Monthly Archives: February 2016

Shifting Alliances Tally Up To More Unpredictable CA Supreme Court

Shifting Alliances Tally Up To More Unpredictable CA Supreme Court by John Roemer

After decades of domination by conservatives, the newly reconstituted state Supreme Court is now approaching political parity.

It’s not just the three fresh Democratic justices appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown who have altered the high court’s makeup. Goodwin H. Liu, appointed in 2011, was joined last year by Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar and Leondra R. Kruger.

That made for a 4-3 divide that still favors the Republican appointees: Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye, the chief justice, Kathryn Mickle Werdegar, Ming W. Chin and Carol A. Corrigan. But it is Werdegar’s political odyssey leftward – not the new appointees – that is shifting the bench calculus.

In themselves, Brown’s appointments have uncanny echoes of the 1970s and ’80s, during his first term as governor. Brown placed seven justices on the court, three of whom were ousted from the bench in a politically charged 1986 retention election focused on Chief Justice Rose E. Bird’s rejection of the death penalty.

Now Brown has a second chance to remake the court in a state where aversion for capital punishment has steadily progressed. A 2014 poll found that 56 percent of voters said they still support the death penalty, but it was a sharp drop from 68 percent in 2011. The issue could come before voters this year. Two competing voter initiatives are vying to get on the ballot.

The surprise is that the most outspoken justice on the topic has been Werdegar, who wrote for a unanimous court last year that the Eight Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment could potentially be extended to include the lengthy, arbitrary delays in executions that have plagued California’s death penalty system.

Read the full article here.


Antonin Scalia, Justice of the Supreme Court, Dies at 79

Antonin Scalia, Justice of the Supreme Court, Dies at 79 by lawyer and Supreme Court correspondent of the New York Times, Adam Liptak

Justice Antonin Scalia, whose transformative legal theories, vivid writing and outsize personality made him a leader of a conservative intellectual renaissance in his three decades on the Supreme Court, was found dead on Saturday at a resort in West Texas. He was 79.

“He was an extraordinary individual and jurist, admired and treasured by his colleagues,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said in a statement confirming Justice Scalia’s death. “His passing is a great loss to the Court and the country he so loyally served.”

The cause of death was not immediately released. A spokeswoman for the United States Marshals Service, which sent personnel to the scene, said there was nothing to indicate the death was the result of anything other than natural causes.

Justice Scalia began his service on the court as an outsider known for caustic dissents that alienated even potential allies. But his theories, initially viewed as idiosyncratic, gradually took hold, and not only on the right and not only in the courts.

He was, Judge Richard A. Posner wrote in the New Republic in 2011, “the most influential justice of the last quarter-century.” Justice Scalia was a champion of originalism, the theory of constitutional interpretation that seeks to apply the understanding of those who drafted and ratified the Constitution. In Justice Scalia’s hands, originalism generally led to outcomes that pleased political conservatives, but not always. His approach was helpful to criminal defendants in cases involving sentencing and the cross-examination of witnesses.

Justice Scalia also disdained the use of legislative history – statements from members of Congress about the meaning and purposes of laws – in the judicial interpretation of statutes. He railed against vague laws that did not give potential defendants fair warning of what conduct was criminal. He preferred bright-line rules to legal balancing tests, and he was sharply critical of Supreme Court opinions that did not provide lower courts and litigants with clear guidance.

All of these views took shape in dissents. Over time, they came to influence and in many cases dominate the debate at the Supreme Court, in lower courts, among lawyers and in the legal academy.

Read the full article here.

Proposal to lift ban on academic credit for paid externships draws heavy opposition

Proposal to lift ban on academic credit for paid externships draws heavy opposition by Senior Writer of the ABA Journal, Mark Hansen

A proposed change in the law school accreditation standards that would lift the ban on students receiving academic credit for paid externships has drawn a lot of comment – and much of the comment is in opposition of lifting the ban.

Under the current standards, law students are barred from receiving both credit and pay for an externship. But the governing council of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar has approved for notice and comment a proposal that would eliminate the ban.

That proposal is just one of four proposed changes in the standards that the council has posted for notice and comment. But it is the one that has drawn the lion’s share of comments. And most of these comments have been negative.

Read the full article here.