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Op-Ed

Tough ticket

November 28, 2022

You probably can't get into a U.S. Supreme Court session without knowing someone. Also, does it count as undue influence if you lobby someone who's already on your side?

Milt Policzer

By Milt Policzer

Courthouse News columnist; racehorse owner and breeder; one of those guys who always got picked last.

What do Taylor Swift and the U.S. Supreme Court have in common?

That’s right — it can be pretty darn hard to get tickets to see them and some people who did get them maybe shouldn’t have.

I’ve been trying to imagine what a scalper might get for a seat at a Supreme Court argument. I guess some people might pay a lot, but then a lot of other people would pay not to have to be bored.

I discovered this surprising fact in an interesting and lengthy recent piece in The New York Times that was mostly about religious types hobnobbing with Supreme Court justices and the early leak of a couple of rulings.

It was one of those articles that had me shaking my head and not knowing how to react. Yeah, it seems bad that people with agendas are partying with justices, but then, on the other hand, those justices probably agreed with those people anyway. No harm, no foul?

This, apparently, didn’t deter the religious types from trying to influence justices anyway. According to the Times, the former leader of an evangelical group even bought a building across the street from the Supreme Court and “began working the court’s employees.”

He couldn’t commute to do that?

Is this guy extremely devious or incredibly stupid for spending a lot of money on a building? I don’t know.

Anyhow, I bring this up because one tidbit in the article stood out: there are reserved seats in the Supreme Courtroom for friends of justices!

They have fan sections!

And not everyone gets invited in.

I’m surprised some of those seats haven’t shown up on StubHub.

Maybe Congress should look into this.

Quick question. Should we care about Supreme Court ruling leaks? Does it matter when we hear how a case turns out?

Unless you either needed to get an abortion while you still had the chance or were thinking about having sex in the near future, getting early notice of the Dobbs ruling didn’t seem to matter all that much. We just got to be outraged longer.

Our hatred of spoilers may have gone too far.

Nightmare opposition. Deep-pocket opponents aren’t the only thing that lawyers have to fear. What may be worse is the opponent who doesn’t have to pay any legal fees.

Case in point: a case that produced a District of Columbia Court of Appeals ruling on whether a $100 speeding ticket violated the speeder’s right to due process.

Why would something called The Bright Ideas Company go through “two layers of agency review,” plus the D.C. Superior Court, and then appeal again just to fight $100 ticket?

Here’s a clue: “Bright Ideas is a Maryland company whose sole proprietor was driving the vehicle and would later represent his company as counsel throughout the legal proceedings.”

Never go up against an opponent who may have nothing better to do.

Those of you who root for underdogs will be pleased to hear that Bright Ideas, after losing three times, won at the Court of Appeals level. Whether this gets to the Supreme Court remains to be seen.

In case you’re wondering, the obsessed driver won because there was no clear sign displaying the speed limit on the road where he got the ticket. Lawyers for D.C. argued that it didn’t matter because if you don’t know what the speed limit is, you still have stay at or under 25 miles per hour.

It gets sillier. After the appeals court took the case and asked for briefing, the district voided the speeding ticket and tried to refund the fine so it wouldn’t get a bad ruling setting a precedent from the court.

It was too late. D.C. will now have to invest in speed limit signs or stop issuing mysterious speeding tickets.

Don’t get cocky if your opponent shows up in court without a lawyer.

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