Alex Kozinski

Convicted murderer Joseph Wood’s execution began at 1:52 p.m. yesterday. He was pronounced dead at 3:49 p.m., according to a statement from Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne. Some witnesses insist that Wood continued to gasp for air at least 600 times after he was supposedly fully sedated. Others argue that he was merely snoring. Everyone agrees that the lethal injection process took a lot longer than the expected. Death by lethal injection typically occurs within ten minutes or so.

America has grown accustomed to long delays in carrying out the death penalty. Inmates sit on death row for years, even decades. As Chief Judge Alex Kozinski wrote, “Old age, not execution, is the most serious risk factor for inmates at the San Quentin death row.” We may be used to delays before denizens of death row get to the death chamber, but we have only recently started to see delays once an execution has actually begun….

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Bryan A. Garner

This May, Thomson Reuters published the tenth edition of the estimable Black’s Law Dictionary (affiliate link). The most widely cited legal book in the world, Black’s is a must-have for every lawyer and law student.

Henry Campbell Black published the first edition in 1891. Starting with the publication of the seventh edition in 1995, Black’s has been edited by Professor Bryan A. Garner, the noted lexicographer, legal-writing expert, and author of such books as Garner’s Modern American Usage, Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges, and Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts (the last two co-authored with Justice Antonin Scalia (affiliate links)).

I met with Garner during his recent visit to New York, where he taught his famous legal-writing course to various law firms and government employers. His voice was hoarse from a summer cold, but he generously soldiered through an interview with the help of some tea. Here’s a (lightly edited and condensed) write-up of our conversation.

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As Chief Judge Alex Kozinski recently wrote, “There is an epidemic of Brady violations abroad in the land. Only judges can put a stop to it.”

But judges need to know about prosecutorial misconduct in order to do anything about it. The public needs to be made aware of this important issue as well.

Last week, I interviewed Sidney Powell, a former federal prosecutor who has written a new book — a book that pulls no punches when it comes to her former colleagues at the U.S. Department of Justice….

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Gwyneth Paltrow, muse of judicial humor.

Dillard, J., consciously uncoupling from the majority opinion.

– Judge Stephen Dillard of the Court of Appeals of Georgia, paying homage to Gwyneth Paltrow on his delightful Twitter feed (which you should definitely follow).

But Judge Dillard used this quip just over Twitter, not in an opinion. The best official case parenthetical of all time, after the jump.

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In our post yesterday about Judge Alex Kozinski’s horrifically bad ruling in favor of Cindy Garcia, an actress who briefly appeared in the infamous YouTube video “Innocence of Muslims,” we also mentioned the astounding gag order that Kozinski placed on Google/YouTube, saying that the company was simply not allowed to tell the world that the video had been ordered censored by a court for at least a week. However, the gag order is so crazy that it seemed worth a second post. It already appears to be a classic First Amendment violation to order Google to take down all copies of the video (and prevent new ones from being uploaded), but Kozinski seems to double the First Amendment problems with that gag order.

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Uhh… my bad.

The big news in “Justice” today is a new report from Professor Samuel R. Gross of the University of Michigan Law School showing that exonerations of convicted criminals are on the rise. Gross used data from the National Registry of Exonerations to determine that 87 prisoners were freed from wrongful convictions last year, the highest number in decades.

In a way, that’s good news. More exonerations suggest that more resources are being spent going back over closed cases and freeing people based on new or better evidence. But the report is also chilling proof that our criminal justice system gets things wrong, all the time, and innocent people go to jail because of it.

Instead of being obsessed with conviction rates, state bars might want to look into prosecutorial f**k-up rates. Because it is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer…

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Elizabeth Wurtzel

* Elizabeth Wurtzel: “I am a lawyer. The first rule of law: All the promises will be broken. Attorneys could not be in business if people did not fail to do what they agreed to do all the time — and lawyers are very busy.” [Nerve.com]

* Laura Ingraham clerked for SCOTUS, so presumably she knows that Puerto Ricans are American citizens — right? [Media Matters]

* Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, known for zero tolerance of prosecutorial misconduct, has written the foreword to a new book on the subject. [Facebook]

* In addition to the one we mentioned yesterday, here’s another petition for the Obama Administration that’s aimed at addressing the student debt crisis. [WhiteHouse.gov]

* Thomson Reuters Concourse keeps getting bigger and better. [Thomson Reuters]

* Appellate law? In California? What’s not to like? Check out these job openings in the California SG’s office. [California Department of Justice; California Department of Justice]

* Want to know the backstory behind the awesome Jamie Casino Super Bowl ad? Keep reading….

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Thomas “Haller” Jackson IV

Imagine this. You graduate from law school with a 4.0, the first person in your school’s history to do so. While in law school, you serve as editor-in-chief of the law review, win the moot court competition, and get a Ph.D.

You clerk for a federal appellate judge, followed by another circuit judge — this time a prominent feeder judge to the U.S. Supreme Court. You work as an associate at an elite law firm in a major city. You then return to your hometown and clerk for not one but two federal district court judges, to round out your already amazing résumé with some time in the trial court trenches.

And then you… get a Supreme Court clerkship? Or get charged with attempted aggravated rape and solicitation of a young child….

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Chief Judge Kozinski has been feisty with prosecutorial overreach lately. A couple months ago, he snarked his way through an en banc beatdown of a prosecutor who asserted facts not in the record to secure a conviction. He was no doubt hoping to give us an encore performance in a case out of Washington, but his colleagues denied the request for an en banc rehearing.

But that didn’t stop the inimitable jurist from penning a lengthy dissent from the decision leveling harsh criticism at the prosecutor for the “violence done to the Constitution.”

So is the Chief Judge just cranky or was there some real abuse here?

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And no, it’s not about lowering their reversal rate in the Supreme Court. In fact, in recent years the Sixth Circuit has surpassed the Ninth Circuit as the most-reversed appeals court in SCOTUS. (Veteran Supreme Court litigator Tom Goldstein also pointed this out at our ATL reception with him a few weeks ago.)

So how can you help out the Ninth Circuit? It’s a very easy and simple request, sent to us from Chief Judge Alex Kozinski….

(Please note the UPDATE at the end of this post.)

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