Benchslaps

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.

So, let’s have a closer look….

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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…

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Abraham Lincoln told a story about a lawyer who tried to establish that a calf had five legs by calling its tail a leg. But the calf had only four legs, Lincoln observed, because calling a tail a leg does not make it so…. Heeding Lincoln’s wisdom, and the requirements of the Copyright Act, we conclude that merely calling someone a copyright owner does not make it so.

– Judge Richard Clifton, writing for a unanimous panel of the Ninth Circuit in Righthaven LLC v. Hoehn.

(Additional commentary about this interesting case, after the jump.)

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Benchslap of the Day: Ninth Circuit Smacks Copyright Trolls”

When an opinion opens with a quote from The Wrath of Khan, something is about to happen.

What followed was a straightforward benchslap littered with Star Trek references. More than a little fitting that an opinion about allegedly illegal porn downloads would focus on the pop culture universe most closely associated with 40-year-old virgins.

It’s not the cohesive, brilliant opinion about strip clubs that we recently got out of Judge Fred Biery. Instead, the opinion draws wry smiles for laying out nothing but a string of references to Star Trek seemingly designed just to prove to his fellow nerds that the Judge knows Star Trek.

Which, in a sense, makes this opinion the most “Star Trek” thing ever…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Prenda Boldly Benchslapped Where No One Has Gone Before”

* There’s been a changing of the guard at Sidley Austin. Carter Phillips, one of our nation’s preeminent appellate advocates, is now the sole chair of the firm’s executive committee after a one-year stint as co-chair. Congrats! [The Recorder]

* You should really try to make the most of your summers during law school, even after your first year. Because duh, in case you weren’t aware, it’ll probably help you to get a job later on. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News & World Report]

* It looks like the trolls attorneys behind Prenda Law got benchslapped in the worst of ways — complete with a multitude of Star Trek references. We’ll likely have more on this later today. [Ars Technica]

* The California Supreme Court just ruined everyone’s high, because it ruled that cities and counties can ban medical marijuana dispensaries. Smoke ‘em while you’ve got ‘em, stoners. [Associated Press]

* Justin Bieber is being sued for copyright infringement, along with his musical mentor, Usher. Tween girl mob: ASSEMBLE! Defend your pop idol’s honor; after all, he just needed somebody to love. [Reuters]

In 2010, police in Des Moines, Washington (fun fact: pronounced “də·moinz,” with a “z” sound at the end, unlike the Iowa version), twice Tasered a 4-year-old Newfoundland dog named Rosie, chased it out of its yard, and then shot it four times — with an ASSAULT RIFLE. This was an act of unchecked police brutality that made the Rodney King cops say, “Hey, hold on now.”

And the city recognized this and offered the dog’s owners $51,000.

But a federal judge jumped in and basically doubled the payout, accused the city’s attorneys of having “terrible writing,” and that’s not even the worst charge he levels….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “City Gets Benchslap With a Rolled Up Newspaper Over Dead Dog”

* Forget playing with Wade. LeBron took his talents to South Beach to avoid tons of state taxes. [The Legal Blitz]

* Steve Susman of Susman Godfrey just completed the 180-mile trek from Houston to Austin by bike. Susman took part in this MS fundraiser with his grown kids and 35 other Susman Godfrey team members. Kudos. (You can donate via the link.) [National MS Society]

* The Obama administration is entering a showdown over its use of the “state secrets” privilege. The government is concerned that if it cannot shield “no-fly list” paperwork, it might chill their frank discussion of racial profiling. [Politico]

* A new in-house tool to replace outside counsel? Sure it may be cheaper, but can a computer get you playoff tickets? [Associate's Mind]

* Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s new book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead (affiliate link), received a good deal of praise, but her model of “trickle-down feminism” is a tad suspect. [JDs Rising / Minnesota Lawyer]

* We have a follow-up to the earlier Nevada benchslap. Now we have video of the judge handing out contempt charges for no reason. Wow. That’s some hardcore abused discretion. [Las Vegas Law Blog]

* Remember the L.A. Law puppets video from a couple weeks ago? Well, it’s now a series. Watch Episode 1 after the jump….

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Judge Jed Rakoff

The trustee… having for more than three years issued empty threats to seek a halt to the attorney general’s suit, has lost his right to complain. Even on the merits, moreover, his bluster proves to be without substance.

– Judge Jed Rakoff (S.D.N.Y.), issuing a harsh benchslap to Irving Picard, the trustee involved in the Bernie Madoff case, for trying to block a settlement he wasn’t involved in between J. Ezra Merkin and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

* Thoughts go out to all those in Boston. [CNN]

* I hope you’ve all got your taxes finished. Here’s a fun fact: most tax cheats live in the South and the West. The two areas of the country filled with people who think taxes are evil cheat more? Go figure. [NBC News]

* Remember, it’s not polite to say “thank you.” [Las Vegas Law Blog]

* And now the rare, “self-benchslap.” [Associated Press]

* A detailed look at how the Federalist Society became so powerful in American law schools. Unfortunately, it neglects the “they tend to order better pizzas for their events” gambit. [Chronicle of Higher Education]

* Remember the new, depressing, public domain Happy Birthday song? The sponsor of that contest, WFMU, is at it again with a new contest to create modern, entertaining covers of public domain ditties. Despite my ragging on the birthday song, this is a pretty cool idea. [Free Music Archive]

* Are you a young lawyer complaining about your lot in life? You’re at this site, so statistically you are. Well, quit your bitchin’! [Associate's Mind]

* The Texas Supreme Court does not value emotional attachments to dogs. This is surprising because I can think of at least 10 country songs on this very point. [Law and More]

* Mocking law school couples with a GIF from Veep? Get out of my head, UChiLawGo! [UChiLawGo]

* Boob-induced failure. [Legal Juice]

Don’t try to answer my question with your own question.

– Justice Antonin Scalia, in response to Ted Olson’s attempt to ask the justice a rhetorical question during today’s oral arguments on California’s Proposition 8 at the Supreme Court.

(We’ll have additional analysis of the Hollingsworth v. Perry proceedings later today, courtesy of Michelle Olsen of Appellate Daily. You can follow Michelle’s real-time coverage on Twitter.)

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