Friday, November 9, 2007

Whatever you say, Chief…

Argue before the Supreme Court, and you can expect some tough questions — but being asked to comment on an opinion that never existed?

According to a (subscriber only) piece in our sister pub, Lawyers USA, that’s exactly what happened to lawyer Jean-Claude Andre last week.

Andre represents Abdus-Shahid M.S. Ali, a Muslim prisoner who sued the Federal Bureau of Prisons under the Federal Tort Claims Act.

After oral argument, “Andre walks down the steps out of the Court and into the open arms of friends, colleagues and family — including his wife Sarah and one-year-old son Jean-Luc — who came to watch his argument or otherwise support him,” reporter Reni Gertner writes:

But the first thing he says is a bit of a shocker.

“The Chief Justice made up a case.”

Come again?

“The Chief Justice made up a case,” he repeats. “Well, he mixed up a case. Remember when I said, ‘I'm not very familiar with that case’? It's because the case didn't exist.”

It turns out he is referring to a moment during his argument when Chief Justice John Roberts mentioned a case, S.D. Marine. After the argument, Andre confirmed that S.D. Marine isn't a case at all, but a combination of two separate cases that Roberts mistakenly combined, S.D. Warren and Southwest Marine.

Sure enough, the reference is there in the transcript — check out page 17 of the pdf here — along with the proof that Andre first agreed with Roberts on the holding in the fictional case.

But then, wouldn’t you?

-BARBARA GRZINCIC, Managing Editor/Law

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