kottke.org posts about Supreme Court

A tale of two bank robbers, or The Clerk and the PauperAug 26 2013

Today is a weird day for human-interest stories about bank robbers.

The New York Times highlights Shon R. Hopwood, a former bank robber who studied law in prison, successfully petitioned on behalf of another prisoner in a Supreme Court case his team won 9-0, and will soon be a clerk for the DC circuit federal appeals court, "generally considered the second most important court in the nation, after the Supreme Court":

The judge Mr. Hopwood worked for last summer said he deserved his 147-month sentence. "He used a weapon in some of those robberies, and that justified a very heavy hit," said Judge John C. Coughenour of Federal District Court in Seattle. "But everybody we sentence has the potential to turn their life around."

Meanwhile, one state south in Oregon:

Authorities in Oregon say a homeless man who held up a bank for $1 was just looking for a way to go to jail so he could receive free health care.

According to Clackamas County sheriff's deputies, 50-year-old Tim Alsip entered a Bank of America in Southeast Portland last Friday morning and handed the teller a note that read, "This is a holdup. Give me a dollar."

I know he's a busy man, but it would be remarkable if Mr. Hopwood could drive from Seattle to Portland and find a way to help Mr. Alsip be relegated to an appropriate facility.

Supreme Court: human genes not patentableJun 13 2013

In a unanimous decision, the US Supreme Court ruled today that human genes cannot be patented.

The case involved Myriad Genetics Inc., which holds patents related to two genes, known as BRCA1 and BRCA2, that can indicate whether a woman has a heightened risk of developing breast cancer or ovarian cancer.

Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the court, said the genes Myriad isolated are products of nature, which aren't eligible for patents.

The high court's ruling was a win for a coalition of cancer patients, medical groups and geneticists who filed a lawsuit in 2009 challenging Myriad's patents. Thanks to those patents, the Salt Lake City company has been the exclusive U.S. commercial provider of genetic tests for breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

The challengers argued the patents have allowed Myriad to dictate the type and terms of genetic screening available for the diseases, while also dissuading research by other laboratories.

Fuck yes. A defect in her BRCA1 gene is what caused Angelina Jolie to recently have a preventive double mastectomy. (via @tylercowen)

Sandra Day O'Connor's Bush vs. Gore mistakeMay 08 2013

Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor now admits that taking on the Bush vs Gore case in 2000 was probably a mistake.

"It took the case and decided it at a time when it was still a big election issue," O'Connor said during a talk with the Chicago Tribune's Editorial Board on Friday. "Maybe the court should have said, 'We're not going to take it, goodbye.'"

The case, she said, "stirred up the public" and "gave the court a less than perfect reputation."

"Obviously the court did reach a decision and thought it had to reach a decision," she said. "It turned out the election authorities in Florida hadn't done a real good job there and kind of messed it up. And probably the Supreme Court added to the problem at the end of the day."

[Hair tearing-out noise]

How CNN and Fox screwed up the Supreme Court Obamacare decisionJul 09 2012

You may not believe me, but this postmortem by SCOTUSblog's Tom Goldstein of how the media covered the Supreme Court's decision regarding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is super fascinating. It's impeccably sourced, straighforward, and surprisingly compelling.

The Court's own technical staff prepares to load the opinion on to the Court's website. In years past, the Court would have emailed copies of the decision to the Solicitor General and the parties' lawyers once it was announced. But now it relies only on its website, where opinions are released approximately two minutes later. The week before, the Court declined our request that it distribute this opinion to the press by email; it has complete faith in the exceptional effort it has made to ensure that the website will not fail.

But it does. At this moment, the website is the subject of perhaps greater demand than any other site on the Internet -- ever. It is the one and only place where anyone in the country not at the building -- including not just the public, but press editors and the White House -- can get the ruling. And millions of people are now on the site anxiously looking for the decision. They multiply the burden of their individual visits many times over -- hitting refresh again, and again, and again. In the face of the crushing demand, the Court cannot publish its own decision.

The opinion will not appear on the website for a half-hour. So everyone in the country not personally at 1 First St., NE in Washington, DC is completely dependent on the press to get the decision right.

Reading it, the thing that struck me most is that these huge media machines still operate mostly on an individual basis. One person read the ruling for CNN, told one person in the control room, and then millions and millions of people heard that (mis)information just a few seconds later on CNN, on Twitter, and even in the Oval Office.

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