SCOTUS book worth a read?

November 24, 2008
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From IL reporter Michael Hoskins:  

As you might expect, we like to read and write here at Indiana Lawyer. Perusing lawsuits, caselaw, court opinions, and legal news in general is all part of the job reporting on the Hoosier legal community, and that leads to checking out legal books and blogs that we might not be writing a story about.

Among the books piled up with bookmarks already inserted mid-point are John Grishman’s “The Summons,” Barack Obama’s “The Audacity of Hope,” John Grogan’s “Marley & Me,” and a couple readings related to my weekly church class. A recent find that’s jumped into that reading pile is The Washington Post’s “Supreme Court in Review 2009,” highlighting 15 of the court’s major cases and decisions from this past year’s term. Those in tune with that docket might recall three Hoosier cases hitting the high court – Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, No. 07-21, that involved Indiana’s voter ID law; U.S. v. Efrain Santos, No. 06-1005, that involved the federal money laundering statute; and Ahmad Edwards v. State of Indiana, No. 07-208, that involved a mentally ill person’s Sixth Amendment right to represent himself at trial.

Only a third of the trio got an in-depth look (Crawford), while the other two – Edwards and Santos – made it into a timeline of the decisions near the book’s end. While those three are the only cases with direct Indiana ties, all the decisions impact our state and federal courts’ decision making and our practicing legal community.

Page 243 is where the Crawford coverage begins; it goes on for 29 pages with majority opinion excerpts, dissent highlights, Washington Post coverage, and some unattributed legal commentary. All involves the 65-page decision from April 28 that didn’t have a clear majority but upheld the state’s voter ID law. The three-page commentary portion includes a rehash of the case, procedural history, and specific passages from the writing justices. Comments are scattered throughout like a note about authoring Justice John Paul Stevens who “worked hard to avoid a 5-4 split to diminish partisanship surrounding the Court’s opinions on electoral issues”; and how one portion of the dissent is “especially scornful” about Indiana’s argument that its own mismanagement of voter ID rolls could lead to rules creating more voter burdens. A concluding comment is how the most curious aspect involves the majority upholding the law and any possible burdens despite its concession that in-person fraud has never been an issue here, and that perhaps the court would have considered differently a more tailored request for relief.

Those promoting this book point out that the Post’s “compelling coverage” puts the decisions into present day context, and also “clarifies and explains how the decisions will affect and impact each of us.” The only issue that bothered me was with the “commentary” portions, which the book introduction describes as “commentary by legal experts” but nowhere lists who those experts might be.

At least the paper’s stories have bylines and we know who the writing justices are. Of course, we could get that from reading the paper and court’s work as it comes out, without having to add another new release to the reading list.
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  1. Just an aside, but regardless of the outcome, I 'm proud of Judge William Hughes. He was the original magistrate on the Home place issue. He ruled for Home Place, and was primaried by Brainard for it. Their tool Poindexter failed to unseat Hughes, who won support for his honesty and courage throughout the county, and he was reelected Judge of Hamilton County's Superior Court. You can still stand for something and survive. Thanks, Judge Hughes!

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  4. This sure is not what most who value good governance consider the Rule of Law to entail: "In a letter dated March 2, which Brizzi forwarded to IBJ, the commission dismissed the grievance “on grounds that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you are guilty of misconduct.”" Yet two month later reasonable cause does exist? (Or is the commission forging ahead, the need for reasonable belief be damned? -- A seeming violation of the Rules of Profession Ethics on the part of the commission) Could the rule of law theory cause one to believe that an explanation is in order? Could it be that Hoosier attorneys live under Imperial Law (which is also a t-word that rhymes with infamy) in which the Platonic guardians can do no wrong and never owe the plebeian class any explanation for their powerful actions. (Might makes it right?) Could this be a case of politics directing the commission, as celebrated IU Mauer Professor (the late) Patrick Baude warned was happening 20 years ago in his controversial (whisteblowing) ethics lecture on a quite similar topic: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1498&context=ilj

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