Roberts Turns Supreme Court Into Friendliest Bar in Washington

The Supreme Court concluded its annual term last month once again in acrimony, this time over contraceptives and collective bargaining. That followed earlier schisms over campaign finance and prayer at town council meetings. Yet Chief Justice John Roberts sees friends everywhere…”Many times they literally are friends,” says Harvard law professor Richard Lazarus, a (literal) friend of the chief justice. Besides, he says, “I think it does have an impact on the atmosphere. I think it tends to make it less hostile, less accusatory, less of an effort of one side to demonize the other.”

Little Sisterhood at Supreme Court

Women lawyers have argued before the U.S. Supreme Court since 1879, but in a forum where opposing counsel traditionally were called “brother,” it took nearly a century for the female sex to gain third-person equality…”I would love to be able to say that I had noticed this,” said one Stewart protégé who didn’t, Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe. Mr. Tribe, who clerked for Justice Stewart during the 1967-68 term, adds that he’s not surprised by Justice Stewart’s egalitarian vocabulary. “He was as close to being a nonsexist as I could imagine back in that time,” Mr. Tribe says.

Harvard legal star hired by Cape Wind opponents

Opponents of the proposed Nantucket Sound wind farm will appeal the dismissal of a federal lawsuit challenging the contract for the project with an all-star constitutional scholar. Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe will represent the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound in its appeal of a federal court decision, which dismissed a challenge Cape Wind’s contract with NSTAR. Tribe will be the “principal author of the appeal briefs by the Alliance and will probably present the oral argument of the Alliance in the First Circuit,” he told the Herald.

Some Insurance Companies Ask Their Customers to Cross the Border for Care

By Glenn Cohen and Adam Teicholz. Before dawn on a Wednesday in January, Cesar Flores, a 40-year-old employed by a large retail chain, woke up at his home in Chula Vista, California. He got in his car and crossed the border into Tijuana. From there, he headed for a local hospital, where he got lab tests—part of routine follow-up to a kidney stone procedure. He had his blood drawn and left the hospital at 7:30. He arrived home before 10. Uninsured Americans have long known that seeking medical care abroad is often more cost-effective than seeking it at home…But Flores’s situation isn’t medical tourism as we know it. Flores has insurance through his wife’s employer. But his insurer, a small, three-year-old startup H.M.O. called MediExcel, requires Flores to obtain certain medical treatment at a hospital across the border.

A new tactic to halt child abuse in Maryland

Baltimore is changing the way it handles cases of alleged child abuse and neglect — part of a broad social-services strategy that has been touted by Maryland officials but abandoned in some other states…Elizabeth Bartholet, a professor at Harvard Law School, said an emerging body of research shows that claims about the success of alternative approaches might not be what they seem. Some research is promoted by groups pushing a premise that children are almost always better off staying in their home, she said. She’s worried that will lead to federal policy changes and further drain resources from traditional child protective services in favor of in-home treatment programs, leaving the most vulnerable children in dangerous situations.

Why Pick on BNP Paribas?

An op-ed by Mark Roe. To Europeans with whom I speak, the $8.9 billion fine imposed on the French financial-services company BNP Paribas for violating American sanctions against Cuba, Iran, and Sudan seems excessive. Yes, BNP did something seriously wrong. But $8.9 billion? Isn’t that extremely disproportionate for an otherwise highly responsible bank? French President François Hollande asked US President Barack Obama to intervene to have the fine reduced, as did the European Union’s commissioner for the internal market and services, Michel Barnier…Three factors, not all of which are being discussed, seem to explain the size of the penalty.

The seeds of Iraq’s failed democracy were sown early on (audio)

The deteriorating situation in Iraq has the international community scrambling for some way to avoid all-out sectarian warfare…Noah Feldman, professor at Harvard Law School, served as the senior constitutional adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq immediately after the war. He helped to draft Iraq’s interim constitution, which provided for the election of a National Assembly, included a bill of rights and outlined a separation between religion and state. At the time, Feldman and the Bush administration were criticized for excluding Arab, Iraqi, and Muslim legal experts from the process. But today’s chaos, Feldman says, is a direct result of the administration’s inability to see security and nation building as two distinctly difference processes.

In new age of wealth and inequality, calls for intervention go unheeded

An op-ed by Richard D. Brown and Bruce H. Mann. Thomas Piketty, writing from France, is the latest person to sound an alarm about the growing inequality of income and wealth. But his ideas have distinctly American roots that date to the country’s formation…Today, however, as Americans arrive at the brink of a new Gilded Age of wealth and inequality, calls for intervention are going unheeded. Wages have stagnated. Executive compensation has ballooned from about 20 times the average wage income to nearly 300 times…The economic, social and political consequences of these changes are profound

Gays Have Rights, the Pill Doesn’t

An op-ed by Noah Feldman. The U.S. Supreme Court says closely held religious corporations get a religious exemption from providing contraceptive insurance. Should President Barack Obama follow the court’s lead and exempt religious affiliates from an executive order requiring federal contractors not to discriminate against gay people? The answer is no — not because the court was wrong, and not because the religious affiliates aren’t sincere. The reason is that the contraceptive case and the question of federal contractors respecting gay rights are fundamentally different. One case is about a right against government coercion; the other is about the privilege of getting a federal contract. And while contraceptive insurance is nice, it isn’t a constitutional value — anti-discrimination is.

Boehner v. Constitution

An op-ed by Cass R. Sunstein. One of the most appealing features of modern conservative thought is its insistence on fidelity to the Constitution. Whether or not we endorse “strict construction,” or the claim that the Constitution means what it originally meant, it is certainly honorable to emphasize that public officials are bound by our founding document. How odd, then, that prominent conservatives have been embracing Speaker John Boehner’s proposed lawsuit by the House of Representatives against President Barack Obama — an idea that reflects a stunningly cavalier approach to the Constitution.