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Wednesday round-up

Yesterday the Supreme Court announced the outcome of Monday’s “long conference,” which added fourteen cases to the new Term’s merits docket. Lyle Denniston and Anna Christensen of SCOTUSblog, the Associated Press (via the Washington Post), UPI, and JURIST each summarize most or all of the fourteen new cases. Doug Berman of Sentencing Law and Policy identifies the new cases involving criminal justice or sentencing issues, while the Washington Legal Foundation’s Legal Pulse blog features the eight new cases of interest to the business community. Justice Kagan has recused herself from four of the new cases, bringing her recusal tally to twenty-five out of fifty-four cases this Term, reports Tony Mauro for the Blog of LegalTimes.

A few cases in the new class of fourteen hogged the spotlight. FCC v. AT&T, a Freedom of Information Act case about a corporation’s right to privacy, attracted the most attention. The case figured prominently in coverage of yesterday’s grants by the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post, while the WSJ Law Blog, the Atlantic, Bloomberg, the Associated Press (via the Los Angeles Times), Courthouse News Service, First One @ One First, and Reuters (via ABC News) all have articles or blog posts devoted exclusively to the case. A pair of cases involving defense contractors and the state-secrets privilege also received significant attention and usually were featured alongside FCC v. AT&T in the major newspapers. The Associated Press (via the Washington Post) and Bloomberg also have separate articles on that pair of cases.

Stern v. Marshall, the long-running dispute over the estate of Texas oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall, is the only new case to garner a headline at E! Online (“Anna Nicole Smith’s Daughter Gets Another Shot at Millions”). USA Today, CNN, the Associated Press (via the Washington Post), and Reuters (via ABC News) all have coverage of the case’s return to the Supreme Court, while at the Volokh Conspiracy, Todd Zywicki expresses surprise that the Court has decided to take the case a second time.

The Los Angeles Times features Kentucky v. King, a Fourth Amendment case, in its review of yesterday’s activity at the Court. As Orin Kerr writes at the Volokh Conspiracy, King presents the Court with an opportunity to clarify “what the standard is for when ‘exigent circumstances’ justify a warrantless search or seizure.”

Along with the list of cert. grants, the Court announced a new policy on releasing audio recordings of oral arguments. The Court will now release such recordings at the end of each argument week, much earlier than the current practice for all but a handful of particularly high-profile cases. As Lyle Denniston reports for SCOTUSblog, the same-day release of high-profile argument recordings will be discontinued under the new policy. The Washington Post, the Blog of LegalTimes, NPR’s The Two-Way blog, Broadcasting & Cable, the Associated Press (via the Washington Post), and Jonathan Adler of the Volokh Conspiracy all take note of the policy change. While C-SPAN’s president is not completely satisfied with the shift, the Volokh Conspiracy’s Orin Kerr is “delighted” that “Supreme Court geeks” will be able to more readily recognize “the flavor and tone of the questions.”

The Court made two other notable announcements yesterday. First, a Court spokeswoman announced that Chief Justice Roberts sold his shares of Pfizer stock on August 31 so that he could participate in two cases involving the drug maker in which Justice Kagan is recused. The Wall Street Journal, the New York Times Prescriptions blog, and FOXBusiness have that story. The other announcement is the Justices’ new “circuit allotments,” which appear at the end of yesterday’s order list. As the Blog of LegalTimes and Crime & Consequences observe, Justice Kagan will serve as the Circuit Justice for the Sixth and Seventh Circuits, taking over from now-retired Justice John Paul Stevens, whom she replaced.

While the Court generated plenty of news on its own yesterday, Congress produced some Court-related headlines, too. At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing yesterday Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer asked Congress to restore the Justice Department’s ability to prosecute self-dealing officials in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in Skilling v. United States. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced legislation after the hearing that would cover “intentionally undisclosed self-dealing by state and federal public officials, and officers and directors of publicly traded companies and public charities,” according to the New York Times. The Blog of LegalTimes, the New Jersey Star-Ledger, the Boston Globe’s Political Intelligence blog, and the WSJ Law Blog (as well as the Wall Street Journal’s Corruption Currents blog) have coverage of both the hearing and Senator Leahy’s bill.

And finally, at Reason Magazine, Radley Balko uses Justice Kagan’s confirmation hearing as an example to argue that “[t]he confirmation process has morphed into political theater designed to obscure the views of prospective Supreme Court justices.”