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Wednesday round-up

Last month’s Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. FEC is still making headlines.  In an opinion piece for Politico, Nan Aron discusses the case in the context of judicial nominations, arguing that the decision reflects the strong influence of the Court’s conservative Justices.  Based on the “politically driven” records and confirmation-hearing performances of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, Aron posits, Democrats should not be surprised at the ruling in Citizens, and they should further be mindful of GOP attempts to stall the confirmations of more politically moderate judicial nominees.  Also looking forward, David Schenck writes for the Texas Tribune that Citizens will almost certainly contribute to the end of direct elections for state judges: in combination with the Court’s decisions in Republican Party v. White and Caperton v. Massey, Citizens will bring corporate influence over judicial elections into full public view, contributing to a profound loss of voter confidence in the judicial electoral process.  At the Christian Science Monitor, Warren Richey and Linda Feldmann have an informative piece on Citizens, clarifying a number of the issues that have arisen in the recent controversy over the case.

The White House has reiterated its criticism of the Citizens United decision, announcing yesterday that foreign corporations have begun to lobby against proposed legislation that would limit their ability to spend on American campaigns, according to JURIST.  The Boston Globe, the Huffington Post and the AP (via the Washington Post) also have coverage of the legislative pushback against the ruling.  And at the Wall Street Journal, James Taranto interviews Floyd Abrams, who in 2003 argued for the losing side in McConnell v. FEC, which Citizens overturned.  Abrams comments in the interview on the unique position of corporations and organizations like the New York Times Company and the American Civil Liberties in the wake of the Citizens ruling, pointing out that the Times opposed the lifting of a ban on corporate campaign spending, and that although the ACLU filed an amicus brief in support of the petitioner in Citizens, it has since considered reversing its position.

Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen who was detained in 2002 under the U.S. government’s “extraordinary rendition” program and then deported to Syria, where he was held and allegedly tortured for a year, has filed a petition for certiorari, the AFP reported yesterday.  Arar seeks Supreme Court review of a federal appeals court ruling that his case against U.S. officials could not proceed because a trial would require the release of classified national security information.  JURIST also reports on Arar’s case, highlighting his allegations that the U.S. Government’s rendition policies violated the Torture Victim Protection Act and the Fifth Amendment, while ACSblog points out that Arar was successful in suing the Canadian government for misinforming the U.S. about his links to terrorist activity.

In another recent cert. petition, defense contractor KBR/Halliburton has asked the Supreme Court to review the Fifth Circuit’s holding that an arbitration provision in an employment contract provision does not extend to tort claims brought by a former KBR employee who was allegedly gang-raped by coworkers while stationed in Iraq.  In an article on the case, OnPoint takes issue with Halliburton’s claims that the victim sensationalized and falsified her allegations, arguing that the quality of the allegations has nothing to do with their arbitrability.

Although the Supreme Court decided last month to block the video broadcasting of California’s Proposition 8 trial, those hoping to follow the action haven’t lost their chance.  As reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, the New York Times and the WSJ Law Blog, a group of Los Angeles filmmakers, relying on trial transcripts and professional actors, have launched re-enactments of the proceedings on the web.  The re-enactments, broken up into twelve “episodes” (one for each day of the trial), can be viewed here.

Sentencing Law and Policy discusses the Court’s recent cert. grant in Gould v. United States, a mandatory-minimum case which has been consolidated with Abbott v. United States, reporting that a ruling in the petitioners’ favor could shorten the sentences of countless inmates serving time for carrying firearms during the commission of violent crimes.

Following the Supreme Court’s denial of former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega’s challenge to a lower court ruling denying his habeas corpus petition, the U.S. government has sought his extradition to France on money-laundering charges, the Associated Press reports.   Based on a dissent by Justices Thomas and Scalia, Noriega has indicated that he will file a petition for rehearing later this month, and his attorney argued that he should not be extradited until the Court has heard his request.

Last week, the House Judiciary Committee approved a bill that would allow Supreme Court review of appeals of courts-martial decisions brought by military service members.  Currently, the BLT reports, if the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces declines to hear an appeal brought by a service member, the service member can only seek Supreme Court review if the case involves a death sentence; the government, however, can petition the Court in any case referred to the CAAF.  The House passed a similar measure last year, but the Senate was unable to vote on the bill before time ran out.

Writing for Roll Call, Carl Tobias addresses what he views as an abundance of judicial vacancies, and he urges President Obama and the Senate to move quickly to nominate and confirm new appointees.  Since Robert Bork’s 1987 Supreme Court nomination, Tobias argues, judicial confirmation hearings have become unnecessarily partisan and protracted, and the Obama administration’s ability to nominate additional individuals to the numerous vacancies has been curtailed by time-consuming distractions like last summer’s confirmation of Justice Sotomayor.

Finally, at the Volokh Conspiracy, Orin Kerr looks back at a 1953 Time Magazine article which profiled the attorneys who argued the cases which led up to the landmark ruling in Brown v. Board of Education.