If I were a Republican on the court, I wouldn’t think twice about this if I thought the law was unconstitutional. I don’t think they’re going to take some giant hit on it.
- Adam Liptak, Health Care / Medicine, Law Professors, Northwestern University School of Law, Politics, Quote of the Day
Today’s New York Times has a meaty and interesting front-page article about political ideology and Supreme Court clerk hiring. The piece, written by SCOTUS correspondent Adam Liptak, reminded us a lot of one that Liptak wrote last year (which we discussed here). But since there’s no such thing as too much talk about The Elect, let’s dig into it.
(By the way, speaking of Supreme Court clerk hiring, we’re working on an update that should come out soon. If you’re aware of a clerk hire that wasn’t included in our last write-up, listing both OT 2010 and OT 2011 clerks, please email us (subject line: “SCOTUS clerk hiring”). Thanks.)
Liptak begins by discussing the fabulosity that is a SCOTUS clerkship:
Each year, 36 young lawyers obtain the most coveted credential in American law: a Supreme Court clerkship. Clerking for a justice is a glittering capstone on a résumé that almost always includes outstanding grades at a top law school, service on a law review and a prestigious clerkship with a federal appeals court judge.
One could quibble with the number of 36, but we’ll get to that later. Let’s focus on the main point of the piece, the growing politicization of high-court clerk hiring….
A few weeks back, a lawyer friend invited us to attend the Air Guitar New York Championships in Brooklyn. It was described to us as “pretty rad.” We declined to attend, but in doing so, missed out on taking part in an activity that seems to be taking the legal community by storm. ESPN recently described competitive air guitar thus:
Writhing and finger-plucking. Wagging tongues and balcony dives. Oh, and male shirtlessness. Lots of male shirtlessness. All of it taking place before hundreds of screaming, chanting spectators… [It] isn’t about music. It’s about world peace (really). And going to Finland (really). And headbands. (So many headbands). Mostly, it’s about rock. Head-banging, face-melting, soul-devouring rock. The mysterious, ineffable feeling therein. What air guitar devotees creatively call … “the airness.”
So which legal eagles have been overcome by this “mysterious, ineffable feeling”? A Georgetown Law student, a University of Colorado Law professor, and New York Times legal correspondent, Adam Liptak.
Liptak has actually been in the judge’s seat for a couple Air Guitar competitions in D.C. How did he gain his expertise in the air guitar? We caught up with him for a brief interview. When it comes to air guitar jurisprudence, Liptak has something in common with Justices Scalia and Thomas…
- Adam Liptak, Clerkships, John Paul Stevens, New York Times, Old People, SCOTUS, Shameless Plugs, Supreme Court, Supreme Court Clerks
Just a quick follow-up to yesterday’s discussion of whether Justice John Paul Stevens’s failure to hire a full complement of law clerks for October Term 2010 might shed light upon his retirement plans. In today’s New York Times, Adam Liptak has an excellent article on the subject. It begins:
A Supreme Court clerkship is a glittering prize and the ultimate credential in American law, one coveted by the top graduates of the best law schools. Until recently, though, only connoisseurs of ambition and status followed the justices’ hiring process closely.
It turns out those hiring decisions may be a sort of early warning system for hints about the justices’ retirement plans. “We’ve started tracking Supreme Court hiring in real time,” said David Lat, the founder of Above the Law, a legal blog.
Thanks for the shout-out, Mr. Liptak! When it comes to being “connoisseurs of ambition and status,” we plead guilty.
Justice David H. Souter’s failure to hire clerks this spring accurately signaled his decision to step down. On Wednesday, the court confirmed that Justice John Paul Stevens, who is 89, has hired only one clerk, instead of the usual four, for the term starting in October 2010. That ignited speculation that Justice Stevens may be planning to step down next summer.
Some thoughts on what’s going on here, after the jump.
* A U.S. District Judge in Virginia, Rebecca Beach Smith, will soon decide whether preserved Titanic artifacts must remain available to the public. [The San Francisco Chronicle]
* Adam Liptak gives us a lively look into the Supreme Court discussion about the highly critical Hillary documentary. [The New York Times]
* Obama’s lawyers were in lock-step with Bush policies Tuesday, arguing in favor of the decision to refuse one of Europe’s leading Muslim intellectuals entry in to the U.S. [Reuters]
* Pakistan’s supreme court chief justice returned to court Tuesday amid dancing supporters. [The Associated Press]
* Attorneys cringe as Blagojevich continues to put himself in the spotlight despite his pending federal corruption indictment. [The Associated Press]
* Dreier LLP may be able to reduce a $29 million claim from Wachovia. They need all the help they can get. [Greenwich Time]
* Barney Frank defends calling Scalia a “homophobe.” [The Boston Globe]
- Adam Liptak, Ben Wittes, Dahlia Lithwick, Jan Crawford Greenburg, Job Searches, John Roberts, Linda Greenhouse, Media and Journalism, SCOTUS, Supreme Court, Tony Mauro, UVA Law
We spent a fair amount of time last week in lovely Charlottesville, Virginia, where we spoke at the University of Virginia Law School (coverage of our talk appears here and here). We spent lots of quality time with UVA Law students — at dinner, at a karaoke bar, and walking around the beautiful grounds.
One of the highlights of our trip was attending a luncheon talk by the fabulous Dahlia Lithwick, who has covered the Supreme Court for Slate for the past ten years (and who also served as a celebrity judge on ATL Idol). Despite suffering from a nasty flu, she delivered remarks that were hilarious and insightful, shedding much light upon media coverage of the Court.
Read more, after the jump.
[Although legal in nature, this story is not typical ATL fare -- it's a bit too, well, substantive. But we suspect that some of you will have strong opinions on it. So we're tossing it out for discussion, in the hopes of inspiring a comment clusterf**k.]
Does the death penalty serve as an effective deterrent to murder? Up until now, we’ve generally subscribed to the liberal view that its deterrence value is questionable. But a fascinating article by one of our favorite legal reporters, Yale Law grad Adam Liptak — who writes for the New York Times, no conservative hack publication — raises some interesting questions:
For the first time in a generation, the question of whether the death penalty deters murders has captured the attention of scholars in law and economics, setting off an intense new debate about one of the central justifications for capital punishment.
According to roughly a dozen recent studies, executions save lives. For each inmate put to death, the studies say, 3 to 18 murders are prevented.
The effect is most pronounced, according to some studies, in Texas and other states that execute condemned inmates relatively often and relatively quickly.
Check out this quote:
“I personally am opposed to the death penalty,” said H. Naci Mocan, an economist at Louisiana State University and an author of a study finding that each execution saves five lives. “But my research shows that there is a deterrent effect.”
More after the jump.
- Adam Liptak, Advertising, Blogging, Non-Sequiturs, Plaintiffs Firms, Politics, Sex Scandals, Ted Frank
* How much will various law-related search terms cost you on Google? Adam Liptak has collected some interesting examples: “Asbestos attorney” = $51.68, “Pro bono lawyer” = $2.89. [NYT via WSJ Law Blog]
* Another day, another Republican politician in a gay sex scandal. [Green Bay Press-Gazette]
* Not law-related, but interesting to those who follow the blogosphere: Vanessa Grigoriadis’s detailed profile of Gawker Media. [New York Magazine]
* Blawg Review #130, presented on two attorney/mediator law blogs — a Southern Hemisphere edition from New Zealand, and a Northern Hemisphere edition from the USA — recognizes Blog Action Day and International Conflict Resolution Day. [mediator blah... blah... and Online Guide to Mediation, via Blawg Review]
- Adam Liptak, Anthony Kennedy, Blogging, D.C. Circuit, Guns / Firearms, Law Professors, Michael Dorf, New York Times, Randy Barnett
Liberal law professors can be pretty predictable in their tastes. Volvo stationwagons. Fair trade coffee. Guns.
Guns? Yes, guns. No, not gunners — guns. Firearms. Bang bang. The good ol’ Second Amendment.
According to a very interesting NYT article, by Adam Liptak:
In March, for the first time in the nation’s history, a federal appeals court struck down a gun control law on Second Amendment grounds. Only a few decades ago, the decision would have been unimaginable.
There used to be an almost complete scholarly and judicial consensus that the Second Amendment protects only a collective right of the states to maintain militias. That consensus no longer exists — thanks largely to the work over the last 20 years of several leading liberal law professors, who have come to embrace the view that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to own guns.
In those two decades, breakneck speed by the standards of constitutional law, they have helped to reshape the debate over gun rights in the United States. Their work culminated in the March decision, Parker v. District of Columbia, and it will doubtless play a major role should the case reach the United States Supreme Court.
Legal academic debate with real-world ramifications? Wow. This truly is newsworthy.
Thoughtful blogospheric reactions from Jonathan Adler, Jack Balkin, Randy Barnett, and Michael Dorf, among others. We were most amused by Professor Dorf, who blog-slaps Liptak, before concluding his post in delightfully catty fashion:
Full disclosure: I spoke with Mr. Liptak last week and expressed skepticism (along the lines described above) about his causal claim. I guess I didn’t say anything quote-worthy.
HA. Hell hath no fury like a law professor not name-checked.
(Sorry, Professor Dorf — not everyone is as susceptible to your charms as Justice Kennedy. You may spend your entire life searching for a jurisprudential romance to match what you had with AMK at One First Street, back in the heady days of October Term 1991.)
A Liberal Case for the Individual Right to Own Guns Helps Sway the Federal Judiciary [New York Times]
Scholarship and the Second Amendment in the Courts [Dorf on Law]
How Liberals Saved the Second Amendment [Volokh Conspiracy]
Scholars and the Second Amendment [Volokh Conspiracy]
The Second Amendment is Embarrassing No More [Balkinization]
- A. Raymond Randolph, Adam Liptak, Benchslaps, D.C. Circuit, David Sentelle, Federal Judges, Harry Edwards, Judith Rogers, Laurence Silberman, Patricia Wald, Vicious Infighting
Fun news CAN break over a holiday weekend. Check out this Times article (by the indefatigable Adam Liptak, a Yale Law School alum):
A divided panel of the [exceedingly powerful] United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which will soon decide an important case concerning detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, rejected a friend-of-the-court brief submitted in the case by [seven] retired [federal] judges. Two former chief judges of the court were among those rebuffed.
The unsigned majority decision, for Judges David B. Sentelle and A. Raymond Randolph, said the brief violated a 1982 advisory opinion from a committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States, which is the administrative and policy-making body of the federal court system.
“Judges should insure that the title ‘judge’ is not used in the courtroom or in papers involved in litigation before them to designate a former judge,” the advisory opinion said.
Translation: :”Former judges, you’re not such hot s***. You’re nothing but lawyers with frustrated gavel fetishes.”
The brief was rejected over the dissent of Judge Judith Rogers:
Judge Judith W. Rogers dissented. She said the 1982 advisory opinion was meant to address situations in which former judges acting as lawyers are referred to by the honorific title “Judge.” That practice, if allowed in court, could improperly influence juries, confuse people and make parties to lawsuits lose confidence in the judicial system.
But the situation here, with former judges submitting an appellate brief on their own behalf and with the government’s consent, is different, Judge Rogers wrote. “Indeed, denying the unopposed motion for leave to file may itself create an appearance of partiality,” she wrote.
Liptak points out that (1) Judge Sentelle and Judge Randolph, the judges in the majority, were appointed by Republicans (Reagan and Bush I, respectively); (2) Judge Rogers is a Clinton appointee; and (3) two of the former D.C. Circuit chief judges on the brief, Abner J. Mikva and Patricia M. Wald, were appointed by Carter.
So was the dissing of the brief politically motivated?
Judge Mikva doesn’t think so — but ascribes the decision to even cattier reasons:
Mr. Mikva said the rejection of his brief was motivated by personal animus, not politics. “It’s not political at all,” he said in an interview. “This was clearly aimed at me.”
The judges in the majority, Mr. Mikva said, were furious with him because he opposed allowing judges to accept free trips to resorts for seminars sponsored by private groups.
“They’re so close to retirement age,” Mr. Mikva said of the judges in the majority. “They really should grow up.”
OUCH. Boy do we miss the good old days on the D.C. Circuit!
Pull up a chair, kiddies, and listen to our tale. Back when Abner Mikva was Chief Judge, from 1991 to 1994, the D.C. Circuit went through a period that judicial historians refer to as The Golden Age of Bench-Slappery.
Conservatives and liberals were at each other’s throats — almost literally. Abner Mikva didn’t get along with several of his more conservative colleagues, including David Sentelle and Laurence H. Silberman. During one heated argument, Laurence Silberman reportedly said to Abner Mikva, “If you were 10 years younger, I’d be tempted to punch you in the nose.” How delicious!
Sadly, the Golden Age couldn’t last forever. In 1994, Chief Judge Mikva resigned to become White House Counsel under President Bill Clinton. He was replaced by Chief Judge Harry T. Edwards.
The famously cantankerous Harry Edwards — who once asked a lawyer at oral argument, “Counsel, are you shitting me?” — raised hopes that the Reign of Bitchiness would continue at the D.C. Circuit. But as it turned out, Chief Judge Edwards actually emphasized collegiality during his reign. And the D.C. Circuit — an unfathomably prestigious court, baby steps away from the Supremes — has never been the same.
(For some excellent perspectives on the controversy over the spurned brief, check out this VC post by Jonathan Adler. In the comments, legal ethics experts such as Stephen Gillers and Steve Lubet weigh in.)
Appeals Court Rejects Brief Submitted by Ex-Judges [New York Times via How Appealing]
NYT on Judicial Amicus Brief Rejection [Volokh Conspiracy]
Court Nixes Brief Because Ex-Judges Called Themselves Judges [WSJ Law Blog]