Monday, September 10, 2007

Tom Goldstein: Bloodbath & Beyond: The Coming Supreme Court Term

Columbia ACS Events Chair Quinn Arnsten reports on Tom Goldstein's visit to CLS:

"Tom Goldstein is the head of Akin Gump's Supreme Court practice and one of the foremost Supreme Court litigators in the country. He also runs SCOTUSblog.com which is an interesting blog that covers the day-to-day happenings of the Supreme Court.

"Right now, Mr. Goldstein is working on a second amendment case that will be going before the Supreme Court this term; it should be one of the most interesting cases they hear, so keep a look out. The D.C. Court of Appeals recently overturned D.C. gun legislation on the ground that it violated the 2nd Amendment.

"According to Mr. Goldstein, the current court is very conservative. Last term most of the close cases were decided 5-4 on ideological grounds. This fact has been used to rally progressives against republicans and created a loud cry for a democratic president.

"First, Mr. Goldstein discussed his personal background, outlining his experiences as a clerk and his early pro bono work in the Supreme Court. As a piece of professional advice, Mr. Goldstein noted that there is often a small circle of really smart people in any field; it is important to know and be cordial with them.

"Then, he moved on to discuss the recently elapsed term. Last year the court heard 72 cases—this is not very many for a Supreme Court term. Right now it is Justice Kennedy’s world and we just live in it. In every 5-4 case Kennedy was in the majority. In 70 out of 72 cases Kennedy was in the majority. This is extraordinary.

"A side note: most Supreme Court cases are decided on the briefs. Thus, oral advocacy isn’t really that important. However, to get to the position where you will do Supreme Court litigation you need to be a great oral advocate.

"Returning to the term, the Supreme Court treated business very kindly. The chamber of commerce won every case: “they had the best week ever for 52 weeks in a row.” Ledbetter is a case that clearly demonstrates this.

"The school desegregation cases from last term demonstrate the schism between liberals and conservatives on this issue. The two sides come nowhere near seeing where the other side is coming from. The plurality opinion took a completely unrealistic approach to what is feasible for elementary school admissions.

"Finally, Mr. Goldstein offered a brief look at exciting issues pending for the upcoming term, including gun control, Guantanamo Bay, the sentencing of a convicted child rapist, child pornography, and the disparity in sentences for crimes involving crack versus those involving cocaine.

"Goldstein predicts that the court will probably decide a number of these cases with opinions amenable to liberals. This will make it appear as though the court is shifting. However, this is not the case and it just happens that there is a freak set of cases this term.

"Goldstein's bottom line: the Supreme Court will act as a mobilizer for the right in the upcoming election. This is because the left will have won the majority of cases from the previous term."

Columbia ACS would like to sincerely thank Tom Goldstein for his candid and interesting remarks as well as his legal and advocacy work.

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