Reflecting on the Supreme Court’s previous term (OT13) – Where were you?!?

SB was fortunate to be back in the SCOTUS the last two weeks of the Court’s October 2013 term. If you’ve been following us, you know last summer was our first experience with SCOTUS reporting access and gumption. Cut to this summer.  SB was better prepared for mayhem, but access inside was surprisingly easier and attention paid to the decisions seemed less focused and more manic. That struck us as weird and it’s the point of this post – You should’ve been paying closer attention to the cases this year.

Access was likely easier this year because OT13 didn’t have the hype and crowd that OT12 did. The crowd just wasn’t there outside or inside the Court, and public interest only piqued after the final decision (Hobby Lobby) was announced. Over the five days SB was inside, the two pews reserved for those with hard press passes never had more than 8-9 reporters in them and the press gallery was thin.

A few thoughts on why the lethargy this June. Last year may have had sexier cases, literally. Same-sex marriage cases put butts in seats. So did affirmative action and voting rights cases. Two famous bottoms were in Court seats on a Monday last summer awaiting decisions on any of the three decisions – Justices O’Connor and Stevens. Reporters were packed into the gallery cheap seats assigned their spots by security, and on the final day we were even relegated to sitting in the “intern” section (with my people).

But that didn’t happen this year on the last day the Court was in session. Only two cases remained, one that was arguably the big case of the term – Hobby Lobby – and yet seats were readily available in the Court, the press office buzz was sedate, and the Court steps were still visible through the small group of pro-Life protestors outside. The press seemed to need the coveted access inside less. Many writers chose to stay in their cubicles inside the press office, were content listening to the audio piped into the basement of the Court, or were likely hanging out in the office following SCOTUSblog’s live feed. Another sign of a waning interest this term – There were less bespoke interns with wardrobes interrupted by gym shoes waiting in the press office to hustle out to their network.

So what happened this year?! We don’t know. Although they may have lacked the appeal of same-sex marriage, there were several other cases this term that answered questions more likely to affect the general public than same-sex marriage or birth control for Hobby Lobby employees. See if you can answer them:

  • Can you protest less than 35 feet away from an abortion clinics? (McCullen v. Coakley)
  • Can you buy a $12 antennae to watch and record another state’s local television channels? (ABC v. Aereo)
  • Can the president make an appointment when the Senate is in a session that feels and looks more like a recess? (NLRB v. Noel Canning)
  • Can opponents of the President be relocated farther away from a protest while supporters get to remain in their (closer) spot? (Wood v. Moss)
  • Can police search all the contents of your cell phone after a traffic violation? (Riley v. California)

If you want the answers to these questions, click on the case in parenthesis to get background details and the decision.

Perhaps those topics don’t have the high interest of same-sex marriage, which may be why OT13 just wasn’t as popular as last term. But with gay marriage cases running through the 6th, 9th, and 10th Circuits the audience may get their SCOTUS wish next term. Regardless, we all saw great hues and cries screamed across the social networks days after Hobby Lobby criticizing the Court for what they did or didn’t do with little bandwidth given to the other 69 cases decided this term. Although four cases do not paint an accurate portrait of what happened during one Supreme Court term, reducing this past term to one case would be worse! It’s unfair to the justices and, frankly, lazy of the citizenry.




It’s not a dickey, doily, or dog collar – It’s a jabot

Oh…My…God.  Amazing!

This.  Just this...

This. Just this…

We were on vacation when this story broke and now we know to scrutinize every beautiful jabot – the bejeweled or lacy collar-like necklaces Ruth Bader Ginsburg wears on top of her robe – RBG wears on decision day like it’s our job.

Get your own at Etsy here.  No, they’re not as cool RBG’s from South Africa or the Metropolitan Opera house, but they’re a bit more in our budgets.


The “sleeper case” of the 2013 Term: Harris v. Quinn and the future of unions

Hobby Lobby is all the rage. We get it. Religious freedom, women’s rights, and the all-too-frequently heard “Corporations are people too” will be conversation fodder for the rest of the summer. If you really want to sound smart though, you’re going to want to tell your friends that Harris v. Quinn was the sleeper case of the 2013 term. Public-sector unions are *almost* dead. Here’s what you need to know:

5-cent explanation: The question in this case was – Can public-sector, home-health care workers in Illinois who serve Medicaid recipients be forced to pay union fees even if they choose to not be a part of the union? Continue reading

SB’s holiday party prep part II: 5 reasons Hobby Lobby was decided Right/Wrong

We all have parties, BBQ’s, and events to go to this 4th of July weekend.  We’re guessing the recent Supreme Court Hobby Lobby decision may come up, so we created the following “talking points” to make you sound informed and engaged in current civic affairs.  Because, after all, nothing says “America” like stuffing our faces with charred hot dogs and cold beer while arguing politics.  We’ve provided two basic background concepts to know about before you jump into the waters of controversy and, based on your personal feelings about the decision, five support statements you could use to win the argument, sound smart, or better understand the case.

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Sums up ‘Merica, nicely.

Two things to know before the debate: Continue reading

SB’s interview with SCOTUSblog: On teaching & mentoring, press passes, and the future

Tom Goldstein is going to a concert, and isn’t afraid to brag about it.

He held up two printed tickets with bar codes. “Don’t be jealous that I’m going to Katy Perry tonight.”

“Too late,” I responded.

Founder, Tom Goldstein, second from the right and SCOTUSblog writer Lyle Denniston, center, cover the Court.  Like bosses.

Founder, Tom Goldstein, second from the right, and SCOTUSblog writer Lyle Denniston, center, cover the Court. Like bosses.

SCOTUSblog is my first and often last stop for Supreme Court news.  I read it for personal interest and I use the site in my practice as a teacher to help young adults understand the judiciary.  SCOTUSblog inspired this website.  I wanted to talk to him while I was in D.C. about the role SCOTUSblog plays in teaching readers about the Supreme Court in the final weeks of the Court’s term.  This is a hectic time for him but he graciously invited me to his law office on Wisconsin Avenue to talk on a day sandwiched between two big decision days. Continue reading

On ABC v. Aereo

5-cent explanation:  Does Brooklyn, NY-based Aereo violate copyright laws when they provide equipment, at a cost of roughly $8 a month, to get local stations routed to consumers computers, tablets, or phones, to record and play programming on a cloud-based server?

10-cent explanation:  Aereo might be on to something – A la carte programming that saves viewers hundreds of dollars by abandoning packages and contracts with the majors cable companies.  Since this case first ignited attention in January, studies revealing people tend to only watch 7-8 channels out of the hundreds they’re offered through their cable companies have raised eyebrows.  Wise to this reality, young people in particular have cut ties with their cable providers opting instead for Apple TVs, Rokus, Slingboxes and now Aereo.   Continue reading

How two SCOTUS decisions could thwart electronic privacy erosion

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As Lucius Fox said, this does feel “wrong.”

By Cara L. Gallagher

Considering the median age of the nine Supreme Court Justices is around 65, Generation X, Y and Millenials should sit up and pay attention, not only the specifics of the two 4th Amendment cases involving cell phone searches (Riley v. CA and U.S. v. Wurie), but also the decisions.  Many of us have smart phones today.  Such devices and the applications we use are no doubt as much of an extension of us, in the royal sense, as our limbs.  If forced to choose which we’d rather sacrifice, the answer likely rests on how many of the limbs would have to go in order to still functionally operate a smart phone.

Smart phones are ubiquitous among 14-50 year olds, but not among the Justices. Continue reading