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Five Things to Consider Briefly

It’s an odd time of year for Fix the Court. The justices are holed up writing, we’re a month away from financial disclosure releases, and the press is eagerly awaiting opinions, none of which this term are of the Williams v. Pennsylvania or Caperton variety (i.e., on the ethics of judges).

Before the floodgates open (or we get some 9-0 dogs; who knows?), here are five things we want to pass along:

1. The Supreme Court has yet again failed to send its justices to an appropriations hearing on the House side, and we’re not holding out hope in the Senate. (Is it coincidence that the last time they did, they were faced with FTC questions, delivered by Rep. Sanford Bishop, at 49:55, on the court’s opaque recusal practices and lacking ethics rubric?) I got questions in to the House approps hearing with AO Director Jim Duff, via Rep. Matt Cartwright at 27:22, on the progress of the harassment working group, though Duff’s response, that the JWG was still working on a plan, was underwhelming.

2. Speaking of, we’re past May 1and there’s no report from the working group. We hear they’re still scheduling meetings, including one on May 21, but making fixes shouldn’t be this hard or take so long. Here are FTC’s fixes on this, which start by specifically including harassment in the judicial misconduct statute.

3. Switching gears, the Seventh Circuit recently announced it will allow video for oral arguments, though implementation is TBD. Our goal is to find a late May case of interest and encourage the Medill News Service, where FTC’s Gabe Roth once worked as a Northwestern j-school student, to be the first to film.

4. Also on the broadcast front, you may have noticed the D.C. Circuit live audio feed has been glitchy for the two most recent arguments. They’ve recently swapped streaming services and have a few bugs they’re working through. FTC got word today that the May 16 case will be livestreamed, and it’s a doozy. You know how your car or cab beeps when you don’t buckle your seatbelt while sitting up front? USDOT was supposed to issue a rule about expanding the beep to the back seat in 2015, and it hasn’t, so safety groups want to fix that via mandamus.

5. Finally, Justice Kennedy’s wife showing up at the travel ban argument was ominous enough for us: FTC has started sending records requests for potential Supreme Court nominees, as we’ve done in the past. So far, we’ve received either no response or a battery of (b)5 and (b)6 exemptions. One standout: an e-mail attachment from a Georgia shortlister labeled “conflicts of interest,” whose contents were, as you may have guessed, withheld in full.

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