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Monday Round-up

At Balkinization, Barry Friedman analyzes the Court’s docket for the new Term and notes that business and criminal cases have dominated the Court’s recent cert. grants.  Observing that these cases are less likely than some others to divide the Justices on ideological grounds, he hypothesizes that this Term’s docket may result from “defensive denials” – that is, the practice by which a Justice votes to deny a petition for certiorari when her interpretation of the case is likely to be overruled on the merits.  Because Justices on the current Court are sometimes wary of their colleagues’ positions on ideologically controversial issues, Friedman reasons, some may be unlikely to grant cert. in cases addressing those concerns.

This Term’s early cases are still the subject of ongoing discussion.  Roy T. Englert and Alex Potapov, writing for the National Law Journal, summarize the debate on both sides of Citizens United, which was argued in September.  Englert and Potapov identify a division among left-leaning commentators:  some believe that the Court should avoid deciding the case on broad ideological grounds, while others have praised Justice Sotomayor for her expansive questioning with regard to the First Amendment rights of corporations.  They point to a similar problem among right-leaning commentators, noting that some are wary of a broad ideological ruling in the case while others encourage one.

Also recapping the past several weeks, an editorial piece at the L.A. Times addresses last week’s argument in Padilla v. Kentucky, arguing that the Court should decide in Padilla’s favor and hold that lawyers have an affirmative obligation to know, and to inform their clients, of deportation consequences.

Looking forward, Michael Kirkland addresses the issues at stake in McDonald v. Chicago, to be argued later this term, at UPI.  Kirkland examines the case in the context of the Court’s recent decision in Heller.

At Above the Law, Elie Mystal reports on a new challenge to New Haven’s firefighter promotion test in the wake of Ricci v. DeStefano, describing the recent lawsuit as “an obvious reaction” to the Court’s earlier ruling.   At PrawfsBlawg, Howard Wasserman analyzes the new lawsuit in the context of the Court’s decision last Term in Ashcroft v. Iqbal; he asserts that the case will permit courts greater leeway to examine this suit in terms of the plausibility of the plaintiff’s allegations.

USA Today’s Joan Biskupic has an extensive interview with Justice John Paul Stevens.  The interview describes the Justice as a “master tactician” on the Court and addresses recent speculation that he may retire soon.  Biskupic reports that during her interview Stevens eluded questions about this speculation, although the article does address the impact that such a change might have on the dynamic of the Court.  USA Today also has a piece describing the courtroom personalities and questioning styles of all nine Justices, drawing on their performance in recent weeks.

MSNBC’s Pete Williams addresses the judicial system’s contributions to womens rights in an article published Friday.  Chronicling the progress made since an 1873 Supreme Court decision holding that an Illinois woman had no constitutional right to practice law, Williams highlights the 1964 Civil Rights Act as one of the turning points in women’s legal protection, as well as the Court’s 1996 decision striking down male-only admissions at Virginia Military Institute.

The National Constitution Center has just released a podcast of their recent Term preview panel, moderated by SCOTUSblog’s own Lyle Denniston.  More information about the event is available at the Center’s website.

At her recent thirtieth Yale Law School reunion, Justice Sotomayor described her recent nomination process, keeping the crowd laughing by recounting stories about being advised by government officials on the details of what to wear.  The New York Times, the Yale Daily News, and the New Haven Register all have coverage of the Justice’s visit to Yale.

Over the weekend, the U.K. replaced Law Lords with a Supreme Court that is largely similar to the American system, and which was designed in part to provide greater accessibility to the British public.  The Wall Street Journal describes the change in detail; it points to our own long tradition of drawing heavily on British legal precedent and suggests that the U.K. may now be, in Justice Breyer’s words, “taking a leaf from our book.”  To honor the occasion, over which Queen Elizabeth II presided, Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia and Breyer cancelled their planned Friday session to travel to London.  At Concurring Opinions, John Ip also discusses the opening of the new Court, examining in particular the possible nominees for the twelfth spot on the British bench.  CSPAN has coverage of the opening ceremonies, available here.