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O'Connor at the Ninth

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Retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor sits by designation on the Ninth Circuit today. It would have been fun to see her in argument on a habeas case with one or more of the judges who seem to be unable to understand Teague v. Lane, 489 U.S. 288 (1989) and Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362 (2000), so she could explain the binding precedents to them in person, but no such luck. For the sole habeas case on her docket, Laird v. Schriro, she is teamed with Judges Tallman and Graber, two of the more reasonable judges appointed by President Clinton. In the three wrongly decided Ninth Circuit habeas cases presently before the Supreme Court, Judge Tallman joined the dissent from denial of rehearing en banc in all three, and Judge Graber joined it in Bockting, the one where en banc was most needed due to the breadth of the issue. Laird is the formerly capital case of one of the young killers spared by Roper v. Simmons.

Update (10/19): Howard Mintz has this story in the San Jose Mercury News on the argument. "Known for tough, biting questions on the Supreme Court, O'Connor didn't press lawyers in any of the four cases very hard. In fact, she asked just one question in each case, showing little expression beyond an occasional smile."

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I wonder if Justice O'Connor asked a lot of questions at the oral arguments. [Apparently not. See the update. -- KS]

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