Friends of F1@1F–
I’m back and have some big news: as of today, I am the Supreme Court Correspondent for the Huffington Post!
F1@1F will remain live as the public archive for all my pre-HuffPost writing. Once my HuffPost author page goes live, I will post the link here. In the meantime, please note that I’ve changed my Twitter handle to MikeSacksHP. You can expect much more activity over there, too.
This new gig is an absolute dream come true. Without your readership and support, I would have never been so fortunate to make the leap from the blogs to the big leagues. As ever, thank you all so much.
See you at HuffPost!
When F1@1F turned one year old at the end of this past December, I posted a short thank-you for your making F1@1F a deeply satisfying project. At the time, I hadn’t realized that just a few months later, I’d have to re-extend those sentiments upon the closing of this site.
Tomorrow, I will be starting as a first-year associate at a law firm here in DC. When I leave for work in the morning, I will be taking F1@1F off the air. Accordingly, by the time many of you read this post in your morning email check or RSS sweep, the blog will be a memory. Of course, due to my last batch of law school finals, intensive bar studies, getting a job offer, proposing to the First Lady of F1@1F, and preparing for the new gig, F1@1F has already been de facto wound-down.
Closing F1@1F will be bittersweet: while I’m incredibly proud of F1@1F and will miss having my own corner among Court watchers to contribute my commentary, I also feel very lucky to have a job in DC and a steady paycheck in a recovering-but-still-slow legal market.
Luckier still, my firm has assured me that it maintains a liberal publication policy. So while this personal blog may disappear, I hope to return in due time as an active analyst in my firm’s own outlets or in op/ed pages across the country.
So I said it in December and I’ll say it again now: thank you all. You have made this little project of mine into something far bigger than I had ever imagined.
- Sacks: Constitution Land?
- Blackman: Constitution Land is a theme park that the Harlan Institute is currently planning. This park will will immerse “we the people” in the Constitution of the United States. Through virtual reality simulators, thrill rides, and entertaining shows, visitors will be able to experience our Constitution, and the Supreme Court, unlike ever before.
- Sacks: Really? A Constitution theme park? I didn’t realize you were that much of a fundraising machine.
- Blackman: Our supporters realize that interest in our Constitution is greater today than at any point in memory. We see people actually reading from that document and asking how it affects our rule of law and the government. Constitution Land represents an attempt to quench that curiosity in a fun and innovative way.
- Sacks: Do you think people will actually visit?
- Blackman: If we didn’t think people would visit, we would not be working on this ambitious plan. People visit Colonial Williamsburg and other historical sites. But there is no entertaining destination dedicated solely to our Constitution. We believe that Constitution Land will target that niche. Specifically, our planned location in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania is proximal to the Philadelphia, the cradle of liberty, and home of countless museums and national parks.
- Sacks: Are you actually going to build rides, or will this be more of a museum?
- Blackman: This is not your forefather’s museum. This is a fun theme park in every sense of the word–except you may just learn something. In addition to exhilarating thrill rides based on landmark Supreme Court cases, Constitution Land will feature virtual reality simulators that explore how cases developed, and what will become of our law. Finally, shows, and first-rate accommodations will make a visit to Constitution Land a must for anyone who wants to learn more about the supreme law of the land.
- Sacks: What ride do think will be the biggest draw?
- Blackman: I think the Originalist Time Machine virtual reality simulator will be pretty sweet. What would James Madison think about violent video games, gun violence, or mandating the eating of broccoli? With the Originalist Time Machine, you can ask Founding Fathers avatars–which are programmed based on their writings and philosophies–what they think about contemporary constitutional questions. Justice Scalia may definitely take a spin on that ride.
- Sacks: As long as he’s not tailgating the teacup in front of him! I should be incredulous after all these details, but I’ve learned never to doubt your grand plans. And you know my family’s in Philly, so when can I take my little nephew to Constitution Land?
- Blackman: While we are very early in the planning phase, we intend on breaking ground on Constitution Day, September 17, 2012.
- Sacks: Constitution day…nice touch.
- Blackman: Mike, I will save a seat in the first row of the Gibbons v. Ogden Flume Ride for F1@1F.
- Sacks: Most excellent, Josh. Good luck.
- Blackman: Thanks Mike.
Blackman’s a beast.
Most every Supreme Court junkie has done some time at the Oyez Project listening to Warren-era oral arguments and famous dissents from the bench, or clicking through the Court’s class photos all the way back to 1865. One of my first app downloads upon upgrading to a smartphone was Oyez’s PocketJustice.
And this week, Oyez has released its latest iPhone app, OyezToday. It’s free and it’s fun: I spent a few hours on a bus to New York yesterday playing around with the app, exploring its descriptions and media of this term’s cases. Indeed, OyezToday is the Court’s watcher’s current events fix to complement PocketJustice’s historical inventory.
Please pardon my turning my attention towards Congress this afternoon, but I must plug two items lest that evil cloud consume the Capitol:
- The Atlantic’s politics page today published the piece, “How the Filibuster Wrecked the Roman Senate—and Could Wreck Ours,” written by Rob Goodman and Jimmy Soni. I cut my blogging teeth alongside Rob and Jimmy back in 2006 at the now-defunct “18-24 Bracket” website, where they first introduced their brilliant policy minds to the Internet. The two of them are now at work on a book about Cato the Younger, the indefatigable and incorruptible Stoic of the Roman Senate. Here’s a teaser of their today’s column:
Whatever one thinks of the outcomes, removing decisions…from the legislature threatens accountability in general, and threatens the institution of the Senate in particular. In fact, the struggles of our Senate are an example of a broader rule: legislatures that make obstruction a way of life tend to get bypassed.
Some of the best evidence for this comes not from the recent past but from ancient history — history that was familiar to our classically-educated Founders. The Senate of the ancient Roman Republic was the first legislature to use the filibuster, the first to abuse it, and the first to suffer the consequences.
One Roman senator, in particular, had a special fondness for the host of obstructionist tools scattered across Rome’s constitution: Cato the Younger, Rome’s fiercest traditionalist and the leading voice of the optimates, the Republic’s conservative elite.
- Please check out the Congressional Clerkship Initiative, begun in 2005 by 145 law school deans and now spearheaded by Georgetown Law’s Federal Legislation Clinic. From the Initiative’s website:
Article I of the U.S. Constitution establishes Congress as the federal government’s “first branch” and the primary author of federal law. Congress is, appropriately, also the branch most accountable to the people. Of the three branches, however, Congress is by far the least influential on the legal community’s constitutional perspective.
One major reason is that Congress is the least accessible to new lawyers in their formative first years: Congress lacks a program similar to the judiciary’s clerkship program, or the Honors programs at executive branch agencies.
The legal community is also missing out on the opportunity to have its rising stars learn about legislation–the bread and butter of federal legal practice–from the inside. In contrast, the consistent flow of lawyers through apprenticeship programs in the courts and executive branch agencies has given the legal community a deep and constantly renewed grounding in judicial and administrative lawmaking.
Congress is missing out, too. Basic legal legislative work–statutory research, drafting, and analysis–often gets short shrift in busy Capitol Hill offices, reflected in shortcomings in Congress’s legal product. Congress would benefit from the fresh perspective, energy, and legal training of these temporary hires in their first years after law school, focused on the legislative branch’s legal work.
Legislation has been moving in Congress in recent years to establish a legislative law clerk program. This website provides a focal point for these efforts, and explains how you can help make this program a reality.
Authors/artists Dan Schofield and Alice DuBois “plan to illustrate all 112 justices of the Supreme Court, as well as some landmark cases.”
Indeed, Hybrid Justices appear to be on the rise lately: Art Lien spliced Scalia’s genes right inside the Court earlier this month. Talk about getting ahead of the great genetic engineering debate bound to come before the Court in October Term 2061.
Much has been made since Justice Kagan’s nomination last year of her high recusal rate this term due to her participation as Solicitor General in many cases now before the Court. This morning, however, the Court issued its latest order list that features an inversion of the usual recusal pattern for this term:
In this petition against Justice Thomas, I’m left wondering here why Justice Kagan was left the last justice standing. After all, she has sat on the bench with Justice Thomas for the better part of a term now, and the other justices appear to have taken no part in considering this petition solely on the basis of potential collegial bias.* Is there some arcane one-year rule in the Court’s internal procedures that was written for this very scenario? What would have happened if the Court received this petition next term or the term thereafter?
As for the petition itself, Petitioner Kenneth L. Smith appears to be a serial pro se litigant on a mission to oust Article III judges for violations of their good behavior tenure. This petition against Justice Thomas, then, came to the Court at an opportune time as Justice Thomas has been mired in ethics attacks for months. While I cannot find his cert. petition in Smith v. Thomas, I have found another recent brief to the Tenth Circuit against Senior Judge Stephen H. Anderson. In the brief, Smith colorfully presents his other cases against judges over the past decade:
*UPDATE: QED and Joe in the comments did the due diligence to dig up the docket listing for Smith v. Thomas at the D.C. Circuit. Turns out Smith brought suit against every sitting justice in October 2009. Therefore, the mass recusal today was not because of perceived bias in favor of the named defendant, Justice Thomas, but rather that all eight justices (and former Justice John Paul Stevens) were also defendants.
QED’s link didn’t work for me, so here’s a cached copy. And here is the District Court’s order granting the justices’ motion to dismiss. Turns out, as Joe points out below, that the suit was not an effort to remove the justices, but rather an effort to seek ”a mandate from [the district court] requiring the Justices of the United States Supreme Court to hear all petitions brought to that body under a writ of error or in the alternative, a formal declaration that the Bill of Rights is null and void for want of meaningful enforcement.”
I’ve just returned from my post-bar exam trip where I spent my days, inter alia, sitting beachside with the First Lady of F1@1F while reading Michigan v. Bryant, FCC v. AT&T, and Snyder v. Phelps, and not wishing at all to trade the warm Caribbean mornings for the freezing Supreme Court sidewalk, however compelling the arguments in Alford, Bullcoming, and Al-Kidd appeared to be.
Now that I’m back, I hope to make up for my bar-induced sporadic output over the past two months. It won’t be easy: the Court will be silent for two weeks between this coming Monday’s announcement of cert. grants and perhaps a couple of opinions, and the (relative) doozies docketed for the next round of oral arguments. Still, even during such silences, there’s always something swirling around One First Street worth catching and commenting upon.
On a quick visit to the Supreme Court’s official website this morning, I noticed a new option under its Opinions menu: Video Resources.
At first I thought, “It couldn’t be!” Well, it turns out that it, indeed, couldn’t be. The Court wasn’t usurping C-Span over the years by surreptitiously recording video of its oral arguments to be released when no one was looking. No, the two items available for download in this section are pieces of video evidence crucial to the Court’s decisionmaking in cases from 2007 and 2008.
The first video is a victim impact statement at issue in Kelly v. California, a case for which the Court denied certiorari, prompting Justice Stevens to issue a statement deeming the video to be inadmissibly prejudicial, if not irrelevant, to the capital case at hand.
The second video is of a car chase that the Court reviewed in Scott v. Harris ultimately to answer by an 8-1 vote in the affirmative the question of “whether a law enforcement official can, consistent with the Fourth Amendment, attempt to stop a fleeing motorist from continuing his public-endangering flight by ramming the motorist’s car from behind.”
By creating this new listing on its website, the Court hasn’t quietly unveiled never-before-seen footage: footnotes in both the Kelly statement and the Scott decision provide links to where the Court stored the videos on its former website. Rather, the Court has simply made these videos more accessible than before.
Nevertheless, I’m still holding out hope that one day I’ll check the SCOTUS A/V Club to find that the Court has converted from Betamax the pilot oral argument recording of some obscure, late-Burger era case that contains such unflattering depictions of the justices as to expose once and for all the real reason why they remain so firmly committed against cameras in the courtroom.
Today’s headline at The Onion:
Here’s a choice cut from the article:
Upon learning that gay marriage actually had to go to the Supreme Court, where it barely passed in a controversial 5-to-4 decision, students from the class of 2086 speculated that “maybe people were just dumber [in the early 2000s],” at which point student Eminem Robertson began to loudly impersonate a bumbling Supreme Court justice from the turn of the century, eliciting loud laughs of approval from classmates.
Mr. Bernard, 58, told the class that he himself could remember how in the 2030s gay marriage was still a somewhat touchy subject in certain parts of the country.
“It’s true,” said Mr. Bernard, gesturing to a holographic projection of late-20th/early-21st-century antigay preacher Fred Phelps on the classroom’s V-screen. “Most people had come around by the time I was your age, of course, but you would still read and hear things about how certain people in New Washington were trying to overturn the court’s ruling. Hard to imagine anyone being that adamant about gays not marrying, but those were different times.”
This reminds me of my own fun with the future back when I first launched F1@1F. Dare I say that The Onion’s looks far more realistic?