There aren’t many two-time winners of ATL’s Judge of the Day award. The members of that distinguished group are true pieces of work — jurists like Judge James M. Brooks and Judge Elizabeth Halverson.
But we think that Judge Wilbur Mathesius, of Mercer County, New Jersey, richly deserves membership in the club. If you question this conclusion, just click here, to read what one tipster described as “a judicial hissy fit, with great footnotes.”
Some background. The New Jersey Supreme Court recently disciplined Judge Mathesius, suspending him from the bench for 30 days, and directing him to “reflect on his position of authority and the manner in which he exercises that position of authority.” So Judge Mathesius did just that:
I removed to a remote and undisclosed location to encourage contemplation and reflection. To provide further catalyst to my reflective capacities, I subsisted on a Zen macrobiotic vegetarian diet, an occasional leaf or two of organic radicchio and Evian water, foraging as best I could for native fruits and nuts. The occasional tuna sushi was like gold. I report herewith the product of that reflection…
Last Friday, in the Scooter Libby case, Judge Reggie Walton delivered quite the benchslap. Some brief background, from Ana Marie Cox:
A group of exceedingly prominent law professors (including Alan Dershowitz and Robert Bork) filed an amicus brief to Judge Reggie Walton [on Friday], arguing that the Libby verdict could possibly be overturned on appeal because of the “close question” about the constitutionality of the special prosecutor….
I was struck (as were others) by the footnote Judge Walton appended to his agreement to have the brief submitted:
Here’s the feisty footnote:
It is an impressive show of public service when twelve prominent and distinguished current and former law professors of well-respected schools are able to amass their collective wisdom in the course of only several days to provide their legal expertise to the Court on behalf of a criminal defendant. The Court trusts that this is a reflection of these eminent academics’ willingness in the future to step to the plate and provide like assistance in cases involving any of the numerous litigants, both in this Court and throughout the courts of our nation, who lack the financial means to fully and properly articulate the merits of their legal positions even in instances where failure to do so could result in monetary penalties, incarceration, or worse. The Court will certainly not hesitate to call for such assistance from these luminaries, as necessary in the interests of justice and equity, whenever similar questions arise in the cases that come before it.
Earlier this month, we wrote about how William P. Smith — a partner at McDermott Will & Emery (Chicago), and head of its bankruptcy department — landed himself in the deep-fat fryer. Smith unwisely told a bankruptcy judge, in open court, that she was “a few French Fries short of a Happy Meal.”
Well, Judge Laurel Myerson Isicoff didn’t respond so well to that colorful statement. She issued a sua sponte Order to Show Cause, directing William Smith (hereinafter “the Fry Guy”) to explain why he shouldn’t be suspended from practicing in her court.
Several tipsters have directed our attention to this delightful article, from the Daily Business Review, about the Fry Guy’s “super-sized gaffe.” It describes the fallout, for both Smith and McDermott Will & Emery, from L’Affaire Happy Meal — and includes a shout-out to Above the Law.
Excerpts and discussion, after the jump.
Or even in chambers, for that matter. But open court is worse. From a tipster:
In a bankruptcy case here in the Southern District of Florida, William P. Smith — a partner at McDermott Will & Emery (Chicago), and the head of its bankruptcy department — actually told a judge she was “a few French Fries short of a Happy Meal.”
Literally. In open court. Amazing.
Don’t believe us? Check out the transcript:
In fairness to Bill Smith, please note that he let fly this insult “with respect.” Nice touch, counsel.
Alas, Judge Isicoff didn’t take kindly to a lawyer questioning the completeness of her “Happy Meal.”
Find out how she responded, after the jump.
Okay, make that yesterday. A reader email drew our attention to the saucy conclusion of Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissent in Roper v. Weaver:
The greatest harm is that done to AEDPA, since dismissing the writ of certiorari leaves the Eighth Circuit’s grossly erroneous precedent on the books. (That precedent, by the way, cannot be explained away—as perhaps the Court’s own opinion can—as the product of law-distorting compassion for a defendant wronged by a District Court’s erroneous action. As noted earlier, the Eighth Circuit was not informed of that erroneous action. It presumably really believes that this is the way AEDPA should be applied.)
Other courts should be warned that this Court’s failure to reverse the Eighth Circuit’s decision is a rare manifestation of judicial clemency unrestrained by law. They would be well advised to do unto the Eighth Circuit’s decision just what it did unto AEDPA: ignore it.
WHACK! As our correspondent notes: “Scalia manages to benchslap both the majority opinion and the 8th Circuit all in the same paragraph.”
Some of Justice Scalia’s colleagues get cheeky on occasion. Another tipster drew our attention to Part IV of Justice Stevens’s Bell Atlantic v. Twombly dissent — which Justice Ginsburg expressly declined to join, perhaps due to its ‘tude.
But at the end of the day, there’s no disputing this truth: When it comes to benchslaps, nobody does it like Nino. Roper v. Weaver [FindLaw] Bell Atlantic v. Twombly [FindLaw]
“In the per curiam opinion in LA County v. Retelle (PDF), we get a nice discussion of racial harmony in the context of naked white people being awakened early in the morning by cops executing a search warrant on a house that was previously owned by black criminal suspects.”
From the Court’s unsigned opinion, joined by seven justices:
“Because respondents were of a different race than the suspects the deputies were seeking, the Court of Appeals held that ‘[a]fter taking one look at [respondents], the deputies should have realized that [respondents] were not the subjects of the search warrant and did not pose a threat to the deputies’ safety.’ We need not pause long in rejecting this unsound proposition.”
“When the deputies ordered respondents from their bed, they had no way of knowing whether the African-American suspects were elsewhere in the house. The presence of some Caucasians in the residence did not eliminate the possibility that the suspects lived there as well. As the deputies stated in their affidavits, it is not uncommon in our society for people of different races to live together. Just as people of different races live and work together, so too might they engage in joint criminal activity. The deputies, who were searching a house where they believed a suspect might be armed, possessed authority to secure the premises before deciding whether to continue with the search.”
The D.C. Circuit’s administrative law-heavy docket can be a total snooze-fest less than thrilling. But at least that uber-prestigious court is stocked with some interesting personalities.
Like the prominent, conservative, and temperamental Judge Laurence H. Silberman. From a tipster:
How about giving a shout-out to the latest Silbermannerisms? Yesterday Judge Silberman served up these two gems in a completely run-of-the-mill case, Menkes v. DHS (PDF):
“In response, the government raises a number of threshold jurisdictional arguments. Frankly, we do not think them worth a tinker’s damn.”
“This argument [is] unworthy of the government.”
OUCH — but not out of character for Judge Silberman. More from our source:
[H]e’s badass. The all-time greatest Silbermannerism:
“If you were ten years younger, I’d punch you out!” [Silberman to Abner Mikva, in conference with Ken Starr, as recalled by Mikva -- New York Times, 9/1/1998]
Someday I’ll start a blog on the DC Circuit, and when I do I plan to make Silbermannerisms a regular feature. But in the meantime, I hope you put those quotes to good use! He’s surely the greatest Judicial Divo of all time.
Judge Silberman is certainly in the running for that title. But what about his liberal counterpart, Judge Harry T. Edwards? No shrinking violet, he. Menkes v. DHS (PDF) [U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit]
The brilliant and irascible Judge Alex Kozinski, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, has handed down his opinion on blogs, and it’s scathing. The audio link is down, but Orin Kerr helpfully gives us the juicy bits:
ERIC GOLDMAN: So but what about blogs? . . .
JUDGE ALEX KOZINSKI: I hate them, hateful things.
ERIC GOLDMAN: Why do you hate blogs? . . . .
JUDGE ALEX KOZINSKI: I just think it’s so self-indulgent, you know. “Oh, I’m so proud of what I’m saying, I think the world instantly wants to know what I’m thinking today.” People wake up thinking, . . . . “I wonder what great thoughts have come into his mind this morning that I can feel myself edified by. I can’t really have breakfast — really enjoy my day — until I hear the great thoughts of Howard Bashman!” I don’t think so. I go for months without ever knowing what Howard has to say. So I don’t know. I find it sort of self-indulgent. And I find it grandiloquent. And I find it annoying, particularly if I’m in an audience and people are sitting there typing in their computers.
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The holiday season is upon us, and yet again, you have no idea what to get for the fickle lawyer in your life. We’re here to help. Even if your bonus check hasn’t arrived yet, any one of the gifts we’ve highlighted here could be a worthy substitute until your employer decides to make it rain.
We’ve got an eclectic selection for you to choose from, so settle in by that stack of documents yet to be reviewed and dig in…
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