READ THAT BACK: Back in Business Edition

So! Those were the holidays. However and whatever you celebrated, I hope you’re rested, recharged, and ready to face 2018. The Court Reporter certainly is, having taken a nice long break.

But now I’m back (not from outer space), just in time for the Supreme Court to grant cert. in a dozen cases on the last day it can for ones it intends to hear this term without an expedited briefing schedule. This leaves a bunch more hanging in the wind—cases that look like the kind that would interest the court but they haven’t for some reason acted on yet, or that are high profile but bizarre. The court, it is inscrutable.

It is also slow. There will be no opinions in argued cases this week, and there has only been one all term (sounds like Rapid Ruth has a leg up on this year’s race for fastest justice!). According to Empirical SCOTUS, this is the slowest start to a term since at least 1868. That’s…*counting on fingers*…nearly a hundred million years! Why so slow? Hmm. I wonder if there’s anything new about the court this year….

Now that I’ve made this post mostly introductory matter, it’s time to READ THAT BACK.

Baby Steps: Following Chief Justice Roberts’s call in his year-end report, the federal judiciary has formed a working group aimed at addressing “workplace conduct,” including but not limited to sexual harassment. The members include (subscription required) judges and administrators. Notably left off the list, however? Clerks—possibly the group most affected by whatever changes the groups suggests. But a step forward is a step forward. That’s more than can be said for the equal (or equitable) representation of women at oral argument—despite the formidable firepower that they can bring to bear.

Surprise Maneuver: In anticipation of this week’s oral argument about military tribunals, the Volokh Conspiracy, at its new home, previews the case and notes the jurisdictional problems that led the Supreme Court to do something it rarely does: Grant oral argument time to an uninvolved law professor.


  • Ginsburg signals she plans to stay on for a while yet, thank you very much.
  • An article (subscription required) about a law review article about the perils of law professors using Twitter seems pretty navel-gazey to me, but it’s 2018, so.
  • A woman scorned, a ring tossed, and the SCUBA equipment rented to find it. Who said bankruptcy was boring?
  • Surfers in Indiana (subscription required). You read that right. There’s like nine inches of shoreline, and yet.
  • Oral arguments!

And Now…Who’s the Boss?: For the life of me I couldn’t remember the theme song to this show until I saw the thumbnail for the YouTube clip—the rusty, beat-up van—and then it instantly sprang to mind. Well, that, and this.

So anyway, the Supreme Court will actually take on this question, in a way. At trial, Robert McCoy’s attorney—perhaps channeling Clarence Darrow—admitted McCoy’s guilt in the hopes of sparing him the death penalty. Two problems with this strategy: First, it didn’t work. And second, McCoy wanted to claim that he didn’t do it (“it” in this case being triple homicide) and that it was all an elaborate conspiracy and cover-up. His attorney apparently thought this was a non-starter. Louisiana apparently agrees, pointing to a 2004 case where the Supreme Court said it wasn’t an error to admit guilt when the client remained silent on the matter.

Will McCoy’s express wishes make a difference? I guess the Supreme Court will be the boss of that one.

Except that we all know the answer is actually Mona.