October 30, 2012 |
WASHINGTON - Supreme Court justices were surprisingly skeptical Monday about arguments by a top Justice Department lawyer who in a hearing sought to squelch an anti-wiretapping lawsuit brought by lawyers, journalists and activists. At issue in the surveillance case is the government's power to secretly monitor international phone calls and email under a stepped-up monitoring policy approved by Congress four years ago. It allows U.S. spy agencies to target people or places overseas and to intercept all the phone calls and email to and from these people or places.
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 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.
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.
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.
March 4, 2014 |
WASHINGTON - Outside accountants and lawyers who reveal fraud and wrongdoing at publicly traded companies are protected as whistle-blowers just as employees are, the Supreme Court ruled, expanding the reach of an anti-fraud law passed in the wake of the collapse of companies such as Enron Corp. and WorldCom Inc. The 6-3 decision Tuesday will affect the mutual fund and financial services industries in particular because they rely heavily on outside contractors and advisors. Denying whistle-blower protection to all outside employees of such companies would leave a "huge hole" in the 2002 law, said Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, noting that most mutual fund companies hire independent investment advisors and contractors rather than employees.
February 24, 2013 |
Over the next three months, the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether to end affirmative action, whether to overturn part of one of the most important civil rights laws in our country's history (the Voting Rights Act) and whether gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to the same marriage benefits as heterosexual couples. In almost every term, the justices exercise veto power over fundamental policy questions such as abortion, gun control and freedom of speech and religion.
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.
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.