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Eph Politics Round-Up

Kudos to Senator Mark Udall ’72 for batting lead-off in the U.S. Senate’s It Gets Better Video. Nice to see Ephs and Jeffs coming together on this (it also features Amherst alum Chris Coons). Of course, one group is conspicuous in its absence from this video …

Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and “conservative legal star” (or at least former star) Judge Jeffrey Sutton ’83 was the decisive vote in upholding the constitutionality of the individual insurance mandate in Obama’s health care law. In so doing, Sutton was the first Republican appointee to rule in the administration’s favor.

Congratulations to Congressman Chris Murphy ’96 for receiving UConn’s (where he attended law school) Graduate of the Last Decade award. Murphy, who has been in the news thanks to his proposed Supreme Court Transparency and Disclosure Act, is off to a tremendous start in his campaign for Senate, leading the fundraising race on the Democratic side.

By the way, if Williams had a “graduate of the last decade” type award, who would the candidates be?


The Confirmation Wars

Kudos to Professor Justin Crowe ’03 for organizing a great campus event tomorrow that ANY aspiring law student should definitely attend, featuring two federal judges from opposite ends of the political spectrum, Stephen Reinhardt and Jeffrey Sutton ’83.  I think the most illuminating campus events tend to involve bringing together people with different perspectives, and it’s especially nice that two of the three people involved in this event are Ephs.

Reinhardt and Sutton don’t agree on much, but I predict they will reach consensus on one item, at least: the politicization of the judicial confirmation process is out of control, especially now that Senators are indefinitely holding up (in unprecedented fashion) the appointment of basically innocuous, highly-confirmable District Court nominees, often as leverage for totally unrelated agendas.  The problem with playing these types of games (in addition to what is fast becoming a serious shortage of judges in certain parts of the country) is that, once one party embraces a new obstruction technique, they can’t credibly complain when they are the party in power and the other party adopts exactly the same approach to blocking their nominees.  So unless something changes, we are headed towards a rapidly escalating downwards spiral in which a functioning judiciary is held hostage to the whims of anonymous members of the legislative branch.


Brunner Burned By Sutton ’83

Circuit Judge Jeffrey S. Sutton ’83 (lots of legal talent in those 3/8 reunion years) of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit wrote the opinion for the en banc court reinstating the district court’s Temporary Restraining Order that requires Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner to provide information on mismatches between voter registration and DMV records.

This is especially important in light of the tip of the iceberg of ACORN’s voter fraud voter registration fraud [edited. Note that I said voter not voting, but regardless, I apologize for my imprecise terminology] being revealed, and may determine the election.

With appeal likely to Justice Stevens (as Circuit Justice for the Sixth Circuit) for a “temporary” stay of the en banc opinion, this may not be the end of this story.  Any “temporary stay” would likely be permanent, as it would be moot after the election, and there is probably not enough time for the entire Court to hear this case in enough time to let the TRO go through.


What do the Hon. Jeffrey Sutton ’83 and Mike Myers have in common?

They both “love gooooooooooooold!”

As Howard Bashman writes:

An opinion in a case captioned 216 Jamaica Avenue v. S & R Playhouse has perhaps a better than average chance at involving erotic entertainment, but alas that proved not to be the case with regard to this decision that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit issued today. Yet the opinion remains of interest because the decision considers the enforceability of a contractual provision, contained in a lease executed in 1911, stating that “[a]ll of said rents shall be paid in gold coin of the United States of the present standard of weight and fineness.” The trial court had held that the provision was unenforceable. But today, in an opinion by Circuit Judge Jeffrey S. Sutton, the Sixth Circuit reaches the opposite conclusion.

Orin Kerr at the Volokh Conspiracy comments as well:

The question, in simplified form: If a 99-year lease signed in 1912 specifies that the lease payments are $35,000 per year, payable “in gold coin of the United States,” can the lessor almost 100 years later demand that the payment be the value of 35,000 gold coins rather than $35,000?

For 90 years, the lessor only demanded payment of the dollars themselves, essentially ignoring the “gold coin” provision. And from 1933 to the 1970s, the “gold coin” clause was unenforceable under federal law thanks to U.S. monetary policy. But in 2006, a new company bought the property and began demanding the value of 35,000 gold coins instead of just $35,000. Does the language of the contract entitle the company to the value of the gold coins rather than just $35,000? In a very interesting opinion, Judge Sutton concludes that it does. Seems pretty persuasive to me, although I don’t know much about the topic.


Guide Dogs and Wheelchairs

Were you reading the New York Times editorial page 5 years ago?

It seems likely that Jeffrey Sutton, a nominee to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati, will be confirmed by the Senate this week. But it is important to recognize why he was selected, and how he fits the Bush administration’s plan for an ideological takeover of the courts. Whichever way the Senate votes on him, it must insist that the administration start selecting judges who do not come with a far-right agenda.

There is no shortage of worthy judicial nominees. Federal courts are filled with district court judges, Republicans and Democrats, who have shown evenhandedness and professionalism, and many would make fine appeals court judges. State courts are overflowing with judges and lawyers known for their excellence, not their politics.

The Bush administration, however, has sought nominees whose main qualification is a commitment to far-right ideology. Mr. Sutton is the latest example. He is an activist for ”federalism,” a euphemism for a rigid states’-rights legal philosophy. Although federalism commands a narrow majority on the Supreme Court, advocates like Mr. Sutton are taking the law in a disturbing direction, depriving minorities, women and the disabled of important rights.

Mr. Sutton argued a landmark disability rights case in the Supreme Court. Patricia Garrett, a nurse at an Alabama state hospital, asserted that her employer fired her because she had breast cancer, violating the Americans With Disabilities Act. Mr. Sutton argued that the act did not protect state employees like Ms. Garrett. His states’-rights argument narrowly won over the court, and deprived millions of state workers of legal protection. He also invoked federalism to urge the court to strike down the Violence Against Women Act. It did so, 5 to 4, dismantling federal protection for sexual assault victims. Mr. Sutton has said that he was only doing his job, and that his concern was building a law practice, not choosing sides. But throughout his career, he has taken on major cases that advance the conservative agenda. He has left little doubt in his public statements that he supports these rulings.

At his confirmation hearing, Mr. Sutton faced protesters with guide dogs and wheelchairs, who were upset about his role in rolling back disability law. Naturally, they urged the Senate to reject him.

Pictures, please! See also.

The Eph connection? Jeff Sutton is class of 1983 and married to Margaret (Southward) Sutton ’84. He is now one of the highest ranking Ephs in the federal judiciary and certainly the most prominent conservative. Questions:

1) What other Ephs have similar positions?

2) Has Sutton issued an interesting opinions recently? We need someone to write about this.


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