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Tuesday round-up

With her first case as a sitting Justice — Ransom v. FIA Card Services, regarding how to calculate “projected disposable income” during bankruptcy – behind her, Justice Elena Kagan featured heavily in coverage of the Court’s new Term. On her Crossroads blog for CBS News, Jan Crawford reported that Justice Kagan “came off like a seasoned, savvy pro,” while at the WSJ Law Blog Jess Bravin concluded that Justice Kagan, along with Justice Scalia and Ginsburg, “seemed to dominate the questioning.”  Meanwhile, at the New York Times, Adam Liptak characterized Justice Kagan’s questions as “straightforward” and reflecting “a mastery of the difficult if mundane question before the Court.”  Bloomberg and the Courthouse News Service also discuss Ransom in more detail. USAToday, the Associated Press (via Google News), the Los Angeles Times, and the PBS NewsHour (video, transcript available) also have coverage of the first day of the Term.

The Court also denied requests for review in several notable cases yesterday. The First Amendment Center and the Wall Street Journal offer a brief overview, while Lyle Denniston of this blog does so in more depth. Bloomberg Businessweek and Walter Pavlo of Forbes focus on the Court’s decision not to review the case of John and Timothy Rigas, the founders of Adelphia Communications convicted of fraud in 2005. Agence France-Presse (via Google) reports on the denial of certiorari in a case brought by lawyers for Guantanamo Bay detainees; the lawyers sought to learn whether their conversations had been subjected to wiretaps. And the Christian Science Monitor reports that the Court denied review in a case involving whether a brightly colored, cactus-filled 1988 Oldsmobile is protected by the First Amendment or subject to a junk-vehicle ordinance.

In seven other cases — including Saleh v. CACI International and Titan Corp., which considers whether private contractors working overseas for the military can be liable for torture committed at Abu Ghraib – the Court invited the Acting Solicitor General to file a brief expressing the views of the United States.  Lyle Denniston summarizes the issues in all seven cases, while the Associated Press and Greg Stohr of Bloomberg concentrate on Saleh.

The Court will hear oral argument in three cases today: NASA v. Nelson (09-530), considering informational privacy in the context of government background checks; Michigan v. Bryant (09-150), looking at the admissibility of statements made by dying victims; and Los Angeles County v. Humphries (09-350), examining whether plaintiffs must show that violations of their rights occurred as a result of government policy. The Associated Press (via Google) fleshes out the history of NASA v. Nelson, which Lyle Denniston also previewed for this blog. And Dennis V. Byrnes, a plaintiff in the NASA case, offers his perspective in an opinion piece for the Los Angeles Times.  Erin Miller previewed Michigan v. Bryant for us, and Steven Schwinn (courtesy of the ABA’s PREVIEW) discussed the issues in Humphries.

With the Term still in its first week, predictions, projections, and analyses of the Court’s possible direction abound. Harvard Law Dean Martha Minow and Harvard Law Professor Noah Feldman comment on the upcoming Term at the Harvard Gazette, while The Christian Science Monitor dissects the shifting demographics of the Supreme Court. Jonathan Adler of the National Review (via NPR) and Ilya Shapiro at the CATO Institute highlight upcoming cases of interest. Kai Ryssdal of Marketplace interviews Dahlia Lithwick on this Term’s business-related cases. Finally, both Matt Bodie at PrawfsBlawg and Orin Kerr at the Volokh Conspiracy dispute the article on the Roberts Court’s conservatism by Dahlia Lithwick and Barry Friedman for Slate (to which James linked in yesterday’s round-up).


  • Adam Liptak of the New York Times documents the process behind Justice Brennan: Liberal Champion, a biography written on former Supreme Court Justice William Brennan by Stephen Wermiel and Seth Stern. Over at The Atlantic, Garrett Epps reviews both the book (available here) and Justice Brennan’s lasting legacy.
  • ACSblog reports that a bipartisan group of law professors, attorneys, and public servants have written a letter to Congress, asking for a constitutional amendment to invalidate the Court’s January decision