7th Circuit

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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Happy Thanksgiving, from your friends at Above the Law. As always, we give thanks to our readers, our tipsters, our advertisers, and even our commenters.

We also give thanks to Judge Richard Posner. This brilliant and hilarious jurist has just given us something to chuckle over as we munch on our Thanksgiving turkey.

This opinion by Judge Posner, handed down yesterday, could be viewed as “giving the bird” to an offending attorney. And the bird in question is not a turkey. Can you guess which bird is involved?

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(And a bonus benchslap from Judge Posner.)

'At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought.'

It’s not every day that attorneys repeatedly file “unintelligible” complaints that are “riddled with errors.” (Okay, maybe it is every day.)

But it’s really not every day that Drew Peterson’s attorney — yes, that Drew Peterson — attempts to file the same complaint three times, appeals to the Seventh Circuit only to get smacked down, and is then ordered to show cause as to why his federal license to practice shouldn’t be tossed out.

Let’s take a look at what Walter Maksym attempted to file, and why he faced the wrath of the Seventh Circuit earlier this week….

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There must be no more of this childish abuse…. No more or there will be sanctions. In more than 29 years as a judge, I have never encountered such bickering, quarrelsome lawyers. You are wasting my time and your clients’ money.

– Judge Richard Posner of the Seventh Circuit, sitting by designation as a district judge (N.D. Ill.), ruling on motions in limine in Chamberlain Group, Inc. v. Lear Corp. (PDF).

(The context of this quotation, which contains additional benchslappery, appears below.)

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Greco is a menace to his clients and a scofflaw with respect to appellate procedure. The district court may wish to consider whether he should remain a member of its bar. Would-be clients should consider how Greco has treated [his clients] Lee, Washington, and Moore.

– Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook of the Seventh Circuit, benchslapping attorney Michael J. Greco in Lee v. Cook County.

(Additional gems from the opinion — this is just the tip of the iceberg — appear after the jump.)

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(Or: Mess with the Easterbrook, you get the horns.)

We add that the appellants’ brief is rambling, and would be more effective if compressed to 14,000 words.

– Judge Richard Posner, in a benchslap that denied appellants’ motion to file an oversized brief — and summarily affirmed the district court (full opinion here, via How Appealing).

DNA is pretty, oh so pretty.

* The Supreme Court opens the door, but just a crack, to prisoners seeking access to DNA evidence. [SCOTUSblog]

* The legal job market is getting better, right? Right? [Vault]

* Hall, J., dissenting — from the grave. [How Appealing]

* Harvard Law School is always ready for its close-up: first The Paper Chase, then Legally Blonde, and now The Five Hundred. [Deadline.com]

* Are computers better than attorneys at document review? Maybe — but they’re definitely more attractive. [Constitutional Daily]

* Protip for litigators: “Pull Your Pants Up Before Going to Court.” [Gothamist]

* Elsewhere in fashion news, a Seventh Circuit panel (Posner, J.) holds that it’s constitutionally protected to wear a t-shirt that says “Be Happy Not Gay” to your high school. But it’s still really… gay. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Litigation to advance a worthy cause (although it seems odd, in a “cart before the horse” sort of way, to file the press releases before the actual lawsuit). [The Snitch / SF Weekly]

* Blawg Review #301: it’s all about communication. [Not Guilty via Blawg Review]

* Congratulations to Professor Brian Fitzpatrick of Vanderbilt Law on receiving the 2011 Paul M. Bator Award (won previously by a long list of blawg celebrities, including M. Todd Henderson, Orin Kerr, Jonathan Adler, Eugene Volokh, and Randy Barnett). [Federalist Society]

Judge Wesley Brown will be 104 in June.

When I clerked on the Ninth Circuit years ago, one of the judges on the court at the time was extremely old — and didn’t seem very “with it.” His law clerks seemed to take on a large amount of responsibility. One of his clerks that year, a law school classmate of mine I’ll call “Mary,” would negotiate over the phone with Ninth Circuit judges over how particular cases should come out — a responsibility well beyond the legal research and opinion drafting done by most clerks.

On one occasion, a vote on whether to rehear a case en banc emanated not from the judge’s chambers account, but from Mary’s personal email account. Even more embarrassingly, it was written not on behalf of the judge or the chambers, but in the first person: “I vote YES to rehearing en banc.” A law school classmate of mine who was also clerking for the Ninth that year remarked, “I thought only judges did that. When did Mary get her presidential commission?”

Some of us jokingly referred to that chambers as Weekend at Judgie’s. What appeared to be going on over there reminded us of Justice Thurgood Marshall’s famous quip to his clerks: “If I die, prop me up and keep voting!”

We joked about this delegation of Article III authority to a newly minted law school graduate. But as Joseph Goldstein suggests, in a very interesting article just published by Slate and ProPublica, the issue of superannuated jurists is no laughing matter….

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