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Monday Round-up

Although the Court did not hear oral arguments last week, the media is flush with commentary about cases argued in previous weeks and those that are yet to come.  On Saturday, the Wall Street Journal’s opinion page discussed Alvarez v. Smith, an assets forfeiture case heard two weeks ago.  The Journal urged the Court to vote against the government, criticizing Illinois – and other states – for making owners of police-seized property or money wait too long before they can demand a hearing, and it insinuated that Chicago’s aggressive seizures last year were motivated by a desire to enrich the police department.

On Friday, former U.S. Senator Alan Simpson had an op-ed piece in the Washington Post in which he opined that juveniles should not be subject to life sentences without parole because they are a “helluva lot dumber than adults” and tend to mature into “different people” over the years.  The Court will hear oral arguments on this issue next week in Sullivan v. Florida and Graham v. Florida.  Defending juvenile LWOP sentences, Kent Scheidegger at Crime and Consequences responds that Simpson confuses intentional crime with the more common recklessness of youth.

Time Magazine examines the controversial “honest services fraud” statute at issue in three cases before the Court this Term  – Skilling, Black, and Weyhrauch – and notes that the statute could be following in the footsteps of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), which was once used for prosecuting acts beyond the mafia-like organized crime envisioned by the statute.  The article ultimately suggests that prosecutors should be able to indict corrupt politicians even without the honest services fraud tool.

Former Solicitor General Paul Clement marked his fiftieth argument before the Supreme Court with Perdue v. Kenny A., reports Tony Mauro at the National Law Journal.  Remarkably, his fiftieth and fifty-first arguments – the latter next month in Pottawattamie County v. McGhee – are of an unusual political hue for a former Republican appointee: in Kenny A., Clement argued on behalf of Children’s Rights Inc., while he will be arguing on behalf of two criminal defendants in Pottawattamie County.  Clement says he still holds conservative political views, but wants to signify that he is “no longer working for the government.”  The BLT describes the bash in Clement’s honor last week, sponsored by Clement’s new law firm, King & Spalding, and attended by Solicitor Generals past and present.

The Constitutional Law Prof Blog reports that Justice Thomas again explained his silence during oral arguments at a speech at the University of Alabama School of Law on Friday.  Thomas also mentioned the need for increased diversity of educational background among the Justices and their clerks – eight of the nine Justices graduated from Ivy League colleges (all but Justice Stevens, who attended law school at Northwestern).  The post quotes at length from the Associated Press.

Following up on Barry Friedman’s recent recent plug at ACSblog for his new book on public opinion and the Supreme Court, The Will of the People, Gerard Magliocca offers his own reflections on the book at Concurring Opinions.

The Justices continue their forays into public entertainment with the Saturday appearance by opera lovers Justices Ginsburg and Scalia in non-speaking roles – as party guests – in the Washington National Opera’s “Aridne auf Naxos.”  The AP has details and the Baltimore Sun’s Clef Notes blog posts photos of the Justices on stage, including of Scalia holding a soprano on his lap.

At The Volokh Conspiracy, Kenneth Anderson offers six bullet-point approaches to finding corporations liable for misconduct under the Alien Tort Statute – although he himself opposes such liability.  Anderson claims that the issue is left open by the Court’s 2004 ruling in Sosa v. Alvarez-Machain and is unlikely to be wholly cleared up by the new ATS cases facing the Court this Term.

The blogosphere is honing in on the constitutional bona fides of pending legislation in Congress.  Ashby Jones at the Wall Street Journal Blog, using quotes from another blogger, asks whether the hate crimes bill before Congress violates the Fourteenth Amendment by treating crime victims differently, insofar as their assailants would be punished differently depending on characteristics such as gender identity and sexual orientation.  On Politico, Professor Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of U.C. Irvine School of Law, asserts that Congress indisputably has the constitutional power to pass health care reform under the interstate commerce clause and the tax and spending power.