Tuesday, June 17, 2003
premature Supreme Court wrap-up (advantage blogosphere?)
By the end of next week or shortly thereafter, Supreme Court wrap-ups will be everywhere; the Court will probably put out its last 10 opinions next week (although they could conceivably run into the week of the 30th), and you will see analysis and summaries galore. Here at Ignatz, we're beating the rush: here's the almost-wrap-up of the Supreme Court Term. Why? Because there's time, today. And because everybody else's end-of-Term wrap-up will be fixated on gay sex, affirmative action, internet porn, and Nike ads; those cases among others are still to be decided, and they'll receive all the attention.
So here's an oddly incomplete view of what's happened so far:
The big story: the so-called "federalism" trend is dead as a dodo, buried and decaying. Well, maybe that's an overstatement, but if we keep saying it, it might turn out to be true. This Term, the "state sovereignty" (and now even municipal-almost-sovereignty) advocates lost several cases, often unanimously, thus proving that there are people (including Bill Pryor) who make Chief Justice Rehnquist look like a moderate on this states' rights business. Nevada v. Hibbs (upholding right to sue states for violating Family & Medical Leave Act); Calif. Tax Bd. v. Hyatt (upholding right to sue a state in another state's court); Cook County (upholding right to sue cities under qui tam statute); Jinks (rejecting far-out theory of municipal shield against federal laws).
The worst outrage (so far, at least): the juxtaposition of the three strikes cases (Andrade and Ewing) with the punitive damages case (State Farm). The glib non-lawyerly take is that the Court cares a great deal about limiting the punishments that can be imposed on lawless corporations, but has no interest in limiting the punishments that can be imposed on lawless humans. The erudite lawyerly take is that the Court cares a great deal about limiting the punishments that can be imposed on lawless corporations, but has no interest in limiting the punishments that can be imposed on lawless humans. These cases, taken together, are a Rosetta Stone for the worst tendencies of the Rehnquist Court. There really is no way to reconcile them, I think.
The big losers this Term: prisoners and ex-cons. Lost just about every case there was to lose. US v. Bean (restoration of firearms privileges); Overton v. Bazzetta (visitation privileges); Smith v. Doe and CT v. Doe (rights of sex offenders); Demore v. Kim (deportation proceedings). Things also didn't go so well for habeas corpus petitioners and for criminal defendants on direct appeal, but those categories were an at least partially mixed bag.
Where the interesting cases are (with one week to go): Intellectual Property. See Eldred v. Ashcroft (upholding the perpetual-ownership-of-Mickey copyright extension act); Dastar v. Fox (attempting to clear up the interplay between trademark and copyright, so as to allow more copying of public domain works); Moseley v. Victoria's Secret (trademark dilution law as applied to a cheesy store with a name sort of like "Victoria's Secret").
Labor Law: Not a damn thing. Not a single labor law case. That's very unusual.
Most frustrating case: Chavez v. Martinez (regarding rights of criminal suspect in interrogation). Can't even tell what the law is, after this case. What a mess.
Most boring case of the year A hard-fought category. Winner by a nose is Hillside Dairy v. Lyons, a Milk Law case that is so boring that it probably wouldn't even make it into a law school textbook on Milk Law.
There might or might not be another installment of this, in the next day or so. To be more precise, there should be (so that I can discuss employment law, civil procedure, arbitration and some interesting random stuff) but who knows?
posted by sam 10:22 AM