28 April 2015

Should the US Do Away With Lifetime Appointment of Federal Judges?

By now, anyone reading this blog should have already heard me say in class that Federal judges in the United States are appointed for life. The actual language in Article III of the U.S. Constitution says that judges "shall hold their offices during good behavior," which has been interpreted to mean as long as they behave and are not removed by the impeachment process, they remain a federal judge. To say that not everyone is enamored with this setup might be a bit of an understatement. Probably since the first controversial issued by the Supreme Court way back when there have been people calling for the terms of the Justices to be limited. Kenneth Jost recently made this argument in a blog post that is well worth the read.

27 April 2015

At Age 92, Judge Finds Balance

For those of you who thought I was joking when I said some federal judges in the United States work into their 90s, check out this very nice piece in the New York times about federal judge Robert Sweet.

25 April 2015

Sentencing Phase

In my Münster class yesterday, we discussed the role of judges. One of the things I pointed out was that in criminal cases, it is the job of the jury to determine guilt, but it is the job of the judge to punish someone found guilty.

However, as I also mentioned, there is one exception to this general rule: capital punishment. The Boston Marathon bomber case offers an example of this. The defendant was recently found guilty of the bombing (actually he had admitted to participating, but was arguing that he was unduly influenced by his older brother), and now it is time to determine whether the state can execute him for the crime. That decision is left to the jury.

22 April 2015

U.S. Chief Justice Called to Jury Duty

Jury duty in the United States is considered to be an obligation of citizenship. If you are called to serve, it is your duty as a citizen to go. However, not everyone is eligible to serve. As I have pointed out or will point out in class, many states refuse to let lawyers serve on a jury. However, not all have this restriction, and when a high public officials, many of whom have law degrees, are called to serve it sometimes generates headlines. The most recent example of this occurred last week when the Chief Justice of the United States was called to jury duty:
John G. Roberts Jr. showed up for jury duty in Rockville like other civic-minded citizens and was being considered for a civil trial in a case involving a car crash. He answered two questions in open court about relatives — noting that his sister in Indiana is a nurse, and his brother-in-law was with Indiana State Police — but none about his own line of work, which would be listed on a questionnaire. He then talked with attorneys and the judge privately at the bench. Roberts was not selected, and left court without comment.
The Washington Post article from which the above quote is taken goes on to note that Justice Kagen was also recently called to duty. She too was not selected to serve, though.

The National Constitution Center has more on why the Chief Justice was eligible to sit on a jury.

19 April 2015

U.S. Supreme Court Asked to Look Abroad for Guidance on Same Sex Marriage

An article with this headline appeared last week in the New York Times. In class I have often pointed out that international law or law from foreign jurisdictions plays little role in American law. But there are exceptions, and there most certainly is no rule against Justices using foreign law as persuasive precedent. In fact, as the Times article points out, the Justices have on occasion used foreign law as a guide, for instance Justice Kennedy wrote in a 2005 opinion concerning the death penalty for juveniles: “The opinion of the world community, while not controlling our outcome, does provide respected and significant confirmation for our own conclusions.”