Thursday, June 29, 2006

No go for Gitmo tribunals

In it's last opinion of the October 2005 term the Supreme Court put a stop to the Guantanamo Military Commissions trials -usually called "tribunals", but at GTMO that term is reserved for the proceedings where a detainee's status as "enemy combatant" is determined. For an indepth explanation of the court's opinion go here.

The sketch at top shows Justice Stevens delivering the opinion from the bench. In the foreground are Hamdan's two attorneys: Cmdr Charles Swift who represented Hamdan before the Military Commissions, and Neal Katyal who argued his case before the Supreme Court.

The other two sketches are of Hamdan's appearance at the Military Commission in Guantanamo in August 2004.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Court muddies Clean Water

In a plurality opinion the U.S. Supreme Court today narrowly ruled in favor of two Michigan landowners, John Rapanos and June Carabell, whose attempts to develop wetlands had been restricted by the Clean Water Act.

At issue was whether the act covers channels through which water flows only occasionally, and the definition of words like "navigable", "tributary" and "wetland".

Justice Scalia -on the left in my sketch- delivered an opinion sharply critical of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He said "the Corps has stretched the term 'waters of the United States' beyond parody." He was joined in his opinion by Chief Justice Roberts and by Justices Thomas and Alito.

Supplying the fifth vote was Justice Kennedy -center figure in sketch- who announced his own opinion from the bench that, while concurring in the judgement suggested that on remand the lower courts may in fact find a connection between these wetlands and navigable waterways that would reaffirm jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act.

Justice Stevens -on the right in sketch- delivered a no longer rare dissent from the bench.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Executive v Legislative

When, on May 20, FBI agents executed a search warrant on the congressional office of Rep. William J. Jefferson the stage was set for a showdown between two branches of government.

The lawyer for the House of Representatives argued in court today that the search was unconstitutional because it took place in violation of Speech and Debate clause.

The Justice Department attorney replied that the government was not after legislative records, but was collecting evidence of bribery using a "legally executed search warrant".

Judge Thomas Hogan, the same judge who signed the search warrant, did not rule today, but at one point said from the bench that he believed the Speech and Debate clause was not "a hide and conceal clause".

The sketch shows Congressman Jefferson's attorney, Robert Trout, arguing before Judge Hogan.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Where's Jack?

Closing arguments were made to the jury today in the trial of David Safavian, the former OMB official accused of lying to investigators in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. The trial was expected to draw quite a bit of media attention, but when it became apparent that neither side would be calling Abramoff to the witness stand interest quickly dwindled.

In exchange for free meals and a golf trip to Scotland, prosecutor Nathaniel Edmonds told the jury, Safavian provided Abramoff with inside information on government properties such as the Old Post Office that Abramoff hoped to convert into an hotel.

"Where's Jack?" responded Safavian's attorney, Barbara Van Gelder. "If the government does not call Jack Abramoff they have not met their burden."