Thursday, December 30, 2010

End of the Year: No Top 10 from Me

    At the end of December it is fashionable to select the top events of the past year: the best sporting events of 2010, the best motion pictures, the most important political events, and the like.
    I will, however, avoid the temptation to select the top appellate decisions of 2010. The prospect of making such a selection is unwelcome: each jurisdiction across the United States has its own candidates, as does each area of law. A decision such as Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 130 S.Ct. 876 (2010), which addresses campaign financing, has an obvious importance to all of us, but less well-known rulings may still be of enormous importance to particular groups in society or to a certain segment of the Bar. 
    In addition, the terms for appellate courts are often not coterminous with the calendar year. For example, the Term of the United States Supreme Court begins in October and generally concludes at the end of June the following year. The sitting of the New York Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, is similar.
    So rather than wade through many appellate rulings, I will simply say that the most important appellate event of 2010 was the appointment of Elena Kagan to the United States Supreme Court. Supreme Court appointments have a very long term effect, and that effect will be even more pronounced because of the ideological divide on the Court. Justice Sonia Sotomayor has been on the Court for about 16 months but already, as a recent New York Times article noted, her presence is felt. That article can be found here.
    It is, of course, far too soon to measure Justice Kagan's impact on the Court and, therefore, the nation. Because I believe it will be significant and long-term, it receives my vote for the top appellate event of 2010.       

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