Televise this chief justice and this president on stage at the Kennedy Center for three hours talking about the role of government and the future of our polity. This historic clash of intellectual titans would be the most powerful civics lesson since the Federalist Papers, and we could sure use it.
Justice Barack Hussein Obama? No, that’s not a joke. Professor Jeffrey Rosen makes a serious case for President Obama to become Justice Obama, in the Washington Post:
Though Obama has struggled to find his footing in the White House, his education, temperament and experience make him ideally suited to lead the liberal wing of the court, especially at a time when a narrow conservative majority seems increasingly intent on challenging progressive economic reforms for the first time since the New Deal. Obama is clearly eager to take on the four truly conservative justices — Samuel Alito, John Roberts, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas — as his State of the Union smackdown suggests. But as president, he’s constrained by that pesky separation of powers. So what better way to engage the fight than to join the bench?
History offers examples of other executives who have moved over to the judicial branch. E.g., William Howard Taft, who served as chief justice after serving as president; Earl Warren, who served as chief justice after serving as California governor.
But in Obama’s case, how exactly would this happen?
Barack Obama just finished up his first State of the Union address. Lots of interesting things: jobs, gays in the military, health reformcapitulation c’mon we’re so close we’ve got to do something…. Oh, and nuclear power plants are back on the agenda. CHECK YOU RADIATION LEVELS.
But the biggest legal news, at least from the perspective of your Above the Law editors, was Obama’s smackdown of the Supreme Court — while six of the nine were sitting right in front of his face.
It was so harsh that it inspired Justice Samuel Alito to shake his head and to mouth the words “not true” at the president — very reminiscent of the “you lie” moment from the last time Obama spoke in front of a joint session of Congress.
The video and additional details — plus UPDATES, including a mini-debate between Kash and Lat, and a READER POLL — after the jump.
Thanks to everyone who submitted possible nominees for our Lawyer of the Year award. We reviewed your 160+ comments and developed a slate of ten worthy candidates.
Before we reveal them, we’ll talk about a few folks we passed over. A number of you suggested Mike Leach, the lawyer turned football coach who was recently fired by Texas Tech University. Although Leach’s achievements on the gridiron are considerable, he’s more of a football figure than a legal figure, so he didn’t make the team.
A few of the lawyers you suggested, while certainly well-known, really belong to years prior to 2009. These include former New York governor and Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who resigned in disgrace after his dalliances with prostitutes came to light; former administrative law judge Roy Pearson, of the infamous $54 million (originally $67 million) pants lawsuit; and prominent IP litigator Jeremy Pitcock.
Also named: Kathy Henry, a former Legal Secretary of the Day, whose alleged oversight could have cost PepsiCo a pretty penny — over a billion dollars (until the default judgment was vacated). But since she’s a legal secretary rather than a lawyer (or even a law student), we passed her over.
So who made the cut? Check out the nominees and vote for your favorite, after the jump.
President Obama seems to have made up his mind about the Khalid Sheikh Mohammed circus trial that will be coming to a New York courthouse near you. The Associate Press reports (gavel bang: ABA Journal):
Obama, in a series of TV interviews during his trip to Asia, said those offended by the legal rights accorded Mohammed by virtue of his facing a civilian trial rather than a military tribunal won’t find it “offensive at all when he’s convicted and when the death penalty is applied to him.”
I’ve argued that Obama isn’t as cool as everybody makes him out to be, but that was certainly some cold-ass rhetoric. “[W]hen the death penalty is applied to him”? Damn brother, you sending in the Wolf too?
Of course, after the jump, the lawyer part of Obama’s brain kicks in and he backpedals like a professional cornerback.
Meet Stewart Rhodes. He graduated in 2004 from Yale Law School, where his paper, “Solving the Puzzle of Enemy Combatant Status,” won a prize for the best paper on the Bill of Rights. Before entering the law, he served as a U.S. Army paratrooper.
What’s Rhodes up to now? Many military men turned lawyers troop off to large law firms, where the discipline and diligence cultivated in the armed forces help them succeed. Others join the JAG Corps or work for defense contractors.
But Rhodes, who was a non-traditional student at YLS, has taken a non-traditional career path since graduating.
Orly Taitz is a California attorney described by Wikipedia as “a leading figure in the ‘birther’ movement, which challenges whether Barack Obama is a natural-born citizen eligible to serve as President of the United States.” She started the Defend Our Freedoms nonprofit in order to wage the birther battle. We’re glad to see that its website does not have a photo of Obama with a question mark; instead, it has a tasteful image of Taitz’s head photoshopped over the Constitution, the American flag, and ALR volumes.
Earlier this year, Taitz went to federal court (M.D. Ga.) to request a restraining order on behalf of Army doctor Connie Rhodes preventing Rhodes’s deployment to Iraq. Taitz claimed that the deployment order was illegal because President Obama is not legally president, and attached among her evidence the obviously-faked Kenyan birth certificate for Obama that has circulated on the Internetz.
Federal judge Clay Land aborted that birther suit and reprimanded Taitz for filing a frivolous lawsuit. Shortly thereafter, Connie Rhodes wrote Judge Land a letter saying she found out about the lawsuit via media reports and had neither asked Taitz to represent her nor wished to resist her deployment.
Yet Taitz is still laboring over this suit and filed an order challenging Land’s dismissal of the case. He responded by giving her a two-week deadline to explain why he shouldn’t sanction her and fine her $10,000. On the deadline, she filed a motion to recuse Land from the case. He didn’t like that…
The current New Yorker has an interesting piece by Jeffrey Toobin on President Obama’s judicial picks. Toobin took part in a live chat about the piece at NewYorker.com right nowearlier todayif you’re interested. (Try not to crash their website.). UPDATE: The chat’s quite interesting. Toobin reveals why he likes Justice Souter best and answers this young wannabe judge’s question:
11:31 Guest: I’m a 25 year old law student, I want to be a judge, and my roommate smokes pot. How worried should I be? Do you think people will still care when I’m older?
11:32 Jeffrey Toobin: Don’t inhale! I’m kidding. I don’t think it will make a bit of difference. Our president has more or less admitted he was a pretty big pothead in his day, and it’s been a non-issue. Certainly the fact that your roommate smokes — not you — is irrelevant.
Toobin’s piece is available online to non-subscribers here. If you don’t feel like clicking through seven pages, here’s the ATL reader’s digest version:
Aging liberal judges hung on through the Bush era, but once a Dem took over, they were ready to hang up their robes. Additionally, since 2006, Senator Patrick Leahy has prevented Bush’s nominees from getting through the Judiciary Committee. Now vacancies abound in the federal judiciary.
Bush kicked ass in choosing judges; Obama is taking his sweet time. In the first eight months of their respective terms, Bush nominated 52 judges while Obama has chosen 17.
Obama says he’s looking for “experiential diversity” in his judicial nominations: “not just judges and prosecutors but public defenders and lawyers in private practice.” But his first batch of nominees are mainly former judges, like SCOTUS justice Sonia Sotomayor and Indianapolis federal district judge David Hamilton, nominated by Obama to the Seventh Circuit.
More bullets, after the jump.
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