SCOTUS Map: September and October 2016
on Oct 19, 2016 at 11:45 am
Picking up where the last SCOTUS Map left off:
Justice Anthony Kennedy gave the keynote speech at the International Bar Association’s Rule of Law Symposium on September 23, where he told audience members that a judge’s willingness to re-examine prior premises is “not a sign of weakness of your judicial philosophy,” but “a sign of fidelity to your judicial oath.” Kennedy expressed disappointment at the current political climate in the United States, saying, “Half the world is looking at us. They’re watching. They’re waiting. And what do they see? They see a civil discourse that’s hostile, fractious.” Coverage comes from the Associated Press and the National Law Journal.
In late September, Justice Stephen Breyer headlined three lectures in three different cities on consecutive days, appearing in Baltimore on September 27, Boston on September 28, and Portsmouth, New Hampshire on September 29. While in New Hampshire, Breyer took the time to participate in New Hampshire Public Radio’s 10-Minute Writer’s Workshop series. Asked whom he keeps in mind when he writes opinions, Breyer said: “It depends on the opinion. If I’m writing something about the ERISA pension statute, which is probably many hundreds of pages of almost-unintelligible language, I’m writing for specialists.” However, Breyer continued, “If I’m writing a dissent in a case involving whether affirmative action is constitutional or not, I know that that’s going to be read either first- or second-hand. The press will read it, they’ll write about it, and many people will read it who are not lawyers. And I want them to understand why I would reach the conclusion that I do.” On the creation of narratives that would appeal to non-lawyers, Breyer noted, “Someone told me once: Explain what your reason is. If your daughter in high school can understand you, you’ve got a good opinion. That’s what I think people try to do.”
On September 30, Justice Sonia Sotomayor gave words of encouragement to attendees at the Animus Innovation Summit in Puerto Rico. “We are not all good at everything, not everyone is a superstar in every single way. Everybody has their strengths and everyone has their weaknesses. The hard part is not being honest with other people but with yourself,” Sotomayor said. NBC Latino reported on her speech.
While Sotomayor was in San Juan, Breyer spoke about the Constitution at the inaugural celebration of Yale Law School’s Paul Tsai China Center. “Sure, we have written a beautiful document, but if nobody follows it we might as well hang it up in a museum,” Breyer said, emphasizing the importance of the rule of law. The Yale Daily News has a summary.
On October 5, Breyer sat for a conversation with Charlie Rose at the 92nd Street Y in New York. Breyer, who had on the previous day become the first-ever Supreme Court justice to utter the word “Kardashian” at oral argument (perhaps applying his own advice about the high-school-aged child), was asked why he had chosen the example of the Paris armed robbery of Kim Kardashian. “This comes about through teaching,” Breyer replied. “When you’re teaching, what you do is you want to give an example that the class is going to remember.” CNN covered the conversation. Full video is available online.
Justice Elena Kagan called the late Justice Antonin Scalia “one of the most important Supreme Court justices ever, and also one of the greatest” at the October 6 dedication of the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University. “No one was more enthusiastic, more passionate, about connecting with law students than Justice Scalia. He visited and revisited law schools across the country to talk about ideas,” Kagan recalled. “I once served as dean of the law school he graduated from, so I had the good fortune to host the Justice several times, and those days were among the most fun I ever had as Dean … Justice Scalia would go from event to event to event, from group to group to group, exciting students, challenging students, provoking students, charming students, and making them think harder than they had ever thought before about how to do law.” Summaries of the event, which six of the eight sitting justices attended, come from the Washington Post, USA Today, and CNN. Readers can watch Kagan’s six-minute speech on George Mason University’s YouTube page.
Justice Sotomayor delivered the 2016 Stein Lecture at the University of Minnesota Law School on October 17, telling the audience that the short-handed court is trying to “come to decision making as best as we can. Where we can find a very, very narrow way of deciding a case, we use it.” The Minneapolis Star Tribune, Minnesota Public Radio News, and the Associated Press covered the lecture. Sotomayor also visited the Minnesota History Center on October 18, where she spoke to local middle- and high-school students. “You decide who you want to be, what you want to be,” Sotomayor said, according to KMSP Fox 9. “You decide whether someday you’re going to be a Sonia Sotomayor or not.”
As part of a night celebrating the life and career of Belva Lockwood, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg presided over a moot court re-enactment of Bradwell v. Illinois at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. on October 18.
Looking ahead to the rest of October:
- Justice Samuel Alito participates in a Q&A session at the University of Buffalo School of Law on October 20.
- Justice Kagan will be honored with the Brandeis Medal at the University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law on October 24.
- Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor are set to appear together as part of the New York City Bar Association’s Barbara Paul Robinson Series on October 25.
- Justice Clarence Thomas delivers the Ninth Annual Joseph Story Lecture at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. on October 26.
- Justice Breyer speaks with NPR’s Nina Totenberg about his life and the Constitution as a living document at an October 27 Smithsonian Associates event in Washington, D.C.
- Justice Kagan serves as the keynote speaker at Equal Justice Works’s 2016 Conference and Career Fair in Arlington, Virginia, which will be held on October 28.