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Monday Round-up

The conversation on last week’s arguments is still going strong.  Over the weekend, the Salt Lake Tribune published an opinion piece on Salazar v. Buono (08-472), arguing that Congress should not be rewarded for its decision to sell the land on which the cross in question sits because to do so would set a precedent for Congress to avoid implicating the Establishment Clause simply by privatizing the land in dispute. Guest-writing for ACSblog, the ACLU’s Daniel Mach adopts a similar stance, pointing to the historic religious diversity of the U.S. military as an argument for removal of the cross. At the Miami Herald, Leonard Pitts Jr. disagrees, suggesting that the Mojave cross in particular might best be judged by “common sense” and not by the Supreme Court since, in his opinion, it is unlikely that the cross causes legitimate injury to anyone. In an essay at Findlaw, Vikram David Amar recaps the facts and key arguments in the case, and anticipates the questions the Court might answer in its ruling in Salazar; according to Amar, the Court will likely avoid the Establishment Clause implications in the case, addressing instead whether Buono had standing to challenge the placement of the cross, and whether the land transfer allows Congress to avoid any suggestion of religious endorsement.

Also following up on last week’s arguments, George F. Will has an article in the upcoming issue of Newsweek, Cruelty in the Court, discussing the issues at stake in United States v. Stevens (08-769). Will’s article posits that the Justices’ questioning during the argument suggests a victory for Stevens, and highlights the possibility that the Court will create a new category of unprotected speech in its ruling.

PrawfsBlawg has an update on California’s ongoing prison-conditions debate.  In the piece, Jonathan Simon reports that the inmate-plaintiffs in the case have sought a contempt order aginst Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger for his failure to comply with an order mandating a reduction in California’s prison population.  Predicting that the case will be before the Supreme Court in the near future, Simon posits that the ruling may turn on issues of federalism, accountability, and public safety.

The Washington Post’s Peter Slevin offers another update of the ongoing controversy over the botched execution of Ohio inmate Rommel Broom.  Pointing to the Supreme Court’s 2008 decision that lethal injection does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment, Slevin suggests that Broom’s ordeal might prompt a re-evaluation of the principles underlying that ruling.

At the New York Times, Adam Liptak recaps Justice Sotomayor’s first official week at the Court, highlighting in particular her “clipped, pointed and sometimes impatient” style of questioning.  Liptak also addresses the issue of religious faith among the Justices, noting that Sotomayor is one of six Roman Catholics currently on the Court.  He points out, however, that Justice Ginsburg recently suggested that we have reached “the end of a era as far as religion [is] concerned.

Continuing her recent outspokenness on the importance of civic engagement, retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor has written a piece for The Arizona Republic entitled “Returning Civility to Arizona Government.” In her essay, O’Connor details her ongoing efforts to promote bi-partisan discussion and “civil talk” in order to engender positive change in Arizona’s political system. In an opinion piece at Bloomberg, Ann Woolner discusses O’Connor’s recent comment that she feels “a little bit disappointed” when the Court issues rulings with which she disagrees, positing that since O’Connor’s retirement the Court has abandoned many of the principles she championed.

Wrapping up its “Supreme Court Week” coverage, CSPAN has posted video footage of its interviews with all nine Justices.  Watch the interviews, as well as a number of other Court-related features, here.