When you’re a real litigator — at a firm, in the trenches, arguing stuff and getting your hands dirty — you see and hear the coolest things.
So I’m sharing a couple of litigation war stories with you today, and soliciting you to share others in the comments.
I’m in the California Court of Appeal in San Francisco. My case is third or fourth on the calendar, so I’m watching the arguments before mine. In the first case, the appellant had been convicted of a bunch of gruesome crimes. It was hard to tell without having read the briefs, but the litany plainly included rape, murder, and the desecration of a corpse. Defense counsel had not exactly lucked out in the selection of an appellate panel: He was arguing to three female judges, all of whom had formerly been prosecutors.
For reasons not entirely clear, counsel was trying to reverse the conviction for desecration of a corpse. He insisted that no evidence supported the verdict, because there was no evidence (I kid you not) that the defendant had jammed the stones inside the victim after she had died. As one of several arguments, counsel tried an appeal to reason. He asked the (seemingly) rhetorical question: “But why would my client have shoved rocks inside the body after she was dead?”
The question wasn’t so rhetorical, after all. One of the judges leaned forward incredulously and asked, with a snarl: “Excuse me, but . . .
* Just in time for Halloween, here’s a real Night of the Living Dead scenario. In Ohio you only have 3 years to challenge a ruling that you’re legally dead. After that, regardless of how f**king “alive” you are, you have to stay dead. [WTAE]
* Remember the epic Ninth Circuit benchslap oral argument? Well, the government read the writing on the wall and has confessed error and vowed to use the video of the oral argument as a training tool for its attorneys. We hope they’ll consider using the ATL write-up as supplemental reading material. [The Volokh Conspiracy]
* Corporette offers some good advice on how to write great cover letters. A good start is not writing one like this guy we profiled awhile ago. [Corporette]
* The Ole Miss FedSoc has readopted Colonel Reb, the now departed Ole Miss mascot, who the student body rose up and tried to replace with Admiral Ackbarsolely because the collected student body figured out this was racist (prompting one of my friends to create this brilliant image). So as Elie asks, “Is it really news that the Ole Miss FedSoc is raceist?” [Ole Miss]
* More about the Stephentown incident in which 300 kids broke into a guy’s house and live-tweeted the $20,000 in damage they did. Some parents have threatened to sue him for identifying the kids who ruined his house — because blaming the victim is awesome! [IT-Lex]
* Today in contrarian arguments, fracking could solve the global water crisis. [Breaking Energy]
There’s no better way to introduce this story than by reprinting the opening paragraph of the Sixth Circuit opinion by Judge Raymond Kethledge (citation omitted):
There are good reasons not to call an opponent’s argument “ridiculous,” which is what State Farm calls Barbara Bennett’s principal argument here. The reasons include civility; the near-certainty that overstatement will only push the reader away (especially when, as here, the hyperbole begins on page one of the brief); and that, even where the record supports an extreme modifier, “the better practice is usually to lay out the facts and let the court reach its own conclusions.” But here the biggest reason is more simple: the argument that State Farm derides as ridiculous is instead correct.
An en banc panel of the Ninth Circuit dropped one-liners, harsh mockery, and severe realkeeping for a little over an hour, and it’s entirely watchable because it’s so damn funny.
A federal prosecutor in California inserted a “fact” into his rebuttal that wasn’t in the record.
Overzealous prosecutor lies to get a conviction? To channel Ralph Wiggum, “that’s unpossible.” Now I can take off my old defense lawyer hat.
After the trial judge responded to these charges by shrugging his shoulders, the case wound its way to an en banc hearing of the Ninth Circuit, where a bevy of judges (including Chief Judge Alex Kozinski) rips into the government for sandbagging the defense out of a fair trial.
Or at least his laptop. After a conservative state court judge in Kentucky wrote an op-ed for the local paper arguing that the Supreme Court’s recent rulings on gay marriage didn’t affect the definition of marriage under Kentucky law, a retired federal judge called him on the carpet.
Pop quiz, hotshot. A federal judge issues an order to show cause that you should be “sanctioned for repeated failure to prosecute cases” and “barred from practicing in this District.” What do you do? What do you do?
The correct answer begins with “responding,” obviously. And when you’re in trouble over “failure to prosecute,” maybe that should light a fire under you to respond thoroughly and on time.
Yeah… this guy didn’t. Instead he provided a detailed, if legally irrelevant, explanation of how he was just too busy to worry about responding on time. Think of this as “Prelude to a Benchslap”…
Ed. note: This is the latest installment of Righteous Indignation, our new column for conservative-minded lawyers.
On Monday, the Supreme Court decided City of Arlington v. FCC. The question before SCOTUS was whether courts must defer to a federal regulatory agency’s interpretation of a statutory ambiguity even when that ambiguity involves the scope of the agency’s authority — its own jurisdiction.
Justice Scalia wrote for the majority, holding that even in cases such as this one, agencies are entitled to the usual deference established in Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. — aka Chevron deference. Chief Justice Roberts dissented, joined by Justices Kennedy and Alito.
The outcome of City of Arlington should be noteworthy to Court watchers — and conservatives in particular — for several reasons. First, the Scalia-Roberts split quiets the simplistic refrain that SCOTUS decides cases down rigid liberal-conservative lines. Second, it highlights an ongoing debate among conservative members of the Court about fundamental issues concerning the separation of powers and constitutional governance. Third, the Scalia and Roberts opinions demonstrate that, far from reserving their barbs for the left, conservatives can be pretty darn snarky amongst themselves.
The “Angry Police Captain” is one of the premiere cultural archetypes of late 20th Century America. The gruff, by-the-book peace officer asking his roguish subordinate if he realized how many regulations he’d broken or if he understood how many times the mayor had called that day to complain about all the damage from the car chase. At some point in the film, the captain will ask our anti-hero to turn in his badge and gun. Later on, the captain will begrudgingly return them while delivering some version of this speech: “I may not like your methods, but you get results.”
One judge has the first part of this archetype down, labeling a cop “dangerous” and questioning if he, “should not be carrying a gun.” I doubt the judge will have occasion to change his mind about a cop who pulled a gun on his neighbor, and then asked for a restraining order…
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past six years. You can reach them by email: [email protected].
Since late last year, things have been booming in Hong Kong / China in cap markets, especially Hong Kong IPOs. M&A deal flow has recently been getting a bit stronger as well. Although one can’t predict such things with any certainty, all signs are pointing to a banner entire 2014 for the top end US corporate and cap markets practices in Hong Kong / China. This is not really new news, as its been the feeling most in the market have had for a few months now and things continue to look good.
The head of our Asia practice, Evan Jowers, has been in Hong Kong for about 10 days a month (with trips every other month to both Shanghai and Bejing) for the past 7 months (Robert Kinney and Evan Jowers will be in Hong Kong again March 15 to 23), and spending most of his time there meeting with senior US hiring partners at just about all the major US and UK firms there, as well as prospective candidates at all associate levels and partner levels, and when in the US, Evan works Asia hours and is regularly on the phone with such persons, as our the other members of our Asia team. Our Yuliya Vinokurova is in Hong Kong every other month and Robert is there about 5 times a year as well. While we have a solid Asia team of recruiters, Evan Jowers will spend at least some time with all of our candidates for Asia position. We have had long standing relationships, and good friendships in some cases, with hiring partners and other senior US partners in Asia for 8 years now.
Are you challenged by the costs and logistics of maintaining your office, distracting you from the practice of law?
Many small firms are successfully moving part—or even all—of their practice to a virtual setting. This even includes multi-jurisdictional practice spanning several states and practice areas, although solo and small partnerships are still the largest adopters of virtual law.
Can you do the same? The new article Mobile in Practice, Virtual by Design from author Jared Correia, Esq., explores how mobile technology bring real-life benefits to a small law firm. Read this new article—the next in Thomson Reuters’ Independent Thinking series for small firms—to explore how a mobile practice:
Everyone is talking about the importance of Social Media in Corporate America. But it is relatively safe to say that most law firms and lawyers are slightly behind the social curve. Most lawyers, at minimum, use LinkedIn, for networking. Some even use Twitter for pushing out short, pithy content, while many have Blogs, where they write their little hearts out. The adage “it is better to give than to receive” is not always true though in the world of Social. In the Social World – it is best to listen, give back and engage.
Social Media is a communications tool that can deeply educate you about the needs and wants of your clients and prospects when used in conjunction social media monitoring and sharing tools.
Take this quick quiz and see if you know how to use Social to help you engage more with your clients or to better service the ones you have.