Dream Team Assembled at UCI Law School Squeezes Boring Right Out of 2010-11 U.S. Supreme Court Term

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For the UC Irvine School of Law's first-ever Supreme Court Review Wednesday, the assembled panel was saddled with a reportedly "boring" 2010-2011 term.

Fortunately, the legal all-stars who enlightened about 170 lunching students, lawyers and professors on campus (and an equal number watching the event streamed live) managed to squeeze the boring right out of the last term.

Indeed, Erwin Chemerinsky, the esteemed dean of the 23-month-old law school, immediately discounted the boring rap, arguing that the U.S. Supreme Court's decisions in '10-'11 reflected a disturbing trend of closing the nation's courthouse doors to those who believe they have been wronged.

And his frequent sparring partner John Eastman, a Chapman University constitutional law expert and that law school's former dean, believe some recent rulings set markers for upcoming debates on such fireworks-producing cases as Obamacare, immigration and same-sex marriage.

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Supreme dream team (from left): Chemerinsky, Eastman, Savage, Lithwick, Levenson and Hasen.
Sitting alongside the battling deans were: David Savage, who covers the Supremes for the Los Angeles Times; Dahlia Lithwick, who does the same for Slate; Laurie Levenson, a Loyola Law School professor and one of the media's go-to pundits on criminal law; and moderator Rick Hasen, an election law expert who was Levenson's colleague in LA until recently being hired away by UC Irvine.

Cases Chemerinsky chose to highlight included AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion, where the court shielded the telecommunications giant from a consumer lawsuit because cell phone contracts contain a clause stating disputes will be settled via arbitration (or "procedural simplicity," as Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in the majority opinion), and PLIVA, Inc. v. Mensing, which found makers of generic drugs cannot be sued for failure to warn about adverse effects even if the makers of non-generics can be sued.

Eastman, who noted he has been debating Chemerinsky weekly on the radio for 11 years and can count only four times when they have agreed, felt he may have found a fifth with Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn. He disagreed with the high court ruling that taxpayers have no standing under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to challenge a state law program providing tax credits for tuition for parochial schools. That put Eastman, a former law clerk for Justice Clarence Thomas, at odds with Scalia. Eastman was otherwise the lone panelist generally defending the majority opinions and dissents of his fellow conservative originalists Thomas and Scalia.

Eastman a case that might indicate how justices will rule this term on immigration was Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting, which found no violation of federal law in provisions of Arizona's controversial immigration law that suspend and revoke the business licenses of companies that hire undocumented workers and that force businesses to verify the immigration status of employees through a specific Internet system (a.k.a. E-Verify). Eastman said Bond v. United States--where the majority justices found an individual does not have standing to raise a claim that federal law violates the Tenth Amendment--could be a marker for a national healthcare ruling.

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