Supreme Court Has a Day of Firsts During a Rare Special Session
Numerologists attribute special meaning
to today's date, 09/09/09, but differ on just what exactly that meaning is.
The Chinese, for example, consider the number 9 to be the second luckiest number in their numerology, bested only by the number 8. The past two years, therefore, have had two very auspicious days for the Chinese: 08/08/08 last year, and 09/09/09 this year.
The Japanese, on the other hand, consider 9 to be the second most un
lucky number, so today will probably go uncelebrated on the Japanese archipelago.
Whatever your thoughts on the numerological significance of today's date, however, it is definitely an historic day for the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court is holding a rare special session before the usual beginning of the October term to hear a re-argument
of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission
(08-205), a case dealing with campaign donation laws for corporations
that the Supreme Court initially heard last term, but did not issue a
If that weren't enough, the argument is the first day on the bench for new Justice Sonia Sotomayor, whose investiture occurred yesterday
in front of President Obama, Vice President Biden and, for some strange reason, Ricky Martin.
Adding to that, it is also the first argument before the Court by the new Solicitor General, Elena Kagan.
to top it all off, three veteran litigators - rock stars in the world
of Supreme Court oral advocacy - will be presenting before the Court
today: Ted Olson
a former solicitor general for the Bush Administration with more than
50 oral arguments under his belt; Floyd Abrams, who has argued more
First Amendment press cases before the Court than anyone else; and Seth
Waxman, a solicitor general under Bill Clinton, also with over 50
arguments to his name.
If you're a Supreme Court junkie, then
you're probably siding with the Chinese right about now: today is
definitely your lucky day.
If you're a fan of campaign finance restrictions for corporations, however, then you're probably turning a little Japanese
Justices - Kennedy, Scalia and Thomas - had already openly expressed
their desire for a sweeping ruling that would alter much of the Court's
past precedent regarding campaign finance. The liberal wing of the
Court, including new Justice Sotomayor, tried during the
arguments to influence Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito to side
with them and their desire to keep the ruling narrow.
Even Kagan, defending the campaign finance laws in question on behalf of the government, conceded eventual defeat
but appealed to the Justices to keep any ruling narrowly focused in
order to avoid a flood of corporate money into the election finance
It didn't appear that the Chief Justice or Justice Alito were buying it
though, and based on the tenor of the arguments, the Court seems poised
to overturn the campaign finance laws at issue in the case.
Lyle Denniston over at the SCOTUSBlog
however, writes that the arguments reminded him of a case from last
term where the Court seemed ready to overturn a key provision of the
Voting Rights Act after argument, but ended up keeping the provision alive
in a narrow opinion written by the Chief Justice.
Since the arguments occurred during a special session, we probably
won't know for sure how the Court will end up ruling until after the
beginning of the October 2009 term on October 5.