With the final arguments of the Supreme Court term completed on Wednesday, Georgetown Law on Thursday held its traditional reception to thank participants in its moot court program and to recognize a special guest.
The honoree this year was Jeffrey Minear, the counselor to Chief Justice John Roberts. And the reception brought together Roberts, Justice Elena Kagan, members of the U.S. solicitor general’s office, a couple of federal appeals court judges, and numerous specialists of the Supreme Court bar, not to mention invited law students and their more casually dressed classmates who slipped in to grab an hors d’oeuvre or a selfie with a justice.
Remarks at the event shed light on the wide range of non-judicial activities at the court, especially the many extra duties of the chief justice.
Deputy Solicitor General Edwin Kneedler noted some of these roles, including overseeing the Judicial Conference of the United States, serving on the board of regents and as chancellor of the Smithsonian Institution, and welcoming foreign judicial delegations.
Minear, who has been counselor to the chief justice since 2006, has been vital to helping Roberts fulfill those duties, Kneedler said, all the time displaying “great discretion and modesty.”
“He is, in short, a terrific ambassador of the court” to the bar and the public, Kneedler said.
Many people probably know little or nothing about Minear or his job, which is described in an act of Congress as “performing such duties as may be assigned to him by the chief justice,” Kneedler said.
When Roberts took the lectern, he added even more about the variety of tasks filled by his counselor. But that was only after the chief justice alluded to this week’s attention-getting development in the courtroom—the interruption of oral argument on Tuesday by the ringing of Justice Stephen Breyer’s digital device.
“First of all, I’d like to remind everyone to please turn off your cellphones,” Roberts said, drawing hearty laughs.
He then added to Kneedler’s description of Minear’s successful 21-year career in the solicitor general’s office, where Minear specialized in environmental, Indian, and original jurisdiction cases involving the states as parties, before taking the counselor’s job.
Roberts noted that he and Minear were once on opposite sides of an original jurisdiction case between Alaska and the United States that brought them together on a weeklong fact-finding mission on a fisheries boat in Glacier Bay, along with the case’s special master.
“You really do get to know someone well when you are in close quarters on a fisheries vessel for a week,” the chief justice said. Minear won the case, though Roberts noted that he was no longer involved as a lawyer representing Alaska by the time the case was argued and decided in the Supreme Court.
Roberts said Minear is charge of the court’s budget, has revitalized the Supreme Court Fellows program, and serves as a liaison to other branches of the government. The counselor had to lead the court through many planning issues after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, as well as, more recently, smoothing new Justice Neil Gorsuch’s arrival at the court.
Helping the chief justice with his Smithsonian responsibilities alone, Roberts said, is practically a full-time job.
And, “a week doesn’t go by when we don’t have a foreign delegation visiting the court, whether it is judicial or otherwise,” Roberts said. “The court really is a mecca for judiciaries around the world.”
(Just last week, several members of the European Court of Justice were in the audience for an oral argument.)
The chief justice concluded with another quip, saying Minear carries out all his duties while maintaining a focus on his main responsibility, “which is making sure that I get the credit.”
Minear is sometimes seen in the courtroom, taking in an oral argument. And TV viewers may have unknowingly caught a glimpse of him, because he typically accompanies the justices at State of the Union addresses and inaugurations (as do the marshal and clerk of the court).
But Minear himself seems fine with staying outside the spotlight. In brief remarks at the reception, he heaped praise on Georgetown’s Supreme Court Institute for helping improve arguments in the court itself. (The institute allows one side or the other in each of the granted cases to conduct moot court arguments before an experienced panel of lawyers.)
Minear lauded the specialty Supreme Court bar, and he drew attention to Roberts as someone whose kindness, decency and sense of humor Minear gets to experience closer than most.
The speakers had described Minear’s love of annual kayaking and camping trips to Alaska with his wife, Robin. (The institute presented him with a stuffed bear and a picture of Minear and Roberts, with a grizzly bear Photoshopped in the middle.)
Minear said that even though he and his wife often set ambitious distance goals for their kayaking trips, “one thing I have learned on these trips is it is always worthwhile to look back at where you came from.”
“That’s what I would encourage all of you to do,” he said. “Look back at how far we have all come along together in the past few decades. Some of you, just the past few years. It’s a great journey.”
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The petition of the day is:Gill v. Whitford 16-1161
Issues: (1) Whether the district court violated Vieth v. Jubelirer when it held that it had the authority to entertain a statewide challenge to Wisconsin’s redistricting plan, instead of requiring a district-by-district analysis; (2) whether the district court violated Vieth when it held that Wisconsin’s redistricting plan was an impermissible partisan gerrymander, even though it was undisputed that the plan complies with traditional redistricting principles; (3) whether the district court violated Vieth by adopting a watered-down version of the partisan-gerrymandering test employed by the plurality in Davis v. Bandemer; (4) whether the defendants are entitled, at a minimum, to present additional evidence showing that they would have prevailed under the district court’s test, which the court announced only after the record had closed; and (5) whether partisan-gerrymandering claims are justiciable.
“The 2017 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reflects a world in which attacks on the media have become commonplace and strongmen are on the rise. We have reached the age of post-truth, propaganda, and suppression of freedoms – especially in democracies…RSF’s latest World Press Freedom Index highlights the danger of a tipping point in the state of media freedom, especially in leading democratic countries. (Read our analysis entitled Journalism weakened by democracy’s erosion.) Democracies began falling in the Index in preceding years and now, more than ever, nothing seems to be checking that fall. The obsession with surveillance and violations of the right to the confidentiality of sources have contributed to the continuing decline of many countries previously regarded as virtuous. This includes the United States (down 2 places at 43rd), the United Kingdom (down 2 at 40th), Chile (down 2 at 33rd), and New Zealand (down 8 at 13th)…”
Barbara Fister, April 26, 2017 – “Of all of our cultural institutions, the public library is remarkable. There are few tax-supported services that are used by people of all ages, classes, races, and religions. I can’t think of any public institutions (except perhaps parks) that are as well-loved and widely used as libraries. Nobody has suggested that tax dollars be used for vouchers to support the development of private libraries or that we shouldn’t trust those “government” libraries. Even though the recession following the 2008 crash has led to reduced staff and hours in American libraries, threats of closure are generally met with vigorous community resistance. Visits and check-outs are up significantly over the past ten years, though it has decreased a bit in recent years. Reduced funding seems to be a factor, though the high point was 2009; library use parallels unemployment figures – low unemployment often means fewer people use public libraries. A for-profit company that claims to run libraries more cheaply than local governments currently has contracts to manage only sixteen of over 9,000 public library systems in the U.S. Few public institutions have been so impervious to privatization…”
“When people talk about addiction, the first thing that comes to mind are illegal drugs, alcohol and tobacco. But in the mobile era, behavioral addiction is much more prevalent and pervasive — and the culprit is the ubiquitous smartphone. Adam Alter, a marketing and psychology professor at New York University, says it’s an addiction by design — and one that’s insidiously hard to break. In his new book, Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked, he explains how humans are hardwired for addiction and offers suggestions on how to break the habit. He discussed his findings on the Knowledge@Wharton show, which airs on SiriusXM channel 111.”
Yale 360 Environment: “A survey of 12,000 adults and children in the United States has shown that many people have lost a close connection with nature, although a wide cross-section of respondents expressed a desire to close that gap. The study, conducted by the public relations and marketing firm DJ Case and Associates in conjunction with state and federal wildlife and park agencies, underlines what many people have intuitively known for years: that the increasing use of computers, smart phones, televisions, and other technology, coupled with a growing movement from rural areas, is pulling many Americans away from the natural world. “It is increasingly normal to spend little time outside,” the report states. The study, The Nature of Americans National Report, found that more than half of adults reported spending five hours or less in nature each week, and being satisfied with this small amount of time spent outdoors. Parents of children 8 to 12 years old said that their children spend three times as many hours with computers and televisions each week as they do playing outside….”
Success of decades-long federal program to clean up Chesapeake Bay threatened by EPA $73M funding cut
Yale Environment 360 – “President Donald Trump’s first budget would eliminate all of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s $73 million in annual funding for restoring Chesapeake Bay. It is a radical break with decades of federal policy that ironically comes just when investment in the nation’s largest estuary appears to be paying off. “After decades the bay is finally turning around,” says Walter Boynton, a University of Maryland researcher. “Time to double down, build on the momentum, spend more, not less.” Boynton has been studying the bay since early signs of decline 45 years ago mobilized the likes of U.S. Senator Charles Mathias, EPA Administrator Russell Train, Interior Secretary Rogers Morton, and community leader Arthur Sherwood, who started the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. All were Republicans, Boynton notes.“Now we have robust science that tells us we are slowly but surely succeeding,” he says. “How cool for [Trump]to seize on this and say, ‘We’ve taken one of the world’s most productive ecosystems, that was just a mess, and made it great again. Huge victory.’” The reality is far grimmer. Trump’s budget would zero out direct EPA support for the Chesapeake restoration that began in 1983, and for similar projects in other world-class water resources from the Great Lakes to Puget Sound. This is a break with federal priorities that stretch back to President Ronald Reagan, who in 1984 declared the bay a “national treasure…”
Lemley, Mark A. and Laupheimer, Madeleine and Yoon, James, Recent Developments in Patent Law (Spring 2017) (April 27, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2959553
“This paper summarizes the significant developments in patent law in the twelve months ending in April 2017. “
ADL (Anti-Defamation League) Report: “Anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. surged more than one-third in 2016 and have jumped 86 percent in the first quarter of 2017, according to new data from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). In its annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents, ADL reports that there has been a massive increase in the amount of harassment of American Jews, particularly since November, and a doubling in the amount of anti-Semitic bullying and vandalism at non-denominational K-12 grade schools. In 2016, there was a 34 percent year-over-year increase in incidents – assaults, vandalism, and harassment — with a total of 1,266 acts targeting Jews and Jewish institutions. Nearly 30 percent of these incidents (369) occurred in November and December. The surge has continued during the first three months of 2017, with preliminary reports of another 541 incidents, putting this year on pace for more than 2,000 incidents. Americans of all faiths have felt the increase and in a poll ADL released earlier this month a majority said they are concerned about violence in the U.S. directed at Jews…”
“During the long saga of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan – an ongoing, multilayered disaster that exposed about 100,000 residents to harmful contaminants and lead and left them even as of early 2017 advised to drink filtered or bottled water – local and regional audiences used online search engines as a way to both follow the news and understand its impact on public and personal health. A new Pew Research Center study, based on anonymized Google search data from Jan. 5, 2014, through July 2, 2016, delves into the kinds of searches that were most prevalent as a proxy for public interest, concerns and intentions. The study also tracks the way search activity ebbed and flowed alongside real world events and their associated news coverage. The study begins in 2014, when officials switched the source of municipal drinking water from the Detroit city water system to the Flint River. The study period covers ensuing events that included bacteria-related “boil water” advisories, studies showing elevated lead levels in children’s blood and tap water samples, government-issued lead warnings, bottled-water distribution, declarations of emergency, the filing of criminal charges, a Democratic presidential candidate debate in Flint and a visit to the city by President Barack Obama. The data, based on nearly 2,700 different search terms associated with the crisis, reveal that residents of Flint were searching for information about their water before the government recognized the contamination and before local and regional news media coverage intensified beyond a handful of stories related to the initial switch of the water supply. And, while news was the first type of information people searched for, questions about personal and public health implications soon came to the forefront. The politics of the water crisis – which involved the governor of Michigan, the city of Flint and several agencies – did not resonate as a local search topic until Obama reacted, when the story spread nationally…”
“A downloadable file containing estimates of the resident U.S. population by single year of age and sex is available on the Population and Housing Unit Estimates webpage at <www.census.gov/programs-surveys/popest.html>. In the coming months, the U.S. Census Bureau will release 2016 population estimates for cities and towns, as well as national, state and county population estimates by age, sex, race and Hispanic origin.”
U.S. Manufacturing: Federal Programs Reported Providing Support and Addressing Trends, GAO-17-240: Published: Mar 28, 2017. Publicly Released: Apr 27, 2017.
“GAO identified 58 programs in 11 federal agencies that reported providing support to U.S. manufacturing by fostering innovation through research and development, assisting with trade in the global marketplace, helping job seekers enhance skills and obtain employment, and providing general financing or business assistance. Twenty-one of these programs reported using all of their obligations in fiscal year 2015 to support U.S. manufacturing. For these 21 programs, obligations of each program ranged from $750,000 to $204 million in fiscal year 2015, the most recent full year of data. Twenty-six other programs reported using funding to support manufacturing—in addition to other sectors—and provided ranges of estimates for the obligations directly supporting manufacturing. The remaining 11 programs either did not provide an estimate of their support to manufacturing or reported no program obligations in fiscal year 2015. GAO also identified nine tax expenditures that can provide benefits to manufacturers, amounting to billions of dollars in incentives for both the manufacturing sector and other sectors of the economy.
Most (51) of the 58 programs reported addressing trends toward an increase in advanced manufacturing (e.g. activities using automation, software, or cutting edge materials), the need for a higher-skilled workforce, and more global trade competition for U.S. manufacturers by providing funds and resources, sharing information, and promoting coordination. Survey responses from the 58 programs indicated that more than two-thirds of them are addressing the shift toward advanced manufacturing, approximately half are taking steps to address increased globalization and competition, and fewer than half are addressing the need for a higher skilled workforce.
Forty-four of the 58 programs reported having performance goals or measures related to the support of manufacturing, but agencies that comprise an interagency group have not identified the information they will collect from agencies and use to report progress in supporting advanced manufacturing. Ten of the 11 agencies that administer programs GAO reviewed participate in a federal interagency initiative to coordinate activities and report on progress in the area of advanced manufacturing. The Subcommittee on Advanced Manufacturing—co-chaired by the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and that coordinates advanced manufacturing efforts—supports the updating and reporting on a National Strategic Plan for Advanced Manufacturing. The plan, which was published in 2012, identifies objectives and potential measures that could be used to assess progress. The subcommittee plans to report in 2018 on progress in achieving the strategic plan’s objectives, as required by the Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation Act of 2014. However, OSTP has not worked with the subcommittee member agencies to identify the information needed to report progress in achieving the strategic objectives, such as what measures will be used. While subcommittee officials said the subcommittee does not provide top-down direction to federal agencies on how to measure effectiveness, specifying the information it will collect from federal agencies would better position it to report consistent and comprehensive information on the progress in achieving the plan’s objectives.”
University of California IT Workers Replaced By Offshore Outsourcing Firm To File Discrimination Lawsuit
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Today, Sunlight joins a diverse coalition of government transparency, data innovation, scientific groups and environment defense advocates in supporting new bipartisan bill in Congress to preserve public access to public data.
The Preserving Data in Government Act speaks to a matter of of heightened public interest in the spring 2017, as open government data has been removed from the Internet during the Trump administration. The bill would require federal agencies to preserve public access to data sets and prevent the removal of those data sets from the Internet without sufficient public notice. You can read the full text of the The Preserving Data in Government Act online.
Why introduce this bill now?
Here’s what the two Congressmen who drafted and sponsored it say:
“Research data that has been collected using taxpayer dollars should be publicly accessible and easily searchable,” said U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), in a statement.
“Small businesses and individuals rely on federally produced information for everything from long-term planning to innovative product development to help grow their companies and create jobs. I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation with Senator Gardner that will help ensure that taxpayer-funded data remains publicly and openly available for innovators to use as they work to solve our country’s toughest challenges.”
“Once data has been published and made available to the public, it should remain available to the public,” said U.S. Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO), in a statement.
“Whether it’s a technology entrepreneur working on their next innovation or a retailer seeking better weather forecasting to help organize shipments, data is utilized to achieve numerous goals and plays a critical role in improving processes and our daily lives. I’m proud to work with Senator Peters on legislation that ensures government data remains readily accessible in an appropriate manner and that we continue to prioritize government transparency.”
We’re glad to see these Senators championing these ideas and principles. They’re not alone. The Center for Data Innovation at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and the Natural Resources Defense Council are all standing up for certainty about public access to open government data.
As we told the office of Senator Peters, democracies depend upon citizens being fully informed about not only how their tax dollars are spent but the performance of government programs and the products created by scientific, regulatory and consumer protections agencies.
We were honored to be asked for our feedback on the legislation when they began drafting it this spring and are hopeful that the result will be a useful catalyst for public debate about public access to public assets.
In the 21st century, the Internet provides an unprecedented platform to publish government data on all these areas and more, enhancing transparency and accountability.
In 2017, it’s clear that we can’t take hard-won progress quality, integrity or openness for granted. At a time when public access to public information online has become shadowed in doubt by reduced disclosure and increased secrecy, this legislation provides a vehicle to preserve and defend the knowledge commons that has grown over the past decades online.
Sunlight supports this bill for the same reason we have advocated for the Public Online Information Act, the DATA Act, and the reforms to the Freedom of Information Act we celebrated last summer: they not only improve public’s access to data online, but create useful incentives and worthy principles for career civil servants and political appointees to be good stewards of our country’s knowledge.
The updates to the U.S. Code that they mandate will enable our government to build a better foundation for the digital architecture of access and participation open data represents in this young century.
We hope the United States Congress takes the Preserving Data in Government Act and the OPEN Government Data Act up and passes them into law.
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