: The Blawgraphy
Life of a Law Student, University of Houston Law Center

Please note: I'm no longer updating this particular blog, but keep it around for archival purposes. Visit me at the current blog at

The U.S. Supreme Court 2.0 – SCOTUS Requests a Website Redesign


As noted on SCOTUSblog, the U.S. Supreme Court has submitted a proposal to bring the U.S. Supreme Court Website in-house, from its current home at the Government Printing Office. The proposal itself (.pdf) is quaintly entertaining.

The Court’s current Website at GPO is nine years old.

Pardon me as I clean up the coffee I spit all over my monitor. That’s about 810 people-years.

The system is outdated and must be upgraded to more current technology (both hardware and software) regardless of whether it remains at GPO or is brought into the Court.

You don’t say.

In 2002, the Court deployed an Internet network for web browsing, and in 2004 the Court expanded and upgraded the infrastructure and capacities for web services and Internet-based email.

An Internet network for web browsing…. in 2002… my, my, the l33ts on the Rehnquist court.

Use of the Court’s Website continues to expand. In January 2009, there were 18,765,000 successful “hits” to the site. This is a 100% increase over January 2008. Over the years, as Internet technology has evolved, the public has increasingly sought more web-based information about the Court in a more timely fashion. The Court has determined that it can best meet those requests by moving its Website in-house and integrating it more closely with its other activities. That transfer will enable the Court to better control and manage the Website and to be able to expand the data and services provided by the site more efficiently.

As much as I might like to see what the Supreme Court website would look like under a Carl Malamud-run GPO, this is probably the natural evolution to a Court willing to do more on the web. I welcome SCOTUS 2.0.

Legal Heroes: John Marshall Harlan


The Boston Globe’s Peter S. Canellos has a laudatory piece on the Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan the elder (his son also sat on the Supreme Court) in In 1800s, a rights icon on the bench. The elder Harlan is a hero to me as well, for most of the reasons Canellos cites but also for holding a special place in my heart as an evening student. As I’ve posted previously, for over 20 years Justice Harlan would leave his post at the Supreme Court around 7pm and walk over with another Justice to Columbian University in Washington, D.C. where he taught constitutional Law, domestic relations, commercial law, evidence, torts, and property to the assembled group of law students, most of whom worked as government clerks during the day.

My sense is that the same egalitarian spirit that prompted his famous Plessy dissent, bestowed in Harlan the instinct that there should be no barrier to a legal education for those who possessed the requisite desire, fortitude and potential and that a Supreme Court Justice’s evening was not poorly spent in helping to make that possible.

The Daily Show on Fleeting Expletives: What Not to Swear

The Supreme Court recently took up the case of ‘fleeting expletives’ aka the ‘Bono rule’ in FCC v. Fox Television Stations. It didn’t escape the notice of the Daily Show, which has in the course of it’s typical fare of sharp political satire and outlandish humor, developed the bleeped curse-word to an art form of sorts. Stooping to the occasion, the Daily Show channels their inner George Carlin for what could only charitably be described as a tour de bleeping, a magnificent piece of satire as wickedly self-referential as it is funny and appalling.

Thank goodness the FCC is here to protect us from profanity on the airwaves.

Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, Are Crime Reports a form of Testimony?

The United States Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Argument Preview: Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts this Monday, November 10th. (Watch the Oyez page for audio)

Stanford prof Jeffrey Fisher is arguing for Melendez-Diaz that state forensic laboratory reports prepared for use in criminal prosecutions are ‘testimonial’ evidence, subject to the demands of the Confrontation Clause set forth in Crawford v. Washington, noting that ‘flawed science contributes to a large proportion of wrongful convictions.’

The states case, argued by Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, focuses on the non-testimonial nature of drug analysis certificates “because they merely establish the physical nature of a substance and do not accuse anyone of wrongdoing,” and raises the specter of enormous burdens in countless criminal cases by needlessly requiring live testimony from laboratory technicians if the court adopted Melendez-Diaz’s position.

The court’s decision may well turn on whether or not the Court finds the state of modern forensic science to be as objective as the state says it is or whether, as some have argued, in practice it’s a results oriented, conviction driven body of techniques, not a formal application of the scientific method.

Favorite Line I’ve Read Today

…acknowledging that some judges think legislative history is valid. If you have to use it, Scalia said, “Do it boldly, as though it makes sense.

A remark by Justice Scalia at a road show of sorts with legal writing wunderkind Bryan Garner to promote their book Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges, discussed before briefly on this blog discussed briefly here. via Legal Times

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