Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Washington Briefs Has Moved

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

SG Nominee Kagan Changes Tune On Confirmation Process

Solicitor General nominee Elena Kagan appears to have changed her mind about how forthcoming judicial nominees should be when appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
It's probably nothing to do with the fact that she would be a leading contender to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court if the ailing jurist fails to recover from pancreatic cancer, but you never know.
At her confirmation hearing today, Kagan backtracked on remarks she made in a 1995 University of Chicago Law Review article called "Confirmation Messes."
She wrote then that nominees should have the chance to elaborate on their legal theories when they testify.
"When the Senate ceases to engage nominees in meaningful discussion of legal issues, the confirmation process takes on an air of vacuity and farce, and the Senate becomes incapable of either properly evaluating nominees or appropriately educating the public," she wrote.
Now, she's not so sure.
“I’m not sure if, sitting here now, I would agree with that statement,” she said in response to a question from Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, this morning.
That could make things a little easier for her if she ever appears before the committee again.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Rock Band Frontman Lays Into Washington Lobbyist Father

News that obscure band Silver Jews has split up may not mean much to most, but frontman David Berman used the moment to launch an outspoken attack on his father.
The man in question is Washington lawyer/lobbyist Richard Berman (pictured), who is known for his work on behalf of various business interests.
That's something Berman Jr. isn't so happy about, according to the tirade he posted on a Silver Jews messageboard and reported by the likes of Billboard.
Son gives it to father with both barrels, describing him as "a despicable man," "an exploiter," and "a scoundrel," among other things.
He suggested that his reason for splitting the band was because he feels a need to counter-balance the work of the elder Berman.
"This winter I decided that the SJs were too small of a force to ever come close to undoing a millionth of all the harm he has caused," David Berman wrote.
His views on his father seem to mirror those of groups like Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which even has a site devoted to the subject.
The two men have apparently been estranged for a while.
Richard Berman was not immediately available for comment.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Inauguration Infatuation

The above picture, taken by your correspondent, catches the moment when the incoming president, Barack Obama, and Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. managed to mangle the oath of office.
Maybe Roberts holds a grudge for Obama voting against his confirmation.
This could at leas be the basis for a new joke: How many Harvard Law School graduates does it take to correctly recite the oath of office?
More pics here.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Obama Gets Warm Reception At Supreme Court

Details of President-elect Barack Obama's meeting with the justices today haven't yet been released, but the court staff were certainly happy to see him.
As he walked back downstairs to the basement parking garage following the hour-long private meeting, a group of staff waiting to catch a glimpse gave a hearty cheer.
Obama turned, gave a quick presidential wave, and was on his way.
UPDATE: The above photo showing Obama and Joe Biden with the justices was released by the president-elect's team this evening.

Obama, Biden Pay Visit To SCOTUS

President-elect Barack Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden are to visit the Supreme Court today for a private meeting with the justices.
No photo opps or press interviews, the court's press corps were disappointed to hear.
It's the third time in recent history that the president-elect has paid such a visit, according to the court's public information office.
Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan were the others.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Justice Breyer's "Worst Pollutant"

At today's oral argument in an environmental case, Justice Stephen Breyer revealed that the worst pollutant he can think of is "saturated fat in potato chips."
His comment, as part of a hypothetical question, probably disappointed environmentalists, who could think of a few other things that qualify as pollutants.
But lawyer Ted Olson, representing a mining company defending its right to dump waste into an Alaskan lake, was clearly thinking along the same lines as Breyer.
He helpfully suggested that the worst pollutant he could think of was cholesterol.
Meanwhile, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. downplayed the harm the mining waste would do to the lake.
Yes, it would kill all the fish, but there's no shortage of them, he noted.
"There are millions of them somewhere else, right?” Roberts said, in what may or not be a joke.
Strictly speaking, of course, the proverbial "plenty more fish in the sea" wouldn't apply here as the lake in question is of the fresh water variety.
However, that problem could be resolved if some salt was added, should Justice Breyer have any potato chips handy.
The case is Coeur Alaska v. Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, 07-984 and Alaska v. Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, 07-990.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Vandalism At The Supreme Court

I'm not entirely sure why anyone would want to steal letters from the nice sign on the men's room door on the ground floor of the U.S. Supreme Court, but they did.
As you can see from this picture, what used to be the men's room is now the n's room.
Perhaps Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who appears to fancy himself as something of a crack detective, could look into the case.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

SF City Attorney Herrera Joins American Constitution Society Board

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera said Thursday that his recent elevation to the board of the American Constitution Society doesn't mean he's angling for a job in the Obama administration.
"I'm very happy as city attorney," he said in an interview.
Herrera said that he subscribes to the view that, in many instances, "you can affect the greatest change working at the state and local level."
ACS is all set be to President-elect Obama what the conservative Federalist Society was to President Bush.
The president-elect has already tapped a current board member, Eric Holder, to be attorney general.
He also hired the group’s executive director, Lisa Brown, for a White House position.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Obama's Awkward Moment

In today's print edition of the Daily Journal (subscribers only), I report on an interesting point of trivia: Barack Obama will be the first president to be sworn in by a chief justice whose Senate confirmation he voted against.
The U.S. Senate Historical Office and several Supreme Court historians confirmed the little-known fact Wednesday.
Obama, of course, voted against the confirmation of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. in September 2005.
As I note in the story:
Despite Obama's vote, it's unlikely to sour the occasion for either man, according to David J. Garrow, an expert on Supreme Court history who teaches at the University of Cambridge.
"We've got two gentlemen who are both smoother than silk in their style of personal interaction," he said. "I don't think it's going to loom large in any way."