7th Circuit

Tomorrow is going to be rough.

Tomorrow is a big day. And in all likelihood, a very sad one for many people (like me) who would prefer that the Affordable Care Act not be overturned.

As the countdown gets closer to zero, more of the discussion surrounding the Supreme Court has turned to Justice Antonin Scalia‘s role on the court, and in American politics more broadly.

To put it gently, he is ruffling a lot of people’s feathers (including, perhaps, the injured falcon that almost clawed my face off about 20 minutes ago).

Now you can add to that list Judge Richard Posner of the Seventh Circuit, who is not too kind toward Scalia in his “Supreme Court Year in Review” column, published today on Slate.

Among other things, Posner criticizes Scalia’s “celebrity-type extrajudicial activities,” and he expresses uneasiness with the justice’s politicking. Let’s see exactly see what Posner has to say…

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* Some law schools are thinking about reducing class sizes, but others are not. Said one dean, “People want to go to our school, and why should we say no?” [The Faculty Lounge]

* The fun coming out of the Seventh Circuit just doesn’t stop. Do you know what an “interrobang” is? [Volokh Conspiracy]

* Speaking of the “What What (In the Butt)” opinion, here’s some analysis from Professor Ann Althouse. [Althouse]

* Yeah, we know, we’re not supposed to give tax advice. So think of this as housing advice: if you earn $1 million or more, avoid living in a blue state. [TaxProf Blog]

* Free Winona Eggs Benedict! A New York City Council bill seeks to remove “unnecessary obstacles” to getting Sunday brunch. [City Room / New York Times]

* An Australian journalist’s thoughts on how to reform the Anglo-American legal system. [The Atlantic]

* Hmm…. should I look into buying the domain name www.david.lat? [Legal Blog Watch]

* How Dewey go through $43 million in six weeks? Is this like Brewster’s Millions or something? Discussion after the jump….

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Everyone knows it's Butters!

The boys create a video, “What What (In The Butt),” (WWITB) in which Butters sings a paean to anal sex. Within the show, the video is a huge hit , but the boys are only able to earn “theoretical dollars.”

– Judge Richard Dickson Cudahy, in a Seventh Circuit ruling last week affirming the dismissal of a copyright infringement claim filed against the makers of South Park by the creator of the original What What (In the Butt) video (semi-NSFW).

As Brian Tannebaum wrote earlier today, many lawyers (and their cases) live and die by the ticking of the clock. Any attorney — or anyone who’s ever talked with an attorney — has heard about late nights struggling to file a brief by deadline.

So what happens when a litigant files a motion for appeal at 3 a.m. instead of the 12 a.m. deadline, and the judge allows the late filing anyway, then dismisses it on the merits… leading to yet another appeal?

In our Benchslap of the Day, Judge Frank Easterbrook writes, “it does not take a reference to Cinderella to show that midnight marks the end of one day and the start of another.” But maybe the plaintiff in the case does need to remember that he turns into a pumpkin at midnight, not 3 a.m….

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At a breakfast last week, the Seventh Circuit Bar Association learned the true meaning of going “from the sublime to the ridiculous”: As Judge Frank Easterbrook took his seat, I approached the lectern.

I won’t burden you with the subject of my remarks (regular readers of this column could probably guess), but I’ll share the sublime. Judge Easterbrook said one thing, and he failed to mention another topic that he often raises.

Judge Easterbrook explained that, as a young lawyer, he had sent a brief to the Third Circuit for filing. The clerk rejected the brief and mailed it back. Easterbrook called, and the clerk’s office explained that it had rejected the brief because the back cover was the wrong shade of blue — a shade specified by an unwritten local rule. Easterbrook asked if there were any other unwritten rules, and the clerk said he wasn’t sure. Easterbrook mailed a revised version of the brief, which the clerk’s office again rejected — this time for violating a different unwritten local rule. On the third try, the clerk’s office finally accepted the brief. Easterbrook swore that, if he were ever the chief judge of a circuit, all of the rules would be in writing. Easterbrook then told the assembled crowd that (1) the Seventh Circuit’s written rules are fairly comprehensive and (2) the clerk’s office is extremely helpful if you call for advice, so there’s no longer an excuse for not complying with appellate local rules.

Judge Easterbrook last week chose not to discuss a different subject. One of the other folks who attended the breakfast meeting told me that the judge often raises this in his talks . . .

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I feel queasy just looking at this photo of Nutriloaf.

Deliberate withholding of nutritious food or substitution of tainted or otherwise sickening food, with the effect of causing substantial weight loss, vomiting, stomach pains, and maybe an anal fissure (which is no fun at all, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anal_fissure (visited March 15, 2012)), or other severe hardship, would violate the Eighth Amendment.

– Judge Richard Posner, in Tuesday’s ruling in Prude v. Clarke. The Seventh Circuit reinstated a lawsuit filed by a prisoner who alleged that being fed nutriloaf (a.k.a. Nutraloaf) in the Milwaukee County Jail amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.

(Judge Posner had more strong words to say about nutriloaf, as well an in-depth analysis to answer this crucial question: what the heck is nutriloaf?)

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With Murdoch gone, British media can return to doing what it does best.

* A federal judge tossed out a law requiring tobacco companies to put graphic warning labels on cigarette packages. If paying $7 a pack doesn’t stop you from buying smokes, I don’t think nasty photos will either. [CNN]

* SCOTUS won’t deal with Arizona’s controversial immigration law for a couple months, but the Eleventh Circuit will hear oral arguments about Alabama’s even stricter law today. But why would you immigrate to Alabama, of all places? Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* The Seventh Circuit ruled that police can search a cellphone for its number without a warrant. Judge Richard Posner compared it to law enforcement’s ability to open a pocket diary and copy the owner’s address. The bigger question is: do drug dealers keep diaries? [Wall Street Journal]

* James Murdoch, the News Corp. heir apparent, has resigned in the wake of the News of the World scandal and related lawsuits. Now everyone can just go back to reading British tabloids for the Page Three Girls. [Los Angeles Times]

* RIP Lynn D. “Buck” Compton, the prosecutor who secured a conviction of Robert F. Kennedy’s assassin, and the Army paratrooper portrayed in the book and HBO miniseries “Band of Brothers.” [Washington Post]

Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook: do not mess with this man.

Aficionados of appellate law are familiar with the Seventh Circuit’s reputation for procedural punctiliousness. The court has a track record of benchslapping lawyers who fail to follow rules, lawyers who seek to deviate from rules without justification, lawyers who engage in substandard advocacy, and lawyers who are “menace[s]” to their clients.

Lately the Seventh Circuit has been laying down its pimp hand. Last Friday, for example, Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook declared one Bridget Boyle-Saxton, who allegedly blew deadlines and ignored multiple orders to show cause, “unfit to practice law in this court.” Ouch.

Now, snobs might think, “Sure, Boyle-Saxton might be a well-known Milwaukee lawyer — but she works at a small law firm, apparently with two relatives of hers. What can you expect from such an outfit? This is why people hire the large white-shoe law firms. You pay through the nose, but you expect (and receive) perfection.”

If that’s your attitude, think again. Biglaw just got a big benchslap — from none other than Chief Judge Easterbrook.

Which firm incurred His Honor’s wrath, and for what alleged infraction?

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Of course not! But the headline got your attention, didn’t it? The notion of Judge Richard Posner as being anything other than a genius will certainly make people sit up and take notice. There’s a reason why there’s a Facebook group called Richard Posner for Philosopher King (of which I am a proud member).

It should be noted, however, that Judge Posner’s opinion in Gonzalez-Servin v. Ford Motor Co. was not 100 percent perfect. It initially contained some infelicitous wording — which has since been fixed.

Let’s look at the language that was perhaps imprecise….

UPDATE (4 PM): Additional comment from Judge Posner, added after the jump.

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On Thanksgiving Day, while you were enjoying your turkey (or tofurkey), we wrote about a different bird: namely, the ostrich. In a somewhat snarky opinion, Judge Richard Posner of the Seventh Circuit compared a lawyer appearing before him to an ostrich: “The ostrich is a noble animal, but not a proper model for an appellate advocate. The ‘ostrich-like tactic of pretending that potentially dispositive authority against a litigant’s contention does not exist is as unprofessional as it is pointless.’”

Ouch. Judge Posner even included a photo (above right) of a man in a suit burying his head in the sand.

What did the lawyer in question, David “Mac” McKeand of Houston, have to say for himself? And what did McKeand have to say about Judge Posner?

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