After almost eight years in office, President Obama’s 322 appointments to the federal courts have already begun to make a substantial impact on the law. In this Teleforum, two litigators talked about whether and how these new judges are shaping the law and the judiciary. They focused in particular on the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the D.C. and Ninth Circuits.
Damien Schiff, Principal Attorney, Pacific Legal Foundation
On Wednesday, April 27, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Robert F. McDonnell v. United States. The Court will review the public corruption convictions of former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell to determine whether the definition of “official action” as used in the federal bribery statute, Hobbs Act, and honest-services fraud statute is limited to exercising actual governmental power or the threat or pressure to do so. If the definition is not so limited, the Court will also consider whether the Hobbs Act and honest-services fraud statute are unconstitutional—given that such a broad definition could include political activity protected by the First Amendment. Our experts attended the oral arguments and offered a summary and analysis to Federalist Society members.
William J. Haun, Associate, Hunton & Williams LLP
Stephen R. Klein, Attorney, Pillar of Law Institute
On March 30, Federal district court Judge Rosemary Collyer struck down the Financial Stability Oversight Council’s designation of MetLife as a systemically important financial institution. MetLife v. Financial Stability Oversight Council has readily apparent implications for financial regulation, and many commentators have suggested that it may even have far-reaching effects on the future of the larger administrative state. Our expert discussed the opinion, its outlook on appeal, and its possible impact.
Hon. Peter J. Wallison, Arthur F. Burns Fellow in Financial Policy Studies, American Enterprise Institute
Bitcoin is dead. Long live Bitcoin. A counterintuitive feature of the groundbreaking cryptocurrency—and there are many—is that both statements may simultaneously be true. The Bitcoin economy is robust and growing, with access to Bitcoin-denominated services expanding and more and more startups and established businesses seeking to capitalize on its popularity. At the same time, the Bitcoin network—literally, the interconnected web of computers that records transactions in Bitcoin’s distributed ledger known as the “blockchain”—is showing the strain of the currency’s success, while disagreements threaten to stymie efforts to expand Bitcoin usage further.
But even as political disputes threaten disruption of the core Bitcoin blockchain, developers are beginning to introduce a new wave of innovation that has the potential to replace political stalemate with market competition. Alternative blockchains, or “alt-chains,” act as replacements for the Bitcoin network and blockchain that facilitate Bitcoin-based transactions off the core blockchain—in the same way that stocks can be traded on a myriad of competing electric trading networks, apart from primary exchanges like NYSE and NASDAQ. Alt-chains and related technologies may be central to preserving Bitcoin’s key speed and cost advantages over traditional financial networks in the years ahead.
As in many innovative fields, some of the greatest barriers to alt-chain success are legal and regulatory uncertainty, far more than technological issues. In a recent Federalist Society White Paper, David Rivkin and Andrew Grossman attempt to resolve some of this uncertainty by cataloguing the diversity of potential applications for blockchain alternatives and addressing the issues raised by alt-chains and other blockchain supplements and replacements under federal and state law. They discussed their paper with Federalist Society members on a Teleforum conference call.
Andrew M. Grossman, Partner, Baker & Hostetler LLP and Adjunct Scholar, The Cato Institute
David B. Rivkin, Jr., Partner, Baker & Hostetler LLP
On April 20, the United States Supreme Court issued a unanimous opinion in Harris v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, a case challenging Arizona's state legislative district map as partisan gerrymandering. Our expert discussed the opinion and what it means for the Court’s voting rights jurisprudence.
Hon. Hans A. von Spakovsky, Manager, Election Law Reform Initiative and Senior Legal Fellow, The Heritage Foundation