A Note on the April 4 Belfast Project Hearing

Bumped: the hearing is today!

On April 4, the First Circuit will hear oral arguments on the two appeals brought by Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre in the Belfast Project case. Just to whet your appetite, here is a little bit of color commentary.

The hearing is likely to be well-attended, and not just by people interested in the Belfast Project. The court will also hear argument in Massachusetts v. Department of Health and Humans Services and Gill v. Office of Personnel Management, both of which are challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act. The plaintiffs in both cases challenge the constitutionality of Section 3 of DOMA, which defines “marriage”, in federal law, to mean “only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.” In both cases, Judge Joseph Tauro held that the statute was indeed unconstitutional. The court has scheduled one hour of argument. And the court will hear reargument en banc in United States v. Pleau and In re Pleau, an interesting case in which Pleau pleaded guilty to murder in Rhode Island and was sentenced to prison and the federal government then indicted him on a capital charge of murder and sought to have him transferred to federal custody for trial, both under the Interstate Agreement on Detainers and pursuant to a rare writ of habeas corpus ad prosequendum. The governor of Rhode Island refused to hand him over, leading to the litigation. Both of these cases seem reasonable candidates for Supreme Court review. So it will be an exciting morning at the First Circuit, even leaving aside the Belfast Project case!

As in every ordinary appeal, our case will be heard by a panel of three judges. The three judges on the Belfast Project panel are Chief Judge Sanda L. Lynch and Circuit Judges Juan R. Torruella and Michael Boudin. I took a look back in October 2011 at the evidence of tensions between Judges Lynch and Boudin on the one hand and Judge Torruella on the other in the latest Puerto Rico voting rights cases and one of the Whitey Bulger cases, and folks may want to look back at that post to get a sense of some of the interpersonal dynamics that have, in the past at least, been on display in the First Circuit.

The Letters Blogatory liveblog of the hearing in the District Court on the government’s motion to dismiss The Moloney and McIntyre complaint was a great success. Unfortunately, I will not be able to duplicate it, as the Clerk of the Court of Appeals denied by request for permission to liveblog from the hearing. However, I am hoping to bring you a roundup of the hearing shortly after it concludes, and maybe even some live commentary by me and others following the hearing. (The only limiting factor—I am arguing an appeal of my own on April 6, so my time on the 4th is a little limited). Stay tuned!

About Ted Folkman

Ted Folkman is a shareholder with Murphy & King, a Boston law firm, where he has a complex business litigation practice. He is the author of International Judicial Assistance (MCLE 2012), a nuts-and-bolts guide to international judicial assistance issues, and of the chapter on service of process in the ABA's forthcoming treatise on International Aspects of US Litigation, and he is the publisher of Letters Blogatory, the Web's first blog devoted to international judicial assistance, which the ABA recognized as one of the best 100 legal blogs in 2012, 2014, and 2015.

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