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Roberts Promises Evaluation of the Judiciary's Sexual Misconduct Policies

Chief Justice John Roberts released an annual report on the federal judiciary, but one thing caught the attention of the media more than anything else -- the judiciary's sexual misconduct policies.

Most of the report dealt with how the judicial system responds to natural disasters, such as the recent California wildfires that caused court personnel to evacuate buildings. However, it was another disaster in the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal that caused one celebrated judge to leave the building.

"Events in recent months have illuminated the depth of the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace, and events in the past few weeks have made clear that the judicial branch is not immune," Roberts said.

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.

The Notorious RBG made herself a bit more notorious earlier this month, after she repeatedly criticized Donald Trump in the press, saying he was a "faker" and joking about moving to New Zealand should he become president. After a swift backlash from the left and the right, Justice Ginsburg apologized, saying that "judges should avoid commenting on a candidate for public office" and promising that "in the future I will be more circumspect."

Justice Ginsburg's mea culpa didn't satisfy some critics, however. Trump called on her to resign, while others have said her comments reveal a political bias which should disqualify her for the Court. Which raises the question, to what extent is such a thing even possible?

The federal judge who first ruled against President Obama's immigration reforms, a case currently pending in the Supreme Court, has made another bold and far-reaching move in connection to the case. After having found misconduct on the part of the government attorneys in the immigration case, District Judge Andrew S. Hanen of the Southern District of Texas has put himself in charge of their ethics training.

But it's not just those specific attorneys that Hanen wants to ethically reeducate. It's every single DOJ lawyer who appears in court -- in any court, federal or state, in 26 specific states over the next five years. If the order stands, Judge Hanen may soon become a very busy man. But, he's only doing it to help out the Supreme Court, Hanen says.

Did Paul D. Clement forward golf tips to Chief Justice Roberts? Has Justice Sotomayor ever sent adorable cat pics to Donald Verrilli?

It's unlikely, but if they did, we might soon find out. That's because a journalist from Vice News is currently suing the Department of Justice for access to any emails between the Supreme Court justices and former or current U.S. Solicitors General. That is, should such emails even exist.

SCOTUS Revisits Racism in Jury Selection

Almost three decades have passed since the nation's highest court declared that peremptory strikes on the basis of race are a violation of equal protection. In little less than a week, SCOTUS will revisit the issue of racism in jury selection again.

The Supreme Court's review of Foster v. Humphreys is the latest case to highlight what some have called a double standard of justice against blacks in American courts even with the ruling in Batson v. Kentucky.

SCOTUS Refers Death Penalty Lawyer to Pa. Disciplinary Board

The U.S. Supreme Court has taken the highly unusual move of referring a lawyer to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's Disciplinary Board for investigation. The case involves an appeal by Michael Ballard, who was sentenced to death in 2010 for killing his ex-girlfriend and three others, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Ballard's attorney, Marc Bookman, the director of the Atlantic Center for Capital Representation, filed an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court on Ballard's behalf.

Ballard, though, said that he didn't want to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Judges' Use of Social Media Before SCOTUS in Cert. Petition

If a judge follows you on Twitter, must he recuse himself from any future cases where you are a party or an attorney? Surely reading tweets doesn't amount to an appearance of bias.

What about a LinkedIn connection? It is, after all, the "professional" social network.

Or what about Facebook? Of all the social networks, it is the most informal. Friendship gives you access to photos, wall postings, and other non-public information. If a judge is Facebook friends with a litigant, or an attorney, does that mandate recusal?

We've discussed the issue before, and have seen it pop up in state cases, but this petition for certiorari, set for consideration on April 25, asks the U.S. Supreme Court to set a nationwide standard for social media and the appearance of impropriety. It's a tall order for a Court that still uses ivory paper instead of email.

SCOTUS Snippets: NJ Sports Betting, Poker, and Justin Wolfe

Two more days until the Court gets back to work. Friday's conference presents a number of interesting cases, including concealed carry of firearms and remedies for prosecutorial misconduct. Anticipation is building for the conference, where the Court could take on a number of cases that could prove to be landmark decisions.

Here is a roundup of a few interesting issues that could make their way onto the court's docket in the near future:

More Alito Recusals Beg the Question: Why Not Blind Trusts?

Presidents have to have blind trusts. According to CNN, nearly every serious presidential candidate, some governors, and a small handful of federal lawmakers have opted for blind trusts as well.

The investment devices serve a necessary purpose: decreasing the possibility of a conflict of interest.

After Justice Samuel Alto again recused himself from landmark cases last week, and after dozens of past recusals, as well as some questionable non-recusals, is it time to start asking about whether blind trusts should be required of judges and justices?