Celebs at SCOTUS

Celebrities are everywhere—even at the U.S. Supreme Court. Professional athletes, actors and musicians have all popped up at the high court in various roles.

They have appeared as parties, amici, commentators—and one, National Football League player Byron “Whizzer” White, even served as a Supreme Court justice.

A recent amicus brief filed by several professional musicians in a free speech case pending before the high court highlights the impact celebrities can have on Supreme Court matters.

While the involvement of celebrities probably doesn't affect the individual justices, “it draws a lot more public attention to the case that would otherwise be lacking,” Josh Blackman, a professor at South Texas College of Law, Houston, told Bloomberg BNA.

Blackman noted a number of times that high-profile celebrities have been entangled with the high court—from boxing legend Muhammad Ali to musical icon Cher.

These include:

  • Associate Justice Byron White, who was nominated to the Supreme Court in 1962 by President John F. Kennedy. The former NFL halfback retired from the court in 1993.
  • Muhammad Ali, whose draft evasion conviction was overturned by an 8-0 Supreme Court in Clay v. United States (1971).
  • Pro-golfer Casey Martin, who won the right to use a golf cart during PGA tournaments due to a disability in PGA TOUR, Inc. v. Martin (2001).
  • Anna Nicole Smith, whose multimillion dollar estate battle was at the heart of two Supreme Court cases, including Marshall v. Marshall (2006).
  • Cher and Nicole Richie, who were at the heart of two Supreme Court cases regarding the Federal Communications Commission's new policy of sanctioning “fleeting expletives” in FCC v. Fox Television Stations, Inc. (2009).
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), who, in his capacity as Governor of California, initially filed the Supreme Court petition seeking to revive a state law restricting the sale or rental of violent video games to minors. Edmund Gerald “Jerry” Brown Jr. (D) took over as governor of the Golden State by the time the Supreme Court handed down its opinion—deciding against the state on First Amendment grounds—in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Assn. (2011).
  • Robert De Niro, whose starring role in the 1980 film Raging Bull was the subject of a copyright suit in Petrella v. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc. (2014).
  • Susan Sarandon, who publicly called for Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin (R) to stay the execution of Richard Glossip after the Supreme Court refused to halt the execution in Glossip v. Gross (2015).
  • Several former NFL players, who have sued Electronic Arts, the maker of the popular video game Madden NFL, for using their likenesses without their permission in Elec. Arts Inc. v. Davis, No. 15-424.

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