Elie Mystal on the Chief Justice

Here is “John Roberts, Silent During The Garland Process, Suddenly Worries About Partisanship.”

An excerpt:

When Mitch McConnell decided that black presidents only get to be president for seven years and refused to hold a hearing on Barack Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, there was only one man in the country who could have stopped him: Chief Justice John Roberts. Roberts could have spoken up. He could have urged the Senate to perform its Constitutional duty. He could have explained how the Senate’s actions were hurting the Court.

Instead, he said nothing.

Chief Justice Roberts Misspells Coeur d’Alene Tribe … a few times

From How Appealing:

Even the Chief Justice of the United States misspells a case name every now and then: As though further proof that everyone’s human were needed, a reader emails to note that in his dissenting opinion issued today, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. has misspelled the “Coeur” in the case name Idaho v. Coeur d’Alene Tribe of Idaho as “Couer” some three times. So, the next time you happen to misspell a case name, remember that you’re in good company.

Top Ten Indian Law Stories of 2010

Based on numbers of hits, and a nice review of the year, here is the First Top Ten Indian Law Stories of the Year:

  1. Wells Fargo v. Lake of the Torches EDC. The effort by the bank to force Lac du Flambeau to pay its obligations had been shut down by the conclusion of a federal court that the trust indenture was a gaming management contract. A Seventh Circuit appeal was briefed and argued, and is pending. Posts are here and here.
  2. Tribal Law and Order Act. Congress finally passed a piece of legislation geared at dealing with a national problem — the incredible rise of violent crime in Indian Country, and most especially violence against Indian women. Top posts are here and here.
  3. Challenges to the PACT Act. Congress’s effort to destroy what remains of Indian country tobacco sales over the internet was initially enjoined, but that injunction was lifted. The cases are now pending in the Second Circuit. Top posts here and here.
  4. Gun Lake Band Casino news. The Gun Lake Band finally began construction on its casino after more than a decade of legal challenges, only to face a difficult financing market. Posts are here and here.
  5. Bay Mills Indian Community opens casino in Vanderbilt, MI on fee land. Would probably be number 1 or 2 if it happened earlier in the year. Posts here and here.
  6. Chief Justice Roberts dissent in North Carolina v. South Carolina. Mountain out of a molehill? Maybe, but still…. Post here.
  7. Bloomberg report on Foxwoods default. Old news, but continuing to be important. Post here.
  8. Elena Kagan Appointment to Supreme Court. Plenty of speculation here on her (lack of an) Indian law record. Top posts here and here.
  9. Supreme Court 2010 October Term Preview. Here.
  10. Possible Keith Harper Appointment to Tenth Circuit. Here.

Honorable mentions include the indictment of former Sault Ste. Marie tribal official Fred Paquin; Walter Echohawk’s new book; federal court challenges to consecutive sentences by tribal courts; the Saginaw Chippewa reservation boundaries settlement, and the passing of Phil Frickey.

Update (2:30 PM): Obviously, as Alex Skibine noted in the comments section, the Cobell settlement was a huge story for the year, while probably happening too late in the year to generate enough hits to make the top ten list. Same goes for President Obama’s announcement of support for the UN DRIP.

Rosen: Is Chief Justice Roberts a Radical?

From the New Republic:

Last month, the Supreme Court handed down its most polarizing decision since Bush v. Gore. The 5-4 ruling in Citizens United v.Federal Election Commission called into question decades of federal campaign finance law and Supreme Court precedents by finding that corporations have a First Amendment right to spend as much money as they want on election campaigns, as long as they don’t consult the candidates. It was precisely the kind of divisive and unnecessarily sweeping opinion that Chief Justice John Roberts had once pledged to avoid.

In 2006, at the end of his first term on the Court, Roberts told me and others that he was concerned that his colleagues, in issuing 5-4 opinions divided along predictable lines, were acting more like law professors than members of a collegial court. His goal, he said, was to persuade his fellow justices to converge around narrow, unanimous opinions, as his greatest predecessor, John Marshall, had done. Roberts spoke about the need for justices to show humility when dealing with the First Amendment, adding that, unlike professors writing law review articles, judges should think more about their institutional role. “Yes, you may have another great idea about how to look at the First Amendment,” he said, “but, if you don’t need to share it to decide this case, then why are you doing it? And what are the consequences of that going to be?”

Since then, Roberts has presided over some narrow, unanimous (or nearly unanimous) rulings and some bitterly divisive ones. And so, it’s been hard to tell how seriously he is taking his pledge to lead the Court toward less polarizing decisions. Then came Citizens United, by far the clearest test of Roberts’s vision. There were any number of ways he could have persuaded his colleagues to rule narrowly; but Roberts rejected these options. He deputized Anthony Kennedy to write one of his characteristically grandiose decisions, challenging the president and Congress at a moment of financial crisis when the influence of money in politics–Louis Brandeis called it “our financial oligarchy”–is the most pressing question of the day. The result was a ruling so inflammatory that the president (appropriately) criticized it during his State of the Union address. Continue reading

New Yorker Article on Chief Justice Roberts

From the New Yorker (an excerpt):

Roberts’s hard-edged performance at oral argument offers more than just a rhetorical contrast to the rendering of himself that he presented at his confirmation hearing. “Judges are like umpires,” Roberts said at the time. “Umpires don’t make the rules. They apply them. The role of an umpire and a judge is critical. They make sure everybody plays by the rules. But it is a limited role. Nobody ever went to a ballgame to see the umpire.” His jurisprudence as Chief Justice, Roberts said, would be characterized by “modesty and humility.” After four years on the Court, however, Roberts’s record is not that of a humble moderate but, rather, that of a doctrinaire conservative. The kind of humility that Roberts favors reflects a view that the Court should almost always defer to the existing power relationships in society. In every major case since he became the nation’s seventeenth Chief Justice, Roberts has sided with the prosecution over the defendant, the state over the condemned, the executive branch over the legislative, and the corporate defendant over the individual plaintiff. Even more than Scalia, who has embodied judicial conservatism during a generation of service on the Supreme Court, Roberts has served the interests, and reflected the values, of the contemporary Republican Party.

Supreme Court Justices Keep Citing Cases Roberts And Alito Are Too Young To Remember

From the Onion:

Although three years have passed since both men joined the court, Chief Justice John Roberts, 54, and Associate Justice Samuel Alito, 59, said they still feel foolish whenever more senior justices refer to cases decided “way before” they joined the court. “One time—one time—I asked what World-Wide Volkswagen v. Woodson was, and Stevens goes off on this tear about me still being in diapers when Earl Warren was inventing Miranda rights,” Alito said of the 88-year-old justice appointed by President Gerald Ford. “God, sorry I didn’t get my law degree before World War I, geez.” According to court clerks, the two younger justices occasionally get so frustrated with the constant teasing that they take a bus to go spend time with their friends in the 9th Circuit.

Gun Lake Band Moves to Vacate Stay

The Gun Lake Band has filed an application to Chief Justice Roberts to vacate the stay issued by the D.C. Circuit preventing the Secretary from taking its Shelbyville, Michigan parcel into trust for gaming purposes. Here is the docket sheet so far.