June 28, 2012 |
WASHINGTON -- Just before 10 a.m. EDT today, the nine justices of the Supreme Court will be summoned by a buzzer to the robing room behind the court bench. No matter how acrimonious the fight over the healthcare decision they are about to announce, tradition calls for them to shake hands with one another. Chief Justice Melville W. Fuller began that little ceremony in the late 1800s to note that differences of opinion do not preclude the justices' overall harmony of purpose. That sense of harmony may be short-lived if the court is badly split on what may be the most significant ruling on an act of Congress in more than half a century.
June 27, 2010 |
For Elena Kagan, it was a moment of sheer triumph. Presiding over a gala dinner three years ago among the Italianate arches of the art museum at Harvard University, a beaming Kagan praised the honoree, Bruce Wasserstein, then the chairman of famed Wall Street bank Lazard Ltd. Wasserstein's donations had helped Kagan break ground on a massive, state-of-the-art facility at the law school, where she was the dean. The construction cranes rising above Harvard Law's campus today serve as a testament to Kagan's prowess; she spearheaded a fundraising campaign that raked in almost half a billion dollars for the school.
July 2, 2010 |
Supporters and critics of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan argued their case before the Senate Judiciary Committee late Thursday, but one of her most formidable opponents weighed in earlier in the day. The National Rifle Assn., Washington's powerful gun lobby, came out against her confirmation, saying Kagan "has repeatedly demonstrated a clear hostility to the fundamental, individual right to keep and bear arms guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution." As a domestic policy advisor for President Clinton in the 1990s, Kagan was part of an administration that battled the NRA on issues such as assault weapons, the importation of semiautomatic rifles, trigger locks and gun show sales.
March 21, 2012 |
The Supreme Court, noting that virtually all criminal cases are settled through plea deals, has ruled for the first time that defendants have a right to competent advice from a lawyer on whether to accept an offer to plead guilty in exchange for a lighter sentence. At a minimum, the court said, the defendant must be told of any formal offers from a prosecutor that would result in a favorable deal. The pair of 5-4 decisions handed down Wednesday could have a broad impact on the nation's criminal justice system because of the importance of plea deals.
June 25, 2012 |
They might well be the most powerful men and women in the nation, but most Americans probably couldn't pick the members of the U.S. Supreme Court out of a lineup. (Unless perhaps they were the only ones wearing long black robes.) As the court's current term draws to a close, it's issuing a series of monumental decisions this week that will affect every man, woman and child in the country. Today alone, the court handed down a split decision on Arizona's controversial immigration law, and ruled that it was unconstitutional to send juveniles to prison for life without the possibility of parole.
July 12, 2012 |
There are (at least) two reasons to pass a law: to address a practical problem and to send a message. A bill by Sen. James Webb (D-Va.) to criminalize lying about military service “for tangible benefit or personal gain” seems to fall into the second category. The Webb bill is a response to last month's Supreme Court decision striking down the Stolen Valor Act, which made it a crime to lie about having received military honors. The decision overturnd the conviction of Xavier Alvarez, a former member of the Three Valleys Municipal Water District governing board in eastern Los Angeles County who falsely claimed that he held the congressional Medal of Honor. (That was only one of his whoppers.
May 27, 2010 |
In her first weeks as dean of Harvard Law School in 2003, Elena Kagan put the warring sides of the gun rights debate in a room and let them fight it out. The debate between gun control advocates and 2nd Amendment purists was sponsored by the law school's target shooting club, and Kagan showed her support by moderating the exchange. But her own views on gun rights went unaired. With her Supreme Court confirmation pending, those views have become of extreme interest to pro-gun groups such as the National Rifle Assn.
May 12, 2010 |
Ruth from Brooklyn, Sonia from the Bronx and now Elena from Manhattan? If President Obama gets his way, the Supreme Court will have three women justices for the first time. But the focus on this historic moment for women in the law has obscured another defining trait shared by this trio — all were raised not far from the No. 2 subway line that connects those three New York City boroughs. (The first female justice, Sandra Day O'Connor, grew up in the wilds of Arizona.) However much a young girl may be pitied by non-New Yorkers for having to come of age in this crowded, sharp-elbowed, grasping city of show-offs, it can also condition her to compete and shine in a male-dominated world like the law. Apparently finding a seat on a subway is decent training for finding a seat on the highest court in the land.
March 30, 2011 |
Supreme Court justices, sharply divided along gender lines, appeared poised to reject a nationwide class-action suit that accuses Wal-Mart Stores Inc. of sex discrimination. Led by Justices Anthony M. Kennedy and Antonin Scalia, the majority of men on the court questioned how Wal-Mart could be held liable for illegal sex bias when its 3,400 store managers across the nation decide who gets promoted and who receives pay raises. "It's not clear to me: What's the unlawful policy that Wal-Mart has adopted?"
May 11, 2010 |
The White House during President Clinton's second term was a combustible, ambitious place. While to the public it appeared that the chief executive was spending most of his time embroiled in scandal, a small group of staffers worked behind the scenes to pursue an aggressive policy agenda. Elena Kagan was one of them. She had come to the Clinton domestic policy shop in 1997 after serving as an administration lawyer. By the time she left two years later, she had put her stamp on the office, a unit that took on tobacco and gun industries, advocated campaign finance reform, backed affirmative action and worked to preserve abortion rights.