Posted in Anticipation by Mike Sacks on April 27, 2010

Glaring the Rainclouds Away

Back home for a quick dose of warm.  A few thoughts on the Monsanto Company v. Geertson Seed Farms line:

  • Monsanto is this term’s lone environmental law case.  Last term, environmentalists went 0-5 at the Court.  This one’s looking like a loss for them as well.  The only question, really, is how badly they will lose.  The environmentally-friendly Justice Stevens, in his penultimate oral argument of his career, will likely be at least one vote in dissent.
  • Monsanto‘s a mid-major case with a blockbuster line start time.  If it weren’t for a handful of my GULC peers, I wouldn’t have had to get to the Court at 9:30 last night and suffer through an hourlong rainstorm to reclaim my throne after last week’s FAIL@1F.  But then again, I haven’t yet been subject to any elements other than the cold since starting this project, so rain on a warm-ish April night is better than on a frigid January morning.
  • The first non-GULCers showed up around 4:30am.  Must’ve been nice…
  • Nearly all law students in line, so no Vox Populi column for this case.
  • BUT keep an eye out towards the end of the week at for a video Vox Pop by journalist Beth Marlowe.

Shower, shave, suit, Court.

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Posted in Anticipation by Mike Sacks on April 19, 2010


Excitement’s high for this morning’s cases, Christian Legal Society v. Martinez and City of Ontario v. Quon.

Back home now for a few thoughts, a warm shower, a quick eat, and a cheap suit.

  • Man, I really miscalculated on this one.  My plan was to get out to the Court at 11pm so to beat the lone wolves that I expected would show up around 1am.  But around 7:45pm last night, while the First Lady of First One @ One First and I were cooking dinner and watching an episode of The Wire, Josh Blackman sends me a text message telling me that he heard about 30 people had already lined up on the First Street sidewalk.  Per this intelligence, the FLOF1@1F and I expedited our evening so to get me to the Court at 9pm.  The intelligence proved accurate.  I ultimately took placeholder #34.
  • The first ones in line were a group of ten undergraduates from a constitutional law course at Eastern University in Radnor, PA.  They arrived at noon.  A few lone wolf law students from American University arrived a few hours later, followed at 6:30pm by a pack of Christian Legal Society members from across the country.  By dawn, the line wrapped around East Capitol.
  • I got some good interviews for the Vox Populi column and a few decent videos for the next episodes of Supreme Court Side Walk.
  • The sprinklers that terrorized me during my overnight for the Citizens United rehearing in September made their return at 1:23 this morning.  I only got a modest misting this time around.  The same can’t be said for those who dethroned me.
  • It’s always too cold out there, no matter how warm it gets relative to January’s deepest freeze.

I’ll have my reports from inside and outside of the Court up at the ABA Journal tonight and tomorrow.  Stay connected to F1@1F for the links.

Kojo Show’s a Go!

Posted in Anticipation, Non-justiciable by Mike Sacks on April 1, 2010

At noon next Thursday, April 8, I will be on The Kojo Nnamdi Show to talk about F1@1F.  Kojo’s a legend here in DC, so I am very honored that he’s taken an interest in my project.

I’ll post a reminder next week.  And if you can’t catch it live on WAMU 88.5 or don’t live in the DC area, I’ll be sure to put up a link after the broadcast.

UPDATE: I’ll be getting pushed back a half-hour to 12:30, so adjust your schedules accordingly.

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Posted in Anticipation by Mike Sacks on March 31, 2010

Back home to snack, shower, and suit up.  A few quick thoughts on the Carichuri-Rosendo line:

  • It felt good to get back out in line for the first time since March 1.  Still, I needed my winter gear this morning even though I would have killed for this morning’s weather during my wintry waits.
  • I’ve moved my on-the-ground photos and commentary to my twitter feed.
  • No Vox Populi column coming out of this morning’s wait.  Almost exclusively lawyers, law students, aspiring law students out there.  Wonderful people, all, but not enough variation in “why are you here?” answers for a compelling story from line.
  • The line exploded just before 7am.  Up there with Citizens United and McDonald.  Peculiarly, not much chatter in the line about this morning’s cases, whereas for previous cases, long line or not, there was considerable buzz.

Time to go get ready.  I’ll be back later today with the link to my oral argument write-up at the ABA Journal.

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I Blinked.

Posted in Anticipation by Mike Sacks on March 30, 2010

It’s 4:45am.  I’ve been up for over an hour.  I’m all dressed, spare one shoe.  But I’m going back to sleep.

Dillon v. United States, this morning’s first case, certainly classifies as a mid-major.’s Legal Blog Watch predicted yesterday that by last night I’d  be “already in line with a couple of PowerBars and an empty milk jug.”  And while I find PowerBars unsavory and my lactose intolerance distances me from milk jugs even as latrines, I had intended to get in line for Dillon.

But I blinked.  Instead of rushing out the door soon after my alarm went off, I spent an hour agonizing over obstacles surmountable or imagined: my Passover seder kept me up a little too late last night; I hear rain and thunder outside; the Court’s slated to hand down decisions this morning, hopefully several big ones; Dillon is just a sentencing case.

Dillon, however, is not just a sentencing case.  It’s a sequel of sorts to United States v. Booker, in which the Court, by an ideologically scrambled 5-4 vote, held that the federal sentencing guidelines were advisory rather than mandatory. Dillon asks whether a federal judge may modify a sentence to go below the Guidelines even as he resentences a criminal per a new guideline range.  In other words, as applied to Dillon‘s facts, does Congress’s retroactive lessening of the mandatory minimum sentence for a crack cocaine possession preclude a judge from also relying upon Booker to further reduce the sentence?  Behind the curtain, the justices may have seen something sympathetic in Percy Dillon, as the Court has denied certiorari in similar cases, and the SG’s office recommended denial in this case.

Dillon may, then, go on my short list of arguments I should have attended.  But whereas my marathon McDonald tailgate swallowed up my chances to see Skilling and Samantar, my excuses for staying home for Dillon may not add up–especially if the Court hands down no big opinions for me to write up today.

Then again, the Court’s March sitting is not yet over and I do need to conserve my energy during this carb-starved week…

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Today’s Stories that Weren’t

Posted in Anticipation, Clairvoyance, Justicespotting by Mike Sacks on March 23, 2010

Back when I started up F1@1F, Kiyemba v. Obama stood to be argued this morning as the next installment of the Court’s Guantanamo cases, following 2008’s landmark ruling in Boumediene v. Bush.  The case asked whether a federal judge had the power to relocate into the United States the few remaining Uighurs held at Guantanamo after they were determined not to have been enemy combatants.

But then the Swiss agreed in early February to resettle the remaining Uighurs just before the Government’s brief was due to the Court.  Despite some arguing that the Court should still hear the case for the legal issues presented, the Court remanded the case for further review, stating that “[n]o court has yet ruled in this case in light of the new facts, and we decline to be the first to do so.”  Five of the Uighurs remain in Guantanamo after refusing multiple relocation offers from countries without established Uighur communities.

Without Kiyemba on the docket, this week has held little promise for F1@1F.  I thought about going to this morning’s remaining case, New Process Steel v. National Labor Relations Board, just to see what the line would be like for a case asking whether two people equals three people (really!).  But my alarm this morning also woke in me some bleary-eyed clarity: the Court could be handing down major opinions from its October sitting this morning and I would be attending a lunch talk by Judge Diane Wood.  I could very well be writing about these things through the afternoon and evening, so I chose to get a few more hours of sleep rather than watch the justices themselves pass out during an argument about an NLRB quorum.

But United States v. Stevens, Salazar v. Buono, and Padilla v. Commonwealth of Kentucky did not come down today.  Instead, we got a unanimous bankruptcy decision.

Without writing material from the Court, I went off to see Judge Wood speak at an ACS lunch discussion.  Whether she was in DC solely for this event, or if she had some more important matters in DC, no one said.  In fact, her talk and the accompanying Q&A focused almost exclusively on Seventh Circuit practice.

The only noteworthy quotes came from Tom Goldstein of SCOTUSBlog, who, in introducing Judge Wood, recognized the “undeniable subtext” of why I and nearly all of the Supreme Court press corps was in attendance: “if the stars align and the Left shows some guts, Diane Wood should be on the Supreme Court.”

It was a necessarily glowing, but no less sincere, introduction from the man who predicted last month that President Obama would pass over Wood for the younger, more confirmable Elena Kagan.  F1@1F, however, continues to maintain that Wood will be the next justice should Justice Stevens retire at the end of this term.

Even though I left the talk without a story, it was good to have a potential before-she-was-a-justice moment.  Still, here’s to a more fruitful next week for F1@1F.

Finally, two bits of miscellaneous debris from yesterday:

  • ABC’s Ariane de Vogue wrote yesterday about Goodwin Liu’s nomination to the Ninth Circuit, with a sub-headline of, “Contentious Hearing for Lower Court Nominee to Foreshadow High Court Battles to Come.”  The article reports out and builds upon what I observed here in January.
  • The Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder has a “you heard it here first” post about Ben Mizer, Ohio’s Solicitor General.  Ambinder seems to suggest deeply between the lines that Mizer, who argued before the Court yesterday, stands a chance well down the line of becoming a Justice.

UPDATE: Dahlia Lithwick makes me wish I went to this morning’s case after all…

OT2010 Circus Watch

Posted in Anticipation by Mike Sacks on March 8, 2010

The Court today granted certiorari in Snyder v. Phelps, et al. Here’s Lyle Denniston from SCOTUSBlog:

The Supreme Court, taking on the emotionally charged issue of picketing protests at the funerals of soldiers killed in wartime, agreed Monday to consider reinstating a $5 million damages verdict against a Kansas preacher and his anti-gay crusade. […]

The funeral picketing case (Snyder v. Phelps, et al., 09-751) focuses on a significant question of First Amendment law: the degree of constitutional protection given to private remarks made about a private person, occurring in a largely private setting.

If Lyle’s description and the name “Phelps” didn’t already set off your mental bells, let me put the question before the Court another way–with illustrative hyperlinks: is this speech by this preacher‘s congregation protected under the First Amendment?

In other words, I may have to dust off F1@1F next term for a special encore report from this case’s line.

UPDATE: Back in 2006, Molly McDonough of the ABA Journal–she’s now my overseer over there–wrote about the constitutionality of the state and federal laws enacted to keep Phelps’s folk away from soldiers’ funerals.  Next term’s case is based on a common law tort’s damage award, not on any statutory command, but McDonough’s story is still well-worth revisiting.

Samantar v. Yousuf

Posted in Anticipation by Mike Sacks on March 3, 2010

Had I had any gas left in the tank after Monday/yesterday’s 26-hour vigil, I’d have gotten back in line for this morning’s case, Samantar v. Yousuf.  But after I submitted my ABA Journal piece on McDonald last night, my body and mind shouted “no más.”

Samantar does look to be a very interesting case that sadly flew under the radar this term.  In lieu of F1@1F coverage, check out the following links:

As I publish this post, the respondent’s counsel should be fielding the justices’ questions.  Once the SCOTUS press corps starts publishing their oral argument write-ups, I’ll link to them here.

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Posted in Anticipation by Mike Sacks on March 2, 2010

Just got home from nearly 24 hours out on the pavement.  The company was wonderful all night and the line got mega-long come daybreak.

Despite my pout above, I am honored to claim Third One @ One First behind Rob and Larken.  They flew out from Malibu, CA, to see McDonald and hit the concrete at 5:30am yesterday.  Champions, both of them!

A few notes:

  • Look for Adam Liptak of the NYT to scoop my vox populi column tonight or tomorrow.  He came out last night and this morning to cover F1@1F and the line experience more generally.
  • There were far fewer gun rights supporters in line than I expected.  I deeply enjoyed getting to know those who were there, however.
  • Huge thanks to ABA Journal for buying the line pizza last night!
  • Thanks to Josh Blackman for teaming up with me to deliver some fun overnight coverage.  Check out for some more video and commentary.
  • Dick Heller came out to entertain the linegoers last night and this morning.  He was especially a hit among the fifteen high schoolers from Cupertino, CA, that braved the cold overnight wait.
  • Predictions for McDonald are all over the place, from 5-4 to 9-0.  The only thing everyone agrees upon is that the Second Amendment will be incorporated against the states.
  • Finally, I think I got the makings of the first Supreme Court Side Walk episode.  I hope to have it up here in some fashion by the week’s end.

Time to dethaw, get clean, suit up, and head back out.

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Posted in Anticipation by Mike Sacks on March 1, 2010

All hell broke loose around 11pm tonight:

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