What “Bong hits” taught us about “Boobies” and student speech

Last month, the Easton Area School District in Pennsylvania voted 7-1 in favor of filing a writ of certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court asking the Court to overturn the Third Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision in B.H. v. Easton Area School District.  What does this mean to you?  If the SCOTUS grants the writ, thereby agreeing to hear this case, and overturns the lower court’s decision, you – middle or high school students and/or parents – will not be able to walk the hallways with an arm full of “I ❤ Boobies” bracelets.  Not even one.

Two middle school girls – Kayla Martinez and Brianna Hawk – sued Easton School District for infringing upon their 1st Amendment rights after both were suspended for wearing the bracelets despite being told not to.  The girls claim they are raising awareness  about breast cancer by supporting the Keep a Breast foundation, the organization that sells the armbands.  The school district claims the language of the armband’s message is not appropriate for public middle school students to advertise.  We’re guessing the word “boobies” is the content they’re most uneasy with.

Somewhere there's a Taylor Swift song that matches this sentiment.  We just don't know what song that is...

Somewhere there’s a Taylor Swift song that matches this sentiment.

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What we’re reading this weekend

The weather calls for dipping temps and rain this weekend.  A perfect excuse to shut in and read a brief report (12-pages.  Come on guys! In the legal arena, that’s like a short story) on the doctrinal conversations that are Justice Elena Kagan’s SCOTUS opinions.  Not an obvious pick, perhaps, for SB.  Why’d we make it blog worthy?  Because, as the abstract points out, Justice Kagan never lets us forget she’s this:

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Justice Kagan: Teacher, SC Justice, Boss. Maybe someone should remind the kid checking Facebook on her laptop.

…a Teacher.

We’re teachers, lovers of law, and students.  To hear Justice Kagan deliver an opinion puts us at ease for we know she’s talking to us, walking us through the case and the context of the decision, rather than at us.  We’ll be enjoying this report by Laura Ray of Widener Law School (get it here) and hope you will too.  Here’s the abstract:

In her first two terms on the Supreme Court, Justice Elena Kagan has crafted a distinctive judicial voice that speaks to her readers in a remarkably conversational tone. She employs a variety of rhetorical devices: invocations to “remember” or “pretend”; informal and even colloquial diction; a diverse assortment of similes and metaphors; and parenthetical interjections that guide the reader’s response. These strategies engage the reader in much the same way that Kagan as law professor may well have worked to engage her students, and in the context of judicial opinions they serve several purposes. They make Kagan’s opinions accessible to lay readers as well as legal professionals, a goal she has specified. More generally, her conversational style works to persuade her readers that her arguments are grounded in both legal doctrine and the familiar texture of human experience.

We couldn’t agree more.

Enthusiasm and new podcasts are both up –>

The SB Dream Team got together last weekend – one of us needed her arm twisted to come out to NYC for a non-Skype meeting – and podcasted our brains out.  Arm-twisted and enthused we were to be together again.  The results were pod-tastic!  See/Hear for yourself.

One podcast focuses on the 1st Amendment’s “Establishment clause” by unpacking a recent case in the SC – Town of Greece v. Galloway – and we tied in a bit about religion in public schools (Engel v. Vitale).  You’re welcome, students.  The next ‘cast is about another case in SCOTUS last week – Fernandez v. CA.  This 4th Amendment case set up quite a debate within the team over when police can or can’t, should or shouldn’t attain consent and/or warrant to search a residence when one resident says ‘yes’ and the other either says ‘no’ or is not present to give consent.  Grab your roommate and give it a listen.

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These are the podcasts you’re looking for.

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Update on Fisher v. University of TX; Affirmative action in colleges

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Petitioner Abigail Fisher and friend-of-her-family/affirmative action opponent  Edward Blum back in court this week.

It’s rare when SCOTUS delivers a decision ordering a case back to a lower court for review that it garners the same attention it received when it was in the SC.  But, this being a potentially decisive case about affirmative action programs in public universities and colleges, – one that brought Justice Sandra Day O’Connor into the SC back in June of this year to keep watch over her landmark 2003 decision (Grutter v. Bollinger) – it’s hardly a surprise.  So critical Fisher v. the University of Texas at Austin is to future college applicants and public universities that the same attorneys who argued the case last year in the SC stayed on to continue the work at the 5th Circuit.  On Wednesday, November 13th, they, along with the case’s namesake Abigail Fisher and the man who lobbied for the case to get into SCOTUS, Edward Blum, were all in court, again. Continue reading

On the 4th Amendment, 3rd Party Consent, and Fernandez v. CA

We’re following an interesting case in the Supreme Court called Fernandez v. California this term (OT13).  “Interesting” and the 4th amendment = redundant.  We know.  But this case involves a particular area of law that many of our friends, family members, and students could be impacted by.  The issue at hand, in laypeople language, is whether a 3rd-party individual, like a co-habitant, roommate, girlfriend, boyfriend, or landlord, may give police consent to search the home of a criminal suspect.  Before you panic about the contents of your bedside table drawers, take a deep breath, read the facts of this case and double-check with an attorney in your state.

5-cent rundown:  Suspecting Walter Fernandez was involved in a gang-related crime, police went to his home to question him.  Soon after police arrived, they heard a domestic dispute and found Fernandez’s girlfriend – who also lived at the home – bloody and bruised. Continue reading

Robert Barnes reports out from inside SC after Greece v. Galloway

Why aren’t our favorite SCOTUS reporters quicker with the Twitter?!  Gah!  If we can’t get SCOTUS hard press passes (like 26 people in the U.S. have these) then all we can do is rely on the journalists inside to give us the scoop.  Thankfully, WaPo SC journalist Robert Barnes tweeted a link to his post-oral argument piece.  Check it out here.  And NPR’s legal expert Nina Totenberg covered it on this morning’s All Things Considered.

In a nutshell, it sounds like the liberal justices were troubled by the quantity of Christian prayers delivered at the start of Greece’s legislative sessions, to the general public no less, who, because of their need to conduct regular business with the legislative body, might feel religiously coerced in these situations.  The conservative justices voiced concerns that if the prayers were ordered to be more secular, government agents would be burdened with policing the prayers potentially infringing upon the Constitutional flip side of the Establishment Clause – the Free Establishment clause.

We’ll keep you updated once we figure out how to get Joan B., Nina T., and the rest of them on Twitter (faster).