code. It is very strange to me that more district judges don't grant defense motions to dismiss instead of forcing defendants to go to trial (and risk huge sentences) to develop the law. Where motions to dismiss are granted, prosecutors can appeal, and if the defense/trial judge is wrong, the appellate court can say so and the case will proceed. But if the defense is right, then the defendant won't have suffered through the unbelievable burden (emotional, financial, and so on) of proceeding to a trial.
3. Speaking of those rare, great district judges -- a big shout-out to Judge Middlebrooks for this order, dismissing a case with prejudice.*
I appreciate that the historical moment we are living through, which gave rise to the temporary suspension of grand juries, prevented the Government from obtaining indictments in this District from approximately March 26, 2020 to November 17, 2020. But our legal system has experienced public emergencies before, and it will experience them again. Allowing the applicability of our constitutional norms to ebb and flow with the times is not becoming of a democracy under the rule of law. Indeed, if our laws are to carry any force, they must stand despite the trials and tribulations of society. Congress may certainly make exceptions; however, it has not done so here. In fact, in March of 2020 when the Department of Justice asked it to suspend criminal statutes of limitations during the coronavirus pandemic and for one year thereafter, Congress declined to make such a special dispensation.