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August 2017 Archives

SCOTUS Blocks Order to Redraw Texas Voting Districts

The U.S. Supreme Court stayed an order that would have forced legislators to redraw two congressional districts in Texas, pending a decision about whether the boundaries discriminate against minorities.

Justice Samuel Alito, Jr. issued the one-page order in Abbott v. Perez, giving the plaintiffs until Sept. 5, 2017, to respond. Meanwhile, the Court will review next session a lower court decision that said Texas lawmakers "intentionally deprived" voters in "an impermissible racial gerrymander."

"The Court concludes that the racially discriminatory intent and effects that it previously found in the 2011 plans carry over into the 2013 plans where those district lines remain unchanged," Judge Xavier Rodriguez wrote two weeks earlier.

Susan Fowler, the ex-Uber engineer whose viral blog post about the hostile working environment she endured while working for the booming ride-hailing app, has filed an amicus curiae brief to the Supreme Court.

In addition to detailing her harrowing experience, her brief argues in support of invalidating forced employee/contractor arbitration clauses, which is at issue in a set of three cases which the High Court has consolidated. Specifically at issue in the cases before SCOTUS is whether bans on class actions and collective actions through arbitration agreements violates federal law.

SCOTUS to Consider Whether Google Trademark is Generic

Where is Humpty Dumpty when the U.S. Supreme Court needs him?

While the Court is in recess, the most egg-cellent arbiter could handle at least one new case. The case is about whether Google can keep its trademark for a word that also means "to search the internet."

"When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less," Humpty Dumpty told Alice scornfully.

With or without the scorn, the Court could say as much in Elliott v. Google. The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals already did.

Headlines have been popping up in various media sources questioning the propriety of Justice Neil Gorsuch's planned speaking engagement at the Trump Hotel. This is primarily due to the fact that the speaking engagement is set for September 28, and the oral argument on the president's "travel ban" executive order is scheduled for October 10 (just 12 days later).

While it's a new phenomenon that a U.S. president owns hotels, if it were the Trump Hotel paying Justice Gorsuch, this might be a different story. But, it is a non-profit group, the Fund for American Studies, that is hosting the event. Additionally, Justice Gorsuch has asserted that he will not be collecting a fee for this speaking engagement.

Tweet Illustrates Sandra Day O'Connor's Struggle as a Woman Lawyer

In the Ruth Bader Ginsburg era, sometimes it's easy to forget what Sandra Day O'Connor went through to become the first female justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

O'Connor was appointed in 1981, ending 191 years of Supreme Court history without a woman on the bench. She retired in 2006, but she and her legacy live on.

While her legal career has largely been written, occasionally that history rewrites itself. Like last week, when Twitter revealed that she was admitted to federal practice as "Mrs. John O'Connor."

Trump DOJ Reverses Position in Purged Voters Case

It's not unusual for a lawyer to switch allegiances -- government prosecutors often turn into private defense attorneys as a career path.

However, it is unusual for the federal government's top lawyers to change position in the middle of a case. In Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, the Department of Justice has reversed itself in a voting law case that is before the U.S. Supreme Court.

There is a changing of the guard at the Justice Department since President Trump took office, but the voting case comes at an awkward time for the administration and the U.S. Solicitor General's Office.

High Court Announces Electronic Filing

If all courts were like the U.S. Supreme Court, then access to the law would literally be free. They might also take a little longer to allow electronic filing.

The High Court announced that it will make "virtually all filings" available to the public at no cost. It is part of a new electronic filing system, to be up and running by Nov. 13, 2017, and similar to programs already working in other federal courts.

"Attorneys who expect to file documents at the Court will register in advance to obtain access to the electronic filing system," the court said in a press release. "Registration will open 4-8 weeks before the system begins operation."

According to the outspoken and sharply articulate judge Richard Posner, "we have a crappy judicial system" and "most of the [legal] technicalities are antiquated crap." The jurist has recently found himself making headlines not just for the flavorful language of his social commentary, but also for supporting a revolutionary idea for the U.S. Supreme Court: increasing the number of justices to 19.

In a recent interview, Judge Posner expressed support for expanding the judiciary. He explains that the current Court is mediocre and highly politicized due to the political nature of the selection of justices. Additionally, Posner posits that a mandatory retirement age of 80 be implemented for the High Court.

Ginsburg Tells Utah Lawyers to Make a Difference

It's not quite as rare as a solar eclipse, but it is a rare occasion when the U.S. Supreme Court's most liberal justice speaks to lawyers from the most conservative state in the nation.

And it was a moment to applaud, as more than 1,000 attorneys and their families gave a standing ovation to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at a convention of the Utah Bar Association. State Bar president Robert Rice said many lawyers brought their daughters to the event.

"They see her as a role model of not only what young women may be in the legal profession but what lawyers should be and what judges should be," he said.