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AG Mukasey to Argue Before Supremes:

Attorney General Michael Mukasey will argue the case of United States v. Ahmed Ressam before the Supreme Court on March 25, the Washington Post reports. Ressam is the so-called "Millenium Bomber" who was arrested trying to cross the U.S.-Canadian border in 1999 with explosives and bomb-making materials in the trunk of his car. He was convicted on several counts, and sentenced to 22 years, but the U.S. Court ofa Appeals for the Ninth Circuit threw out his sentence. As I understand the case, at issue is whether Ressam can be sentenced for carrying explosives "in relation to" the felony of lying to a customs agent. Mukasey will argue that the Supreme Court should reinstate Ressam's sentence.

Anderson (mail):
They picked a 9th Circuit case for Mukasey to argue against? Making it easy for the old man, I guess.

The SCOTUS equivalent of T-ball.
3.12.2008 11:21am
RBG (mail):
Especially since that notable liberal, Judge Rymer, wrote the opinion. Sheesh.

I'm as enthusiastic about lampooning the Ninth Circuit's silly decisions as the next person, but this case actually presented a difficult question on which reasonable right-of-center minds (even) could disagree.
3.12.2008 11:50am
taney71:
Why the AG? Doesn't the solicitor general usually argue before the Court?

Also, does this happen often?
3.12.2008 11:51am
TomJ:
Is it common for an Attorney General to argue before the Supreme Court? Does anyone know when this last occurred?
3.12.2008 11:52am
Anderson (mail):
Is it common for an Attorney General to argue before the Supreme Court?

Yes, in the sense that every AG for some time has done one case, just so's they can say they did it.

RBG, I'm sure you're right -- I was simply going for the low-hanging 9th-Circuit snark.

It's not clear to me from the news reports that this case will make a whit of difference to Ressam's ultimate sentence. But it's a Terrah case, so wooooooooo!
3.12.2008 12:10pm
Bored Lawyer:

It's not clear to me from the news reports that this case will make a whit of difference to Ressam's ultimate sentence.


I had the same thought in reviewing the Supreme Court blurb. The man was caught smuggling in a car full of explosives, itself a felony. He was planning to detonate them at LAX -- no doubt a serious conspiracy charge.

Does it really add much to say he was smuggling in the explosives during commission of the felony of lying to a customs agent?
3.12.2008 12:24pm
dll111:
I thought it was custom for every AG to argue at least one case before the Supreme Court and that Ashcroft was the first AG in some time (ever?) not to. Gonzales didn't either, I believe.
3.12.2008 12:27pm
BRM:
The 9th Cir. opinion is based on a 9th Cir. precedent written by then-judge Kennedy. So that may influence the result.
3.12.2008 12:45pm
Guest101:

I thought it was custom for every AG to argue at least one case before the Supreme Court and that Ashcroft was the first AG in some time (ever?) not to. Gonzales didn't either, I believe.

I just finished reading Jeffrey Toobin's The Nine, and I believe he says that Gonzales was the first AG not to argue a single case. Of course, I realize that Toobin's book is not held in the highest regard around here, so take that for whatever it may be worth.
3.12.2008 1:15pm
Anderson (mail):
Ashcroft did argue a case, IIRC -- dunno about Gonzales, but I wouldn't be surprised if he failed to recollect any such opportunity.

BRM: Interesting -- if the case turns on whether to uphold that precedent, will Kennedy recuse?
3.12.2008 1:32pm
mike weitz:
Does anyone have an opinion as to whether Mukasey's appearance would generate enough interest so as to create some type of major line before the Supreme Court opens? Trying to decide whether to visit DC a day earlier to see this, but if the line would be already formed, it would be unnecessary.
3.12.2008 3:00pm
Oren:
Does it really add much to say he was smuggling in the explosives during commission of the felony of lying to a customs agent?
Given the loony nature of the current sentencing scheme, it's quite possible. Which is a shame, because here's a clear case of a man that should be behind bars for life (conspiracy to commit murder) and we are arguing banalities about aggravating factors.
3.12.2008 3:42pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
Has Gonzales ever argued an appeal at any level?
3.12.2008 4:23pm
Anderson (mail):
Has Gonzales ever argued an appeal at any level?

Worse than that. He *decided* appeals while on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Searching TX-CS-ALL on Westlaw for AT(ALBERTO /2 GONZALES) &DA(BEF 1/1/2001), gives me zilch.
3.12.2008 4:52pm
Anderson (mail):
Jeez, what is with me today? Strike "U.S.," sub "Texas." Not a mistake I am prone to, I assure you.
3.12.2008 4:52pm
KeithK (mail):
The guy should probably rot in prison. But using the possession of explosives to enhance a sentence for lying to a custom's official sounds like a major stretch. As I see it, the point of these enhancement is to catch those who use the prohibited material (here explosives) in the commision of the felony. That isn't the case here unless he tried to blow up the official while lying to him.

Here's a useful analogy. Should someone in this situation be convicted of a gun crime because he had a gun in his trunk? (Not a perfect match if the gun is legal, but still worth thinking about).

Folks here think this will be an easy case for the government but I'd hope otherwise.
3.12.2008 6:16pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
I know that Gonzales was on the Texas Supreme Court. He wrote roughly twenty opinions. What I wonder is whether he has ever argued an appellate case. Arguing them and deciding them are different.
3.12.2008 6:41pm
Addison:
Ashcroft did not argue as AG. Last AG before SCOTUS was Reno in 1996.
3.14.2008 1:18pm