Category Archives: Supreme Court

Rehnquist papers headed to Stanford

Here is the official release from the Hoover Institution in Palo Alto, Calif:

The papers of the late William H. Rehnquist, Chief Justice of the United States from 1986 until his death in 2005, have been donated to the Hoover Institution Archives at Stanford University. Rehnquist, an alumnus of Stanford, received three degrees from the university, including his law degree, and, before ascending to the Supreme Court, was a member of the Hoover Institution Board of Overseers.

John Raisian, the institution’s Tad and Dianne Taube Director, in making the announcement said, “This is a major acquisition for the Hoover Archives; it complements our collections from the judicial, executive, and legislative branches. Chief Justice Rehnquist’s collection will enhance Hoover’s reputation as a major repository for materials on the U.S. government during the latter part of the twentieth century, and we believe researchers will find it to be an important resource for examining judicial decision making covering the Chief Justice’s more than thirty years on the Supreme Court. We are pleased that Chief Justice Rehnquist’s papers are coming full circle back to Stanford, where he began his illustrious legal career.”

The Supreme Court correspondent Tony Mauro was all over this–and wrote earlier Wednesday that the Hoover Institution would be making papers from 1972, when Rehnquist joined the court, until 1975 available. Why just that period? Because no justice from that time of the court remains alive. Justice John Paul Stevens has served since ’75.

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Is Sarah Palin another Harriet Miers?


She was a woman named to one of the highest positions in the land. The choice was a shock. Immediately, calls went out that she was unqualified, and that the pick had trivialized the institution.

That woman, of course, was Harriet Miers.

When President George W. Bush named his White House lawyer to the Supreme Court in 2005, the backlash was almost immediate and her credentials were subject to withering review.

The harshest critique came not from Democrats, but from intellectuals within the Republican Party, who were concerned that Miers, who had been a corporate lawyer with a firm in Dallas before signing on with then-Gov. Bush, didn’t have the brainpower and background to advance the conservative legal agenda.

By all accounts, Miers was a reliable Christian conservative, but that wasn’t enough. The din grew so loud that Miers gave the president a way out. She withdrew her nomination, and Bush picked Samuel Alito, a long-time federal appeals judge–a choice that was met with acclaim by the conservatives who pushed Miers out.

While Alito seems to have settled in, some on both sides of the philosophical divide still lament that a chance to add a second woman to the court went by the boards. Ruth Bader Ginsburg remains just one of nine. Bush had tabbed Miers because, he said, he was intent on nominating a woman.

This time around, the controversial female nominee is Sarah Palin, who ascended to the governorship of Alaska after serving as a mayor of tiny Wasilla. Again, the pick seemed to come out of nowhere, and the shock is still being felt in some circles.

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Dissent in Medellin: What’s the rush?

Let’s drill down a bit to examine what happened last night, when the Supreme Court issued a per curium opinion denying Jose Medellin’s request for a stay of execution. Four justices dissented from the opinion. Medellin, whose appointment with the needle was delayed while the high court deliberated, was put to death at approximately 10 p.m., Central Time. 

Medellin applied for a stay to Justice Antonin Scalia, who referred the matter to the entire court. Five votes were needed to issue a stay, and apparently there were only four. Medellin’s request was based on the fact that Congress was working to implement a decision by the International Court of Justice, an arm of the United Nations, mandating that Mexican-born defendants like Medellin are given the right to consult with the Mexican government upon their arrest and that his, and the convictions of 50 other Mexicans on death row in American, must be reviewed. That right comes as a result of a treaty, the Vienna Convention, to which the United States is a signatory. 

In its unsigned opinion, the court’s majority said Congress had had more than enough time to implement the court’s 2004 decision. It also, interestingly, pointed to the lack of objection to Medellin’s execution by the Justice Department, even though the State Department and several members of Congress urged Texas to postpone Medellin’s execution, as a reason to deny the stay.

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Court clears way for Medellin execution

Tuesday evening, the Supreme Court denied Jose Medellin’s request for a stay of execution.

He likely will be executed at any moment this evening.

Four justices dissented from the per curiam decision: Justices John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and David Souter.

Read the order and dissents here: Medellin order

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Mexican Medellin set to die in hours

Lawyers for convicted murderer Jose Ernesto Medellin are awaiting word from the Supreme Court whether his execution in Texas by lethal injection, set for this evening at 7 pm CST, will be stayed.

Last night, they filed their final brief to Justice Antonin Scalia, who can decide whether to issue the stay himself, decide to do nothing, or refer the matter to the entire court.

As noted here earlier, the issue is whether putting Medellin to death will violate his constitutional rights, given that Texas has been ordered by an international court at the United Nations to review the circumstances of his conviction and sentence. An effort is underway in Congress to craft legislation responding to that court’s order.

But Texas has never recognized the international court’s authority and its view found support in the Supreme Court last term.  The International Court of Justice ruled that Texas had violated a treaty known as the Vienna Convention, which requires that foreign nationals arrested in a signatory country be given the right to meet with officials from their representative consulate. That was not done in Medellin’s case. 

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Medellin asks Court to stay execution

Lawyers for convicted Texas murderer Jose Medellin filed an emergency application with the Supreme Court Friday in an attempt to stave off his execution, scheduled for Aug. 5. 

The application was made to Justice Antonin Scalia, who oversees death penalty appeals from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

As Writ Large noted earlier in the week, the U.S. government has been attempting to convince Texas officials to delay Medellin’s execution until it can satisfy obligations arising from a judgment by the International Court of Justice that Medellin and 50 other Mexican-born defendants on Death Row in America were denied the opportunity to consult with the Mexican government prior to their convictions and sentences.

The application filed Friday says:

There is no dispute that if Texas executes Mr. Medellin in these circumstances, Texas would cause the United States irreparably to breach treaty commitments made on behalf of the United States as a whole and thereby compromise U.S interests that both this Court and the President have described as compelling.

The Vienna Convention, to which the U.S. is a party, requires that foreign nationals arrested in a signatory country be given the right to meet with officials from their representative consulate. That was not done in Medellin’s case.  Mexico complained to the International Court of Justice, an adjudicatory arm of the United Nations. 

Last term, the Supreme Court ruled that President Bush had overstepped his executive authority in ordering Texas officials to comply with the international court directive that Medellin’s death sentence and those of the other 50 Mexican nationals be independently reviewed. Efforts are now underway in Congress to adopt legislation that would provide a mechanism for those reviews. 

Medillin’s lawyers are also asking for the Court to take the case up again, this time to determine whether Medellin’s constitutional rights will be violated if he is executed before Congress has a chance to pass legislation determining how the U.S. can comply with the requirements of the international court’s ruling.

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John Roberts: No health info


"Live right and you could end up like me!"

"Live right and you could end up like me!"

It was a year ago that reports surfaced from Maine that Chief Justice John Roberts had suffered some sort of seizure at his summer home.

This week, Tony Mauro, the skilled Supreme Court correspondent for Legal Times, attempted to discover the state of the chief justice’s health, sending him a series of writen questions about whether Roberts, 53, had altered his lifestyle in the wake of the seizure and whether he was taking medications?

His reply? “No comment.”

This isn’t new. When it comes to health issues, Supreme Court justices resemble nothing less than the Soviet Politburo. It may be because of tradition. Or it may be because they can. Or it may be because, as in the case of the Politburo, any suggestion of failing health touches off a surge of speculation about a justice leaving the bench.

Still, the Supreme Court is the third branch of government and Roberts oversees the workings of not only the court but the entire federal judiciary.

To David Garrow, a distinguished Supreme Court scholar and a professor at Cambridge, Roberts’ lack of disclosure just isn’t good enough. Garrow told Mauro:

“Given how much public attention his seizure attracted at the time, it ill behooves both the chief justice individually, and the Court as an independent branch of government, to refuse to comment whatsoever about a genuine matter of public concern involving one of the government’s top officials.”

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