Barack Obama

Here come the judges.

President Barack Obama just finished delivering his State of the Union address for 2011. Alas, it wasn’t as exciting as last year, which featured a confrontation between the president and the Supreme Court. This time around, six justices attended — Chief Justice Roberts, joined by Justices Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan — but they were on their best behavior. There was no POTUS v. SCOTUS showdown.

Your Above the Law editors covered the speech via Twitter. See @ATLblog, @DavidLat, and @ElieNYC.

Here’s an open thread for discussion of the address. We’ll get the party started with a few legally-oriented highlights, after the jump.

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Justice Alito is going to the State of the Union this year? Not true, not true!

Tomorrow night, many of us will tune in to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address — hoping to catch more catfighting than on an episode of Jersey Shore.

Last year’s SOTU did not disappoint drama-seekers. As you may recall, an Article II vs. Article III smackdown took place: President Obama chided the Supreme Court for its Citizens United decision, with six members of the Court sitting a stone’s throw away from him, and Justice Samuel Alito responded by mouthing “not true” at the POTUS.

(Speaking of Citizens United, the decision celebrated its one-year anniversary last week, on January 21. And as Josh Blackman notes, the world has not come to an end, contrary to the dire predictions of distraught liberals. Of course, experts in this area — including some Obama-supporting liberals — told us that Citizens United wasn’t that big a deal.)

Thanks to last year’s juicy Obama v. Alito showdown, numerous commentators have wondered: Will Supreme Court justices attend the State of the Union this year? If so, which ones?

Let’s make some predictions, justice by justice….

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Barack Obama: The doctor is... out?

Virginia 1, Obamacare 0. Ian Gershengorn must be pacing up a storm.

Judge Henry E. Hudson (E.D. Va.) just struck down a key provision of President Barack Obama’s signature health care reform law — namely, the requirement that most Americans obtain health insurance. Judge Hudson held that the insurance mandate exceeds Congress’s authority under the Commerce Clause. Links to coverage are collected below; Judge Hudson’s 42-page opinion is available here (PDF, via Dahlia Lithwick).

Congratulations to Virginia and to its crusading attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli (whom I had the pleasure of meeting at Federalist Society festivities a few weeks ago).

Of course, we’re still near the beginning of a long road of litigation — which will likely end at One First Street, two (or more) years from now.

Health Care Law Ruled Unconstitutional [New York Times]
Judge Strikes Down Part of Health Care Law [ABA Journal]
Virginia Federal Judge Shoots Down Part of Health Care Law [WSJ Law Blog]


* Elizabeth Edwards has passed away, R.I.P. (Wait, John and Rielle — too soon, too soon.) [WRAL]

* During the New York Attorney General Debate, I predicted that Eric Dinallo would make a good partner at Debevoise & Plimpton. He just seemed so “nice.” Well, turns out I was spot on: Dinallo and Debevoise are a match made in nice people heaven. [Am Law Daily]

* Now that Charlie Rangel has been told he’s a naughty boy, can we get back to the whackjob known as Maxine Waters? [Dealbreaker]

* What it’s like to be addicted to M&A transactions, from the perspective of a retired Skadden partner. [Deal Journal]

* No Drama Obama gets a little bit feisty when defending his decision to extend the Bush tax cuts. In the words of Nice Guy Eddie: “You beat on this prick enough, he’ll tell you he started the Chicago fire. That don’t necessarily make it f**kin’ so.” [Business Insider]

* Back in the day, video could help the wrongly accused, just like DNA helps now. [DNAinfo]

* Lawyers fear change almost as much as Garth from Wayne’s World. [Belly of the Beast via ABA Journal]

Lawyers complain but Obama won't listen.

If you’ve been following along with the trend towards outsourcing over the past few years, you know what American lawyers are up against. Indian lawyers can do American legal work… while American attorneys are shut out of India’s (large and growing) legal market.

As many of you know, President Obama recently fled traveled to India, and ABA president Stephen N. Zack is begging Obama to use his international goodwill to convince India to stop acting like dicks in an exclusionary fashion with respect to American lawyers and law firms.

Zack’s arguments are simple ones, based on sound business practices, free trade, and fundamental fairness. Yet these arguments haven’t worked on Indian legal authorities, and apparently Obama isn’t any more receptive…

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The Verrazano Bridge to Staten Island -- the orignal "bridge to nowhere."

Don’t you hate it when rich people try to welsh on a bet? British billionaire Alki David dared somebody to streak — that means “running while naked and probably drunk,” if you’ve never been to college — in front of President Obama. Alki said he’d give the person who streaked in front of the president, with the name of Alki’s website emblazoned on his or her body, the tidy sum of $1 million.

Somebody from Staten Island (why am I not surprised) performed the feat (or substantially attempted to perform the feat) during an Obama event in Pennsylvania. Now Alki is considering hiding behind the law to avoid payment.

This must be how rich people get rich: make outlandish promises, then use fancy law talk to avoid payment…

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Yesterday President Obama held a town hall meeting with those affected by the terrible economy. But the New York Times reports that the televised meeting “turned into a therapy session for disillusioned Obama supporters.”

A lawyer was among the disillusioned. Thanks to his question, Obama is now on notice that student debt is crushing the hope and change out of many people in this country. Here’s the Washington Post’s summary:

Then a 30-year-old law school graduate said he’s no longer able to make the interest payments on his educational loans, much less able to have a mortgage or a family. He said he had been inspired by Obama’s campaign. But now, “that inspiration is dying away,” he said. “I really want to know: Is the American dream dead?

If Bill Clinton had been asked that question, he would have said “I feel your pain,” molested the questioner, and said “I will not, let, student debt continue to bang you in the ass.”

So what did President Obama say to the debt-laden lawyer?

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BP: 'Make us!'

Obama: 'Plug the damn hole.'

Not many people are happy about the massive BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico — with the possible exceptions of (1) Elena Kagan, whose confirmation to the Supreme Court is all but guaranteed (since everyone’s too distracted to oppose her); (2) the lawyers who are getting work out of this disaster (as discussed below); and (3) whoever is behind the fake BP Twitter account, which currently has over 167,000 followers.

But today brings some news that might make some people a little less angry at BP. Even though the government probably couldn’t have forced the oil giant to set up a $20 billion fund to pay oil spill claims, for the reasons explained by Professor David Zaring, BP is setting up such a fund voluntarily. The New York Times reports:

The White House and BP agreed on Wednesday that the oil giant would create an independent $20 billion fund to pay claims arising from the worst oil spill in American history.

Bowing to pressure from the Obama administration, the company also said it would suspend paying dividends to its shareholders for the rest of the year and would compensate oil field workers for lost wages.

There are actually several legal angles to the BP drama. For example, who will administer this massive fund? And which firms are getting a piece of all the defense-side action?

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President Obama is set to announce Elena Kagan as his next Supreme Court nominee. I’m liveblogging the press conference. Check it out below.

Everywhere you go, people are buzzing that President Barack Obama has made his choice on the replacement for Justice John Paul Stevens. And the consensus is that the nominee will be Solicitor General Elena Kagan. Politico reports that David, Kash and I will be up late on Sunday:

Look for President Obama to name his Supreme Court pick Monday, and look for it to be Solicitor General Elena Kagan, a former Harvard Law dean. The pick isn’t official, but top White House aides will be shocked if it’s otherwise… The West Wing may leak the pick to AP’s Ben Feller on the later side Sunday, then confirm it for others for morning editions. For now, aides say POTUS hasn’t decided, to their knowledge.

With all the talk about the razor-sharp Judge Diane Wood, the case for the bearded dark-horse Judge Sidney Thomas, and the Republican wet dream (at least, a wet dream within the nightmare of Democratic control) of Judge Merrick Garland, it’s possible that Kagan’s sterling qualifications have been overlooked. She was the front runner, after all.

But let’s remember all of the excellent reasons Kagan was the front runner in the first place…

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