Yesterday, six of the Justices participated in the 56th annual Red Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, reports the Blog of the Legal Times.  Six of the sitting Justices are Roman Catholic (Sotomayor, Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, Alito, and Kennedy), but Justice Clarence Thomas was absent; Justice Stephen G. Breyer, who is Jewish, attended the service, as did Vice President Joseph Biden. The Mass drew special attention both because of the record number of Roman Catholics on the bench and because of the homilist’s strongly articulated anti-abortion views. Here’s Jess Bravin’s report on the Mass in the Wall Street Journal Washington Wire Blog.

General Term Preview

Almost all national publications and news outlets have preview pieces highlighting the most important or notable cases of the Term, many with a focus on how Justice Sonia Sotomayor may affect their outcome:

  • NPR, on Justice Sotomayor’s impact and the major issues of the Term (First Amendment, church and state, gun owners’ rights, and business issues)
  • New York Times, Adam Liptak looks at the “justices' attitude toward regulatory constraints” in business cases
  • New York Times, Liptak lists other important issues (criminal law, First Amendment, Second Amendment, congressional power)
  • New York Times (op-ed), predicts that Justice Kennedy will remain the most powerful swing vote
  • Bloomberg News, focus on business cases
  • Christian Science Monitor, Sotomayor’s impact, Justice Stevens’s retirement, how conservatively the Chief Justice and Justice Alito will vote
  • LAT (op-ed), Jonathan Turley focuses on Sotomayor’s impact in the First Amendment cases
  • U.S. News & World Report, juvenile life without parole, church and state, Kiyemba
  • ABC News, Sotomayor, campaign finance, gun rights, First Amendment, LWOP, antitrust in the NFL, Stevens’ retirement
  • Reuters, campaign finance, gun rights, LWOP, animal rights, sex offenders, patent issues, Sarbanes-Oaxley, mutual fund fees
  • Sentencing Law & Policy Blog, 10 sentencing cases to watch
  • Time, 5 cases to watch (Salazar, Maryland v. Shatzer, Graham/Sullivan, McDonald, and American Needle)

Robert Barnes focuses on the “newer” Justices and their impacts on this Term. He looks at how Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito might define the Term, especially on First Amendment cases. In that article, he also notes that this Term may highlight the relationship between the three branches of government and that retirement questions will certainly continue to percolate. Michael Kirkland of the UPI profiles Justice John Paul Stevens.

Reviews of C-SPAN’s Supreme Court week television programming are in the Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, and Kansas City Star, and the impressions are all highly positive (for court watchers or C-SPAN fanatics).

Cases To Be Argued This Week

Joan Biskupic of USA Today writes a very detailed and thorough article on United States v. Stevens (08-769), on a federal law that criminalizes selling depictions of animal cruelty. It will be argued on Tuesday. (Note: Akin Gump represents the respondent.) Biskupic breaks down the arguments of the two sides: the Solicitor General will defend the law as “designed to prevent people from profiting from the unlawful torture and killing of animals,” while Patricia Millett frames Stevens’ argument around the question of “whether the government can send an individual to jail for up to five years just for making films "” films that are not obscene, pornographic, inflammatory, defamatory or even untruthful.” Kenneth Jost discusses Stevens on his blog and says it is hard to handicap the outcome because of the difficulty of the case, balancing First Amendment rights with animal protection.

The Dallas Morning News discusses Salazar v. Buono (08-472), a First Amendment case in which the Court will hear argument on Wednesday. The DMN focuses on the participation of a Plano-based conservative advocacy group, Liberty Legal Institute, in this and other high-profile religious freedom cases.

Cases To Be Argued Later This Term

Jess Bravin of the WSJ reports on the two juvenile life-without-parole cases, Graham v. Florida (08-7412) and Sullivan v. Florida (08-7621). Petitioners’ counsel argue that the young age (17 and 13 respectively) of the criminal defendants makes a sentence of life without parole cruel and unusual ; the State of Florida argues that “there is no consensus against life sentences for juveniles, particularly for heinous crimes such as sexual battery.” This is the first time the Court will consider the issue, further clarifying its holding in Roper v. Simmons, which held it unconstitutional to execute anyone for a crime committed as a juvenile. Bravin includes the results of a study that found “111 inmates in seven states serving life-without-parole sentences for non-homicide crimes committed as juveniles. The overwhelming majority, 77, were in Florida prisons.”

Bernard E. Harcourt writes an op-ed on the juvenile LWOP cases in the LA Times, arguing that the Court should “draw a bright line at 18 years of age for imposing life sentences without parole.”

ABC News has an article about the Chicago gun case, framing it within the context of the city’s violent crime problems and with an interview with the lead petitioner in the case, Otis McDonald. McDonald believes he would be safer in his home if he had a gun and that Chicago is abridging his Second Amendment right.

The Greenville News writes about the Catawba river case, South Carolina v. North Carolina (138 Original), which was to be argued today but has been postponed.


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