6th Circuit

We’ve been dealing with a lot of negativity around here recently, what with the implosion of Dewey, the stress of finals, Texan lawyers flying off the handle. Seems like things are getting a little out of control. So, everyone, let’s just slow down and enjoy a nice story about drinking. Specifically the story of the recent Sixth Circuit decision about good old Kentucky bourbon.

The case involved an intellectual property dispute between Maker’s Mark and Jose Cuervo tequila. And the ruling begins with an epic six-page discussion about the history of whiskey.

I’m not complaining, but the opinion might have worked better as a history lesson…

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Nicollette Sheridan

* It’s time for the Supreme Court to sound off on the battle over women’s wombs, and you know it’s bad when even a sitting justice calls it “a mess.” Can a child conceived after a parent’s death receive survivor benefits? [CNN]

* Disgusting health warning pictures on cigarette packaging and advertising: now constitutional according to the Sixth Circuit. Maybe this will inspire people to quit a habit that’s almost equally as disgusting. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* When Biglaw is involved, so is big money. Say “aloha” to the largest personal injury settlement in Hawaii’s history. The state will pay $15.4M over the hiking death of Gibson Dunn partner Elizabeth Brem. [Am Law Daily]

* A lawsuit filed against fashionista Alexander Wang over his alleged “sweatshop” has been discontinued, and not because there isn’t a case, but because the lawyers on either side have major beef. [New York Magazine]

* The Better Business Bureau has moved to dismiss a Florida law firm’s suit over its “F” grade. Because sometimes the truth hurts, but that doesn’t mean you can sue over it if you don’t like it. [Orlando Sentinel]

* The biggest bimbo from Wisteria Lane gets screwed again, but this time in court. A mistrial has been declared in Nicollette Sheridan’s lawsuit against the producers of “Desperate Housewives.” [Reuters]

Judge Jeffrey Sutton

Over the weekend, Mark Oppenheimer wrote an interesting New York Times piece about the Sixth Circuit’s recent ruling in Ward v. Polite (PDF). In that case, Judge Jeffrey Sutton — noted feeder judge, judicial hottie, and possible SCOTUS nominee in a Republican administration — handed a (partial) victory to Julea Ward, an evangelical Christian who sued various teachers and administrators at Eastern Michigan University, where she had been studying counseling.

Here’s a concise summary of the facts, from the opening to Judge Sutton’s opinion (which is wonderfully clear; he’s great at explaining complex legal issues to large lay audiences; see also his Obamacare opinion):

When the university asked Ward to counsel a gay client, Ward asked her faculty supervisor either to refer the client to another student or to permit her to begin counseling and make a referral if the counseling session turned to relationship issues. The faculty supervisor referred the client. The university commenced a disciplinary hearing into Ward’s referral request and eventually expelled her from the program. Ward sued the university defendants under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

Ward claimed that her expulsion violated her free speech and free exercise rights. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the university, but the Sixth Circuit reversed. At the same time, the Sixth Circuit held that Ward wasn’t entitled to summary judgment in her favor either: “At this stage of the case and on this record, neither side deserves to win as a matter of law.” So perhaps we’ll end up with a trial.

Who’s in the right here, Ward or the university? Let’s discuss….

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This is perhaps the dog-gonest case ever to reach a federal appellate court.

– Judge Ronald Lee Gilman, writing for Sixth Circuit in O’Neill v. Louisville/Jefferson County Metro Government, a case that involved the forcible implanting of microchips in a family’s dogs without consent.

'These MBE questions are way easier than the practice ones!'

We thought we had a winner for most gutsy bar exam performance of July 2011. On Thursday, a woman taking the New Jersey bar exam passed out during the test — then picked herself up off the floor, and went right back to typing.

That’s impressive — but we may have spoken too soon. Here’s a labor-intensive story that tops it.

“A friend of mine went into labor while taking the Illinois bar exam,” a tipster told us. “She calmly finished, went to the hospital, and had her baby an hour or two later. Girl’s a real trooper.”

“A certain Northwestern Law alumna went into labor during the second day of the Illinois bar,” said a second source. “She finished the exam and had her baby, her first, at 5:58 p.m. I think that is worth noting.”

You better believe it’s worth noting. If ever there was a baby immaculately conceived by a lawgiver, this might be the one.

We have all the details — including a picture of the Bar Exam Baby, whom we’ll nickname “Baby Bar”….

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If I were in their role and in their position, I probably wouldn’t understand it either, that a club really can’t attract minority members.

– Judge Gilbert S. Merritt Jr. of the Sixth Circuit, commenting to the New York Times about two of his colleagues on the court — Eric L. Clay and R. Guy Cole Jr., both African-American — and their strong reactions against a bankruptcy judge’s membership in an all-white, all-male country club.

(Judge Merritt is also a member of the Belle Meade Country Club, although an honorary one without voting privileges.)

Does this sign also mean no blacks or women allowed?

It’s the ruling that is splitting the Sixth Circuit apart. A federal bankruptcy judge, George Paine II, belongs to an all-white country club in Nashville. But there is a pesky judicial code of conduct that says that judges “should not hold membership in any organization that practices invidious discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, or national origin,” according to the New York Times (gavel bang: ABA Journal).

That seems cut and dry to me. An all-white, all-male country club sounds a hell of a lot like an organization practicing “invidious discrimination.” But I’m not on the Sixth Circuit.

And the Sixth Circuit essentially told Judge Paine: guys in my high school used to belong to discriminatory clubs all the time, it was no big deal.

In a 10-8 decision, the circuit decided to allow Paine to continue his membership in the club and on the bankruptcy court.

So that code of judicial conduct means what exactly?

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Why is Bob smiling? Because police now need a warrant to check his email (joke stolen from Julian Sanchez).

Thanks to a huge decision out of the Sixth Circuit, your email and the Fourth Amendment just got better acquainted. The police need to get a warrant to take a peek at the contents of someone’s inbox, writes Judge Danny Boggs — once rumored to be on the SCOTUS shortlist — in the court’s opinion (PDF, via a thrilled EFF).

The court says that the 1986 Stored Communications Act, which grants law enforcement access to email older than 180 days old with a simple subpoena or court order, is unconstitutional, since it enables the police to conduct unreasonable searches.

“This is a very big deal,” writes law professor Paul Ohm. “[T]his is the opinion privacy activists and many legal scholars, myself included, have been waiting and calling for, for more than a decade. It may someday be seen as a watershed moment in the extension of our Constitutional rights to the Internet.”

The case that led to the decision dealt with extensions of a different variety. The defendant that challenged the po-po’s warrantless search of his email is Steven Warshak, the mastermind behind Enzyte, a questionable herbal supplement purported to increase the size of a man’s erection. Sometimes, new constitutional protections pop out of the strangest places…

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baby devil.jpg

* SCOTUS may hear the case of a Texas woman who claims that an extreme religious group forced her to “exorcise her demons”, disturbing her so much that she later attempted suicide. [The Atlanta Journal-Constitution]

* On Wednesday, the federal court in Manhattan will start considering information that will infect the investor’s in Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. Furthermore, Judge Louis L. Stanton of the U.S. District Court will consider whether people who invested in “feeder funds” with other Wall Streeters who invested in Madoff’s fund will be covered under the Securities Investor Protection Corporation–a federal fund that protects investors in cases like these. [The New York Times]

* The federal government announced a settlement over a developers who build projects on wetlands in Michigan’s Midland and Bay counties–a case that has gone on for decades. [The Chicago Tribune]

*Former New York City police Commissioner Bernard Kerick pleaded not guilty in a federal court to charges of tax evasion and corruption. [CNN.com]

* Store vendors angered by department store’s mark-downs may make the stores cover more of the losses. If they succeed, they could get back $ 1.2 billion from Macy’s, Saks Inc., Dillard’s, Nordstrom, Kohl’s and JC Penney. [Bloomberg.com]

* “The 6th Circuit struck down a vehicle safety law in Michigan that banned drivers from hanging any view-obstructing baubles from their rearview mirrors. [Courthouse News Service]

Affirmed race horse racehorse.JPGRecently we’ve been thinking about law-related names for racehorses. The subject came up when we were reading about how Big Brown, the 2008 Kentucky Derby winner, might win the Triple Crown and join the company of Affirmed (pictured) — the last winner of the Triple Crown, in 1978.
Hearing about a racing horse named “Affirmed” led us to start thinking about other legally-themed horse names. A few ideas:
– “Reversed” (or “Reversed and Remanded”)
We liked how it played off of “Affirmed.” But it’s “probably not the kind of message you want to send to the oddsmakers,” said a friend.
– “Cert Denied”
Kinda badass, no? We’ll put it down as a possibility.
– “GVR”
Suggested by another friend, to continue on the Supreme Court disposition theme. “GVR” stands for “Grant, Vacate, and Remand” — which can, depending on the circumstances, be something of a benchslap. But maybe it’s too technical, appreciated only by SCOTUS junkies?
– “Desuetude”
Nominated by a third friend (in the midst of studying for law-school finals). It’s erudite, but a bit short on sex appeal.
Have an idea for a law-related racehorse name, à la Affirmed? If so, feel free to leave it in the comments. If we get enough nominations, maybe we’ll hold a contest. Also, feel free to weigh in on the names previously mentioned, if you strong feelings about any of them.
Update: Please make sure that your nomination complies with these naming rules (posted by a helpful commenter).
Further Update: Okay, we’ve reached the 400-comment mark on this post, so we’re closing the thread. Poll to follow shortly.
More about racehorses and the law, after the jump.

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