The Supreme Court on Thursday declined to postpone the execution of Christopher André Vialva, who was sentenced to death for the 1999 murders and carjacking of Todd and Stacie Bagley, two youth ministers from Iowa who had agreed to give Vialva a ride after stopping to use a pay phone in Texas. Vialva, who was 19 at the time of the crime, was executed by lethal injection on Thursday evening at a federal prison in Indiana. He was the seventh person to be executed by the federal government this year after a 17-year pause on federal executions.

In a petition and accompanying emergency request filed on Monday, Vialva’s legal team argued that the Department of Justice violated the Federal Death Penalty Act and the department’s own regulations by scheduling Vialva’s execution without a separate court order and execution warrant that followed certain procedures in Texas law. On July 31, the department scheduled Vialva’s execution for Sept. 24 — a gap of 55 days between the scheduling notice and the execution date. Vialva’s attorneys argued that Texas law requires a minimum of 91 days between the order setting the date and the execution, and they said the federal government was obliged to follow that provision of state law. Continue reading »


SCOTUStalk Host Amy Howe spoke this week with two groups of former law clerks for the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. In the first of these interviews, Kelsi Brown Corkran, Lori Alvino McGill, and Amanda Tyler share their memories of meeting Ginsburg for the time and working for a boss who herself was such a hard worker.

Listen on Acast | Spotify

Full transcript below the jump:
Continue reading »

Thursday round-up

By on Sep 24, 2020 at 2:32 pm

Six days after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, retrospectives on Ginsburg’s life and career continue.

Linda Greenhouse, in her New York Times column, writes that Ginsburg was able to achieve so much in her life because of her big imagination. “Ruth Ginsburg saw things that others didn’t,” Greenhouse writes. “She understood that the law could be harnessed in service to fundamental transformation.” In Forbes, Michael Bobelian examines how Ginsburg “left a lasting impact” even though she was “confined to the minority during her entire tenure on the Supreme Court.” In the Wall Street Journal, Jess Bravin and Theo Francis discuss Ginsburg’s legacy on issues affecting corporations and how the court vacancy may affect American businesses. Continue reading »

Posted in Round-up

This tribute is part of a series on the life and work of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

 Paul Clement is a partner at Kirkland & Ellis. He served as U.S. solicitor general under President George W. Bush from 2005 to 2008, and he has argued more than 100 cases at the Supreme Court.

Over her four decades on the federal bench, Justice Ginsburg mentored scores of law clerks, inspired countless lawyers and non-lawyers, and fought tirelessly for equality. She also participated in thousands of oral arguments and read not just tens of thousands of briefs, but all or most of the appellate record in some 2,000 merits cases. I cannot claim to have had the kind of special relationship with the justice that her law clerks enjoyed, but I can tell you that from the perspective of an advocate, she was a special justice. Three things stand out.

First, she was a justice and a judge, but an advocate first (and not just chronologically). Justice David Souter put this point concisely in observing that Justice Ginsburg “was one of the members of the Court who obtained greatness before she became a great justice.” She was a path-marking litigator for equality for women and a keen legal tactician, as evidenced by the fact that, as often as not, her clients were men. She knew firsthand what it was like to argue a case before the Supreme Court. And, throughout all her decades of judicial service, she remembered what it was like to be an advocate facing the bench. As a result, she knew the advocates’ names, and asked her questions in a manner that was firm, but not sharp-edged; demanding, but still understanding. There was sometimes spin on the pitch, but it was never aimed at the advocate’s head. More than the other justices, she would on occasion quote directly from an advocate’s brief in her opinion when she thought a brief put a point concisely or felicitously. It was the ultimate hat tip, and a clear reflection that throughout her judicial career, she had an enduring appreciation for the advocate’s task and craft. Continue reading »

In her seat

By on Sep 23, 2020 at 1:07 pm

This tribute is part of a series on the life and work of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. 

Judge David S. Tatel serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

President Bill Clinton’s nomination of Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the Supreme Court was widely acclaimed. For me, it was uniquely special because the president then nominated me to fill her seat on the D.C. Circuit. Happily, my robe now hangs in the robing room closet where the name plaque above mine reads “Judge Ruth B. Ginsburg.”

Ruth and I did not know each other very well before then, but we soon became good friends, sharing hushed conversations, dinners with mutual friends, and many wonderful law clerks. Still, I could never escape the feeling that she always had her eye on me, curious to know if the fellow occupying the Ginsburg seat was up to the task. I hope she thought I was, for her opinions were always a model for me. They are powerfully reasoned; written with care, precision, and flair; and imbued with her deep respect for the parties before the court, especially America’s most vulnerable. “Equal protection of the laws” was Justice Ginsburg’s guiding principle and life-long mission.

A host of onlookers gathered on the sidewalk across from 1 First Street NE on Wednesday to watch as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s casket was brought inside the Supreme Court.

Shortly before 9:30 a.m., over 100 of the justice’s former clerks filed out of the front door of the court and down the steps, forming six single-file lines. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the clerks, like the members of the public and news media gathered across the street, were all wearing masks, and were spaced six feet apart.

Clerks line the court’s front steps

Continue reading »


This tribute is part of a series on the life and work of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Ross Guberman is the president of Legal Writing Pro, the creator of BriefCatch, the author of Point Taken and Point Made, and the opinion-writing trainer for new federal judges.

“Delighted to see the Supreme Court is interested in beer drinkers,” wrote Ruth Bader Ginsburg, then the 42-year-old head of the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project and a professor at Columbia Law. Her correspondent: Fred Gilbert, counsel for Oklahoma college student Curtis Craig. Craig had challenged an Oklahoma statute allowing 18-year-old women to drink 3.2% beer — midway between water and whatever passed for the strong stuff in the 1970s — while young men like Craig had to wait to turn 21 before they could indulge.

Ginsburg offered to contribute an amicus brief on the ACLU’s behalf, and Gilbert was delighted to accept. The fate of this “beer differential,” as Ginsburg would soon call it, would intertwine with Ginsburg’s own. Continue reading »

Wednesday round-up

By on Sep 23, 2020 at 8:59 am

As the Supreme Court and the nation honor Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the court’s regular work continues. As Amy Howe reports for SCOTUSblog (in a story first published at Howe on the Court), the Trump administration on Tuesday asked the justices to weigh in on a dispute involving the 2020 census and whether people living in the country illegally can be excluded from the count used to determine congressional apportionment. Also on Tuesday, the justices declined to grant emergency relief to William LeCroy, who shortly after the court’s decision became the sixth federal inmate to be executed this year. SCOTUSblog’s Katie Bart has the story.

Most of the attention, however, continues to be on Ginsburg, her legacy, and what happens next with her open seat. Continue reading »

Posted in Round-up

The Supreme Court on Tuesday evening declined to postpone the execution of William Emmett LeCroy, Jr., who was sentenced to death for raping and killing 30-year-old Joann Tiesler while on probation in 2001. Shortly after the court’s ruling, LeCroy died by lethal injection at around 9 p.m. EDT at a federal prison in Indiana.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, LeCroy argued that his execution should have been postponed to allow for the attendance of his longtime lead attorney. In a petition and accompanying emergency request filed on Tuesday, LeCroy’s legal team noted that his lead attorney was diagnosed with leukemia in 2010 and argued that the attorney’s chronic illness and vulnerability to COVID-19 made him unable to attend LeCroy’s execution. The petition argued that LeCroy had a right to have his attorney present at the execution, and it said a district court erred when it declined to change LeCroy’s execution date. Continue reading »


The Trump administration asked the Supreme Court on Tuesday to quickly resolve another dispute related to the 2020 census and citizenship – this one involving whether people living in the country illegally must be included in the apportionment of congressional seats.

Last year, the court dealt a blow to the administration’s efforts to include a question about citizenship on the census. Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court’s four more liberal justices in ruling that the government’s justification for including the question was a pretext, and shortly after that ruling, the Department of Commerce, which is responsible for the census, abandoned its plan to add a citizenship question. The administration returned to the Supreme Court on Tuesday on another census issue. Acting U.S. Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall appealed a decision by a three-judge district court in New York that blocked the Department of Commerce from providing the president with information about the number of people who are in the United States illegally when the department furnishes him with a state-by-state breakdown of the population for use in the allocation of seats in the House of Representatives. Wall asked the justices to move quickly and schedule the case for oral argument in December – at which point the White House and Senate Republicans hope to have a successor to the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the bench. Continue reading »

More Posts: Older Posts
Term Snapshot
At a Glance