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Per curiam: definition of the day

percuriam.jpg A “per curiam” decision is issued in the name of the Court rather than specific justices. Most decisions on the merits by the Supreme Court (and other appellate courts in the US) take the form of one or more opinions signed by individual justices (and joined in by others). Even when such signed opinions are unanimous, they are not termed “per curiam.” “Per curiam” decisions are given that label by the Court itself and tend to be short. Usually, though not always, they deal with issues the Court views as relatively non-controversial.

For examples, see, e.g., Wood v. Bartholomew, 516 U.S. 1 (1995) and Kimberlin v. Quinlin, 515 U.S. 321(1995). However, they are not necessarily unanimous. Indeed, some per curiam decisions are accompanied by dissenting opinions. See, e.g., Bush v. Gore, 531 US 98 (2000).

The top appellate courts of most states (including, e.g., Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina) use the same terminology.

Making the Law Work for Everyone

undprpt.jpgThe United Nations Development Programme‘s Commission on the Legal Empowerment of the Poor recently released the first volume of its final report Making the Law Work for Everyone. The Commission notes that four billion people – the majority of the global population – are excluded from the protection and opportunities provided by the rule of law; and that this exclusion from the rule of law has serious consequences, both for those who are excluded and for society as a whole. The report discusses the Commission’s agenda for legal empowerment for the poor and challenges states to expand their reach to benefit the poor. The Commission is co-chaired by former US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright and Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto. It is the first global initiative to focus specifically on the link between legal exclusion, poverty and law.

Today in Supreme Court history

sanford.jpegToday is the birthday of Edward T. Sanford (1865), who was appointed to the US Supreme Court by President Warren G. Harding after strenuous lobbying efforts by Chief Justice William Howard Taft. The two Justices were sympatico, as Sanford joined with the Chief Justice regularly while they were on the Court and also participated in Taft’s “inner club” of conservative justices who met at Taft’s home on Sunday afternoons. Sanford was still on the Court when he died unexpectedly on the same day as the death of his mentor. His most noted opinion was in the so-called Pocket Veto case, in which he ended a 140-year-old dispute by ruling that the president has 10 calendar, rather than legislative, days to act on a bill before the adjournment of Congress.

kennedya1.jpegJuly 23 is also the birthday of current Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy (1936). Justice Kennedy has been an Associate Justice since 1988, when he was appointed by President Ronald Reagan. He has acted as the Court’s swing vote in many cases, and he has, consequently, held special prominence in many politically charged 5–4 decisions.

Moot: definition of the day

moot.jpeg Because Federal Courts only have constitutional authority to resolve actual disputes (see Case or Controversy) legal actions cannot be brought or continued after the matter at issue has been resolved, leaving no live dispute for a court to resolve. In such a case, the matter is said to be “moot”. For Supreme Court decisions focusing on mootness, see, e.g., Arizonans for Official English v. Arizona, 520 U.S. 43 (1997) and Hicklin v. Orbeck, 437 U.S. 518 (1978). See also Federal courts, Constitutional law

Our favorite quotes: Walter Bagehot

bagehot.jpegOur law very often reminds one of those outskirts of cities where you cannot for a long time tell how the streets come to wind about in so capricious and serpent-like a manner. At last it strikes you that they grew up, house by house, on the devious tracks of the old green lanes; and if you follow on to the existing fields, you may often find the change half complete.

Walter Bagehot (1826–1877), British economist, critic. The English Constitution, ch. 9 (1867).

Pew reports economic divide in internet growth

broadband.jpegA July 2008 study conducted by the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that some 55% of all adult Americans now have a high-speed internet connection at home — up from 47% in early 2007. And, nearly one-third of home broadband users have a premium broadband service that gives them a faster connection to the internet.

But poorer Americans saw no growth in broadband adoption in the past year. 25% of low-income Americans – those whose household incomes are $20,000 annually or less – reported having broadband at home in April 2008, which compares to the 28% figure reported in March 2007. African Americans showed slow growth as well, with 43% saying they had broadband at home in April 2008 versus 40% who said this in March 2007.

Bastille Day

bastilleday.jpegThe storming of the Bastille has been commemorated in France for more than a century. Paris was in a state of high agitation in the early months of the French revolution. On the morning of July 14, 1789 a crowd broke into the Bastille and released the handful of prisoners held there. The anniversary of the storming of the Bastille is seen as a symbol of the uprising of the modern French nation, and of the reconciliation of all the French inside the constitutional monarchy which preceded the First Republic.

Now a national holiday, Bastille Day is celebrated with a mixture of solemn military parades and easygoing dancing and fireworks.

LII does legal information in Philadelphia

wmpenn.jpegTom, Sara and Deborah — half of the LII’s staff — made a day of it yesterday in the City of Brotherly Love. The Jenkins Law Library started off the festivities by hosting a meeting with its staff, the LII, and other area law librarians to talk about providing legal information to an increasingly diverse group of people in an ever-changing environment. Next on the itinerary was the monthly luncheon of the Philadelphia Association of Paralegals, where Tom was the keynote speaker; and, finally, a little gathering at Misconduct Tavern with some of the LII’s stalwart supporters. We all enjoy getting out now and then, right?