FIRST ONE @ ONE FIRST

…Out like a Lamb.

Posted in Case Reports by Mike Sacks on March 31, 2010

You’d think that the scene from the above picture–taken as I exited the Court after Carachuri-Rosendo–would indicate that something exciting was happening inside.  But you’d be wrong.

Probably a third of those on the right side were the lawyers, law students, and aspiring law-types who remained from 7am but could not get into Carachuri.  Moments later, a handful of these folks would be ushered in to see Robertson v. U.S. ex rel. Watson.

The rest of the orderly mass outside came to sate their Supreme Court curiosity while in town for Spring Break or the Cherry Blossom Festival.  I hope they get in for a three-minute glimpse of the Court in session.  Otherwise, at least they can bask in the beautiful day.

Meanwhile, I am now back home and trying to figure out what to make of this morning’s session.

Justice Stevens read the Court’s opinion in Padilla.  The decision, joined by Justices Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor, punted on whether Padilla could claim ineffective assistance of counsel for his lawyer’s mistakenly assuring him that he needn’t worry that a guilty plea would result in his deportation.  The Court did hold for the general principle that a lawyer for an alien charged with a crime has a Sixth Amendment obligation to tell his client that a guilty plea may result in deportation.  Justice Alito, joined by Chief Justice Roberts, read that obligation narrowly in his concurrence in the Court’s judgment; going one step further, Justice Scalia, in a dissent joined by Justice Thomas, called the obligation “permanent…overkill.”

Carachuri-Rosendo proved equally unsatisfying.  The main argument was whether an alien, charged with a second state misdemeanor drug offense, could be considered a felon under federal immigration and drug laws when the prosecutor failed to charge him as a recidivist offender.  Lawyers from both sides ably argued and the justices asked spirited questions, but the substance of the law at issue so obscured the case’s broader ramifications that even Justice Breyer’s crazy “cat burglar” hypothetical–which, to his merit, involved pillows and ice cream–could not save this reporter’s story.

As far as F1@1F is concerned, then, the Court’s March sitting was a bust.  No big arguments, no big opinions, and the argument and opinion that could have been contenders fizzled out today.  Even this morning’s line, though fun and massive, held no story!

But so it goes for March: in like a lion and out like a lamb.  April, on the other hand, will be different.

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