5th Circuit

I called it, but it wasn’t a hard call to make.

Last year, the Fifth Circuit upheld the University of Texas’s affirmative action plan in Fisher v. University of Texas. But they did so in a petulant, childish manner, as if somebody was forcing them to eat their vegetables. At the time, I said they were openly begging for a right-wing Supreme Court to review and overturn their ruling.

It looks like the members of the Fifth Circuit are going to get their wish. The Supreme Court granted cert on Fisher, and now we get to have an affirmative action debate right in the middle of an election cycle where a black man is running for reelection.

I’m sure that last part is just coincidence though….

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Mountain Dew: a mouse could not survive in this environment, according to PepsiCo counsel.

* Pepsi lawyers offer a creative (if disturbing) defense to a lawsuit by a man who claims he found a mouse in his Mountain Dew. [Madison County Record via The Atlantic Wire]

* Will birther queen Orly Taitz get to depose — i.e., “rupture the jurisprudential hymen” — of President Barack Obama? That would be kind of awesome. [Columbus Ledger-Inquirer]

* Professor Ann Althouse raises an interesting “who decides?” question about Cleveland’s controversial ban on trans fats. [Althouse]

* Please, lawyers, stick to cocaine. Allegations of crystal meth usage are très déclassé. [NewsOK.com]

* Kudos to Kirkland & Ellis for coming to the defense of lesbian and gay public employees in Michigan. [Poliglot / Metro Weekly]

* It seems that the Montana Supreme Court isn’t a fan of the Citizens United decision. [Huffington Post]

* Jamin Soderstrom, a (rather cute) former S&C associate and current Fifth Circuit clerk, has written a book (affiliate link) analyzing the qualifications of presidential candidates and the relationship between résumés and presidential success. [Tex Parte Blog]

* If you’re a law professor / blogger who wants to get a rise out of fellow profs, write posts in praise of Paul Campos (just voted our 2011 Lawyer of the Year — congrats again, Professor Campos). [PrawfsBlawg]

* “Rising tuition. Misleading employment statistics. Inadequate skills training.” So what are legal educators doing about it? Blogging, of course. [Law School Review]

* Trendspotting: cute judges the federal bench? The Senate has confirmed Loyola Law professor Stephen Higginson for a seat on the Fifth Circuit. [National Law Journal]

* People in New Jersey have morals. Who knew? When faced with aborting babies or aborting their careers, some nurses from UMDNJ decided to sue. [Washington Post]

* Elbert Lin is returning to Wiley Rein after a stint clerking for Clarence Thomas. We wonder what his wife would say about him if he was one of her LEWW contestants? [Blog of Legal Times]

* Another Real Housewife of New Jersey is facing legal troubles, but this time to the tune of $7.8M. Sorry Teresa, but at least Jacqueline Laurita’s got her hairline under control. [Huffington Post]

* Is Justin Bieber the father of a baby, baby, baby? That’s what a 20-year-old from California says, and she wants a paternity test to prove it. [New York Post]

Our candidates for the coveted Lawyer of the Month title have been a bit tame for the past few months. This time around, we’ve chosen some lawyers and law students who represent our more prurient interests and our unabashed love for scandal.

Aficionados of hookers? We’ve got ‘em. Vicious tongue lashings? We’ve got those, too.

This installment of the competition is the sex, violence, and stupidity edition. Check out our deadly and disorderly nominees for the month of September….

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Chief Judge Edith Jones: Underneath her robe beats a judicial diva's heart.

Can you enforce civility by being… uncivil? That’s the question being raised, over and over again, by federal judges from Texas these days.

Before we get to the latest ridiculousness, let’s review. Back in August, Judge Sam Sparks (W.D. Tex.) benchslapped some rude lawyers with a snarky order inviting them to a “kindergarten party,” where they would learn such lessons as reasonableness and courtesy.

Ironically enough, some found Judge Sparks’s civility-seeking order to be… rude. Chief Judge Edith Jones (5th Cir.) issued an email reprimand to Judge Sparks, condemning his “caustic, demeaning, and gratuitous” order as “cast[ing] disrespect on the judiciary.” Some observers in turn thought it rude of Chief Judge Jones to call out Judge Sparks in writing, so publicly — she cc’d all of the other Western District of Texas judges on her email — when she could have just made a private phone call.

Chief Judge Jones is a highly regarded conservative jurist and a fixture on Supreme Court short lists, but she might not be the best authority on civility and etiquette these days. Check out the latest craziness — an en banc hearing before the Fifth Circuit that generated judicial fireworks, culminating in Judge Jones essentially telling a colleague to STFU or GTFO….

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Judge Sam Sparks: Probably not smiling now.

The benchslapper has become the benchslapped. Judge Sam Sparks, of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, just got smacked around by a higher authority: Chief Judge Edith Jones, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

Last month, Judge Sparks issued a sharply worded order in which he compared the counsel appearing before him to squabbling schoolchildren — and invited them to a “kindergarten party,” where they would learn such lessons as “how to telephone and communicate with a lawyer” and “how to enter into reasonable agreements about deposition dates.” In the end, Judge Sparks ended up canceling the party, after the publicly shamed lawyers worked out their issues — but not before his infamous order received national attention within the legal community.

Many observers were amused by Judge Sparks’s order — which was not the first time His Honor has gotten saucy with lawyers in recent weeks (or in his judicial career, for that matter). But a minority felt that the order was over the top and gratuitously nasty.

Among the unamused: Edith Jones, who oversees the federal courts of Texas in her capacity as Chief Judge of the Fifth Circuit. What did she have to say to Sam Sparks?

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We've got spirt! Yes we do! We've got spirt! How about you?

Give me an S! Give me a T! Give me an F! Give me a U! What does that spell? STFU!

Just in case you’re not aware, cheerleading is a pretty big deal in Texas. Everyone wants to be a cheerleader because it has some awesome perks. Cheerleaders get the rare privilege of ruling the school while they parade around spreading “spirt” throughout the halls. Cheerleaders hope and pray that they’ll land a football stud who will be their ticket out of town to work at the downtown dollar store.

And last, but certainly not least, alumnae cheerleader moms get to live vicariously through their daughters. And sometimes when former cheerleader moms don’t get what they want, they’ll — Fight! Fight! Fight with all their might! — sue over it.

Girls in my high school used to call each other names and claim Title IX sexual harassment and retaliation all the time. It was no big deal….

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Judge Fred Biery

Three years ago, we bestowed Judge of the Day honors upon the Honorable Fred Biery, a federal judge in the Western District of Texas. Back in 2008, Judge Biery rejected a religious school’s attempt to join an influential statewide extracurricular organization. In the process of ruling against Cornerstone Christian Schools, Judge Biery took the Bible and turned it around on them, in a snarky opinion quoting religious texts to refute a religious school.

(His Honor apparently enjoys colorful writing. See also this amusing ruling, with shout-outs in the footnotes to such fabulous creatures as Barbra Streisand and Stephen Sondheim.)

Well, it seems that Judge Biery — make that Chief Judge Biery, as of last June — continues to antagonize organized religion. Let’s read about the latest controversy he’s incited, this time involving an imminent high school graduation ceremony….

UPDATE: Judge Biery’s ruling in the case discussed below was overturned on Friday afternoon by the Fifth Circuit. Details and links appear in the update at the end of this post.

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Jeff Skilling

* Former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling’s appeal was denied by the Fifth Circuit. While he remains the smartest guy in the room, the room consists of him and a half-wit cellmate whose only discernible talent is making Prune-o. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Bruce Fein, an attorney who worked on Clinton’s impeachment and called for Bush’s impeachment as well, has drafted articles of impeachment for Barack Obama. His high crime and misdemeanor? Time theft. [Politico]

* An Ohio man has been charged with a misdemeanor for barking at a police dog. When asked why he was barking at the female dog, the man calmly replied, “Bitch owes me money.” [CBS News]

Raj Rajaratnam

* The government rested its case in the Raj Rajaratnam trial yesterday. Of additional note is the fact that Rajabba sits ten feet behind his defense table, partially obstructed from the jury box. You can’t completely block Rajabba from view. You can only wish to contain him. [New York Times]

* The government has warned attorneys for former Madoff employees not to use money that might be associated with Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. That includes, for their own health, any ass pennies. [ABA Journal]

* The Fourth Circuit rules in favor of a pundit-professor, in a case about the free speech rights of faculty members at public universities. [Chronicle of Higher Education]

* Charlie Sheen is trying to trademark his catchphrases now. He’s overexposed like a frostbitten penis — is there anything funny left to say about him at this point? (We might try; check in later.) [Forbes]

Two people from my high school got into the same college I did. We were all in the top 10 of our class, but none of us were in the top 5. One was a white guy who was a brilliant piano player. The other was a white girl who excelled at sports. Then there was me. I had the “does lots of activities” application. You know the type of d-bag kid I’m talking about: debate this, mock trial that, sports, school plays, bands.

Also, I’m black. Do you think that might have had something to do with it? I hope it did, since it seems to me that my race is at least as much of a factor in what I may add to an incoming college class as whether I could play the piano or dominate in field hockey.

Of course, saying race can be a factor in college admissions is controversial. A certain segment of the population gets all bent out of sorts when a “deserving” white student potentially gets “passed over” because a college official gave a person of color “extra points” when making up the entering class of students.

I find these arguments totally irrational. If the top five students from my high school were passed over — three Jews and two Asians (you know, the real victims of affirmative action, if there are any) — then who exactly “took” their spots? Me, or the sports chick? And if an Asian guy “takes” my spot, but I bump down the piano player who didn’t score as well as I did, and the piano player takes the spot of some poor Hispanic kid who has never seen a piano in real life, would everybody say that we all got what we deserved?

Coming up with an effective way to balance all of the relevant factors in college admissions is hard. But when race is involved, people don’t want to deal with “hard,” and they don’t want to hear “complicated.” They want simple rules and a few platitudes they can recite on television. After yesterday’s Fifth Circuit decision upholding affirmative action at the University of Texas, the only question is whether the Supreme Court has the will and intellectual rigor to think through something hard, or whether the majority will want to fall back on truisms and clichés…

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