Justice Scalia Immortalized on Stage

Justice Scalia is the subject of the new play “The Originalist.” “The play is set in the Supreme Court term that ended in June 2013 with a major victory for gay rights. In the play, Justice Scalia debates that case and others with a liberal law clerk, and their odd-couple relationship, with antagonism shading into affection, gives the play its shape. ‘This is a boxing match,’ said Ms. Smith, the director. ‘What the play does is what any good play does: It humanizes the combatants.'”


New and Notable: Scalia: A Court of One

Scalia: A Court of One Bruce Allen Murphy
KF8745.S33M87 201

Scalia: A Court of One is the compelling story of one of the most polarizing figures ever to serve on the nation’s highest court. It provides an insightful analysis of Scalia’s role on a Court that, like him, has moved well to the political right, losing public support and ignoring public criticism. To the delight of his substantial conservative following, Scalia’s “originalism” theory has become the litmus test for analyzing, if not always deciding, cases. But Bruce Allen Murphy shows that Scalia’s judicial conservatism is informed as much by his highly traditional Catholicism, mixed with his political partisanship, as by his reading of the Constitution. Murphy also brilliantly analyzes Scalia’s role in major court decisions since the mid-1980s and scrutinizes the ethical controversies that have dogged Scalia in recent years. A Court of One is a fascinating examination of one outspoken justice’s decision not to play internal Court politics, leaving him frequently in dissent, but instead to play for history, seeking to etch his originalism philosophy into American law. – From the publisher.


Review of Supreme Court’s Term

supreme court UA newsSupreme Reporter has created a web page titled “Supreme Court Review” (a title also used by other publications). Supreme Reporter’s site has discussion of recent decisions, podcasts, charts, and statistics, as well as other bits of information that might be of interest to aficionados of the Court (and the rest of us). As the staff says on the site, Supreme Reporter is not affiliated with the U.S. Supreme Court or any arm of the government. Perhaps you will find it informative and useful.


Washington State Supreme Court Briefs, Oral Arguments, etc

You can find briefs, accepted petitions, court opinions, links to taped oral arguments, and much more at the Washington State Supreme Court site.


The Curious Silence of Clarence Thomas

clarence-thomas-580According to New Yorker reporter Jeffrey Toobin, “As of this Saturday, February 22nd, eight years will have passed since Clarence Thomas last asked a question during a Supreme Court oral argument. His behavior on the bench has gone from curious to bizarre to downright embarrassing, for himself and for the institution he represents.” Toobin offers interesting characterizations of the questioning styles of the other justices and pairs them according to questioning temperament and idealogy.  While recognizing that Thomas is quite outspoken on paper, Toobin sees his unwillingness to engage with the lawyers or the other justices from the bench as demeaning to the reputation of the Supreme Court.


Today in Legal History: Women Lawyers Allowed to Practice Before U.S. Supreme Court

Lockwood_Belva“On February 15, 1879, President Rutherford B. Hayes signed legislation allowing women to be admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court. Belva Lockwood became the first woman admitted to practice under the new law on March 3, 1879.” From Jurist.com (more…)


New and Notable: My Beloved World

My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor
Call Number: KF8745.S67A3 2013

From the Publisher:

An instant American icon — the first Hispanic on the U.S. Supreme Court — tells the story of her life before becoming a judge in an inspiring, surprisingly personal memoir. With startling candor and intimacy, Sonia Sotomayor recounts her life from a Bronx housing project to the federal bench, a progress that is testament to her extraordinary determination and the power of believing in oneself. She writes of her precarious childhood and the refuge she took with her passionately spirited paternal grandmother. She describes her resolve as a young girl to become a lawyer, and how she made this dream become reality: valedictorian of her high school class, summa cum laude at Princeton, Yale Law, prosecutor in the Manhattan D.A.’s office, private practice, federal district judge before the age of forty. She writes about her deeply valued mentors, about her failed marriage, about her cherished family of friends. Through her still-astonished eyes, America’s infinite possibilities are envisioned anew in this warm and honest book, destined to become a classic of self-discovery and self-invention, alongside Barack Obama’s Dreams from My Father.


Today in Legal History: Homer Plessy is Arrested – Leads to “Separate but Equal”

On June 7, 1892, Homer Plessy was arrested when he refused to leave a “whites only” train car in New Orleans. Plessy went to court on the basis that the law (1890 Louisiana state law for racially segregated facilities) had violated his Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The case went to the Supreme Court, and in Plessy v. Fergson (163 U.S. 537), the court ruled that segregation was acceptable as long as there were “separate but equal” facilities available for African Americans.  The court’s decision legalized separate facilities based on race as long as they were “equal”.  The “separate but equal” doctrine was eventually overruled on May 17, 1954, in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (347 U.S. 483).

More information is available at:


Kiobel Decided by U.S. Supreme Court

In what may be a landmark opinion in U.S. human rights practice, the Supreme Court held that conduct occurring on foreign territory will not be the subject of litigation under the Alien Tort Claims Statute. The court invoked the “presumption against extraterritoriality” in arriving at its opinion. Read an analysis by Prof. Curtis A. Bradley in this ASIL Insight.


Federal Judiciary 2012 Year-End Report

He starts by reminiscing about the USS Constitution, but much of his commentary is on the fiscal health of the US court system. You can read Chief Justice John Roberts’ 2012 Year-End Report on the Federal Judiciary yourself if you are so inclined. An appendix to the report provides caseload statistics for the various federal courts.