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Monday round-up

Nolo’s Employment Law Blog discusses City of Ontario v. Quon, the case in which the Court will examine whether text messages sent to or from a government-owned pager are protected by the right to privacy.  Jessica Dweck at Slate’s Double XX blog notes that, as a judge on the Second Circuit, Justice Sotomayor once ruled in favor of an employer who searched a worker’s computer to investigate potential misconduct, and she speculates that Justice Sotomayor will similarly vote in the government’s favor in Quon.  Speaking of Justice Sotomayor, the AP reports on her trip to Puerto Rico, where she has been surprised by her celebrity, but disappointed that her image has been commercialized.

In the Washington Post, Robert Barnes and Maria Glod report on a new study by the Death Penalty Information Center indicating that fewer new death sentences were handed out last year than in any other year since 1976, when the death penalty was reinstated.   According to legal experts cited in the article, recent Supreme Court rulings – including two barring the execution of juveniles and the mentally retarded – have contributed to the decline.   Download the full report here.

The New York Times describes the possibility that the Court’s decision in Briscoe v. Virginia, in which the Court will hear oral argument on January 11, 2010, may overturn or clarify the  Court’s decision last Term in Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts. In Melendez-Diaz, the Court held that if prosecutors introduce forensic laboratory analysis, they must make the lab technician who prepared the analysis available for cross-examination by the defense.  In Briscoe, the Court will consider whether to permit forensic laboratory evidence against Mr. Briscoe to stand when the lab results were prepared and signed by a lab technician, who did not testify, but the defendant had the right to call the lab technician as a witness.

John Kass of the Chicago Tribune reports on Justice Stevens’ role as the chief legal counsel for a 1969 blue-ribbon panel investigating the corruption on the Illinois Supreme Court, and he speculates that that experience may have informed the Justice’s belief in the importance of good government – as well as his dissent in a 1987 “honest services” case.  And on the subject of Justice Stevens, and the other members of the Court, UPI has a story with brief biographies of all nine members of the Court, whom the article describes as a “cast of interesting characters.”

Joan Biskupic, author of the recent biography of Justice Scalia American Original, reports on the staying power of Bush v. Gore, and on the reception her book has received, on her blog Court Beat.  Justice Scalia is usually either revered or reviled, she says.  She also reports that since December 2000, “Bush v. Gore has now been cited in more than 200 federal and state court rulings.” continues to generate attention, and this weekend Josh Blackman analyzes the predications for the outcome of Citizens United v. FEC.  Sixty-seven percent of participants predict a conservative 5-4 ruling that will overturn the lower court’s ruling.

At Concurring Opinions, Anita Krishnakumar writes about the Court’s recent opinion in Union Pacific Railroad Co. v. Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers.  She argues that “[t]he Court is looking for a way to maintain consistency across the United States Code,” and she advises practitioners to note “the larger legal framework of which that statute is a part when urging a court to adopt a particular statutory construction.”