Thursday, October 16, 2008
John Roberts, Chief Justice, was working the late shift. Reviewing petitions for certiorari. The Court? As high as it gets. No further chance for review. The stakes? For the killers, it could be life or death. For drug pushers, it could mean a chance to fly free like a bird. Or get sent up the river.
Roberts had only been on the job a couple of years, but he already had read hundreds of these petitions. Maybe thousands. Who gets heard, who doesn't -- might as well flip a coin.
He spots a petition about a certain Nathan Dunlap. It's a case brought against Dunlap by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Roberts wants to hear the case. So does one of his buddies on the court, Tony Kennedy. But the others don't go along. How can that happen? He's supposed to be in charge of this joint. He's the Chief. They should follow his lead and vote to hear the case.
Roberts writes a dissent. Tony joins him. Click here to read the dissenting opinion. The legal writing professors discuss it on their secret listserve. We can't tell you what they said. It would break the code of silence. But basically some think it's great, because it makes the law accessible. Others think it's ok, because it was a dissent rather than a majority opinion. And others think it is terrible, and that judges should avoid such writing in opinions. One thing's for sure. Roberts won't get the LWI Golden Pen Award.
Click here to read more about the mixed reviews for Roberts' dissent. And feel free to post your comments here on this blog too.
(mew, who is keeping his day job and not going into writing movie scripts)