Books

In his new book, Academy Award-winner Errol Morris has taken on one of the highest-profile murder case of the last 50 years.

Morris, known for The Fog of War, his documentary about Robert S. McNamara, just published his second book — A Wilderness of Error: The Trials of Jeffrey MacDonald (affiliate link) — a revival of the story of a young Army doctor convicted in 1979 of murdering his pregnant wife and two children.

Americans of a certain age (i.e., older than me) almost certainly remember MacDonald, whose story was told and endlessly picked apart on television, in Fatal Vision by Joe McGinniss, and The Journalist and the Murderer by Janet Malcolm. But Morris’s new book is perhaps the first serious investigative look at the idea that MacDonald may very well be innocent.

Morris’s book, which has already garnered positive reviews in the New York Times and the Atlantic, is at once a thrilling true crime story and challenging philosophical look at the tricky nature of facts and the importance of narrative in the American legal system.

Let’s hear more about the book and chat with Morris….

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Justice Scalia (left) and Judge Posner

Over the past few months, Justice Antonin Scalia and Judge Richard Posner have been trading benchslaps. The most recent clash got going a few weeks ago, when Judge Posner wrote a harsh review for the New Republic of Justice Scalia and Bryan Garner’s new book, Reading Law (affiliate link).

Scalia surrogates rushed to the justice’s defense. One of his former clerks, Ed Whelan, wrote a series of posts for the National Review’s Bench Memos blog in which he criticized the Posner review. Justice Scalia’s co-author, Professor Garner, also responded forcefully to Judge Posner (who in turn responded to Garner, again in the New Republic).

But the justice himself remained silent on all of this. When we reached out to both judges about the apparent tiff, Judge Posner denied any personal animosity, but Justice Scalia declined to comment.

Now Justice Scalia has broken his silence. And His Honor seems none too happy with Judge Posner’s book reviewing skills….

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A few months ago, I wrote a post entitled “Welcome to Zombie Law 101″ about a professor’s law review article that dealt with zombies. It was a fun, quirky piece, but I figured that would be the start and end of zombie law. Well, I was wrong. A new Kickstarter project helmed by attorney Joshua Warren is raising funds to create a zombie law case book. Yep.

Part of me thinks this is pretty cool. Nerdy, but cool nonetheless.

Although, I’m a little worried that continuing to cover zombie law could eventually lead to zombie lawyers, and no one wants that. (I object, Your Honor! Counsel is eating the witness’s face.) I guess we’ll cross that bridge, and loot liquor stores for food and weapons, when we come to it. For now, let’s learn more about the project….

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Left to right: Bryan Garner, Antonin Scalia, and Richard Posner

The jurisprudential wrestling match between Justice Antonin Scalia and Judge Richard Posner is quickly turning into a WWE tag team battle royal. Tagging in to help Justice Scalia: Bryan Garner, one of the foremost authorities on legal writing and legal language. Professor Garner, of course, is Justice Scalia’s co-author on Reading Law (affiliate link).

Professor Garner is not happy with Judge Posner’s treatment of the book. Let’s hear what he has to say — and also speculate on how the Posner/Scalia tiff might affect Posner’s feeding of law clerks to Scalia….

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Justice Scalia (left) and Judge Posner

In case you missed it, you should check out Judge Richard Posner’s recent review of the new book by Justice Antonin Scalia and Bryan Garner, Reading Law (affiliate link). The review is deeply thoughtful and elegantly written, but a bit… harsh. It’s a definite reverse benchslap.

And it’s just the latest blow in an ongoing slugfest between Judge Posner and Justice Scalia, which we’ve chronicled in our pages. In June, Judge Posner criticized Justice Scalia’s dissent in Arizona v. United States. In July, Scalia saucily responded by saying of Posner, “He’s a court of appeals judge, isn’t he? He doesn’t sit in judgment of my opinions as far as I’m concerned.”

Ouch. These exchanges got me (and others) wondering: What’s going on between these two eminent jurists?

I reached out to both Justice Scalia and Judge Posner with this question: Is it personal?

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* When in doubt, seek divine guidance and bet it all on black. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is going to be visiting Las Vegas this week, where he will attend a Red Mass and then head for the Strip. [Reno Gazette-Journal]

* After being limited on page length, a licensing expert opted to file a five-page cartoon brief in the Apple e-book case. This dude can retire, because he’s achieved legal baller status. [Bloomberg]

* James Hayes’s lawsuit over ICE’s alleged federal “frat house” has been sent to mediation for a possible settlement — but in real Greek life, he likely would’ve been peer pressured to de-pledge. [Washington Post]

* Bull’s-eye! Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Arthur Schack has recused himself from a personal injury case where he was alleged to have called a Cozen O’Connor partner a “piece of sh*t.” [New York Law Journal]

* The case of the missing asterisk: an Ohio Court of Appeals candidate was fined for wearing judge’s robes in her campaign flyers because she failed to indicate her judicial status or lack thereof. [National Law Journal]

* How much does it cost to cover up and then begrudgingly deal with a child sex abuse scandal? The tab thus far for Penn State University is about $17M — $4M of which went to legal services and defense. [CBS News]

* Despite Villanova Law’s admissions scandal, the dean reports that the school has admitted its “highest-quality” class ever. You know it’s hard to believe anything you say about your data, right? [Philadelphia Inquirer]

* These are some sad times in Texas, y’all. It really hasn’t been a very good week for the Lone Star state in the courts. First their redistricting plan got thrown out, and now their voter ID law has been struck down. [CNN]

* Jeh Johnson of the Defense Department may take legal action against the former Navy SEAL who wrote a book about the Osama bin Laden raid, calling it a “material breach” of duty. Must be good; go buy it! [CBS News]

* Bros will be bros: disbarment has been recommended for an attorney who failed to disclose to clients that he had been suspended for banging an underage chick who worked at his office. [National Law Journal]

* Here are 15 Northeast law schools ranked by employment rate. After getting excited that mine was on the list — albeit dead last — I realized I’m seriously a low expectation havin’ motherf**ker. [Boston Business Journal]

* George W. Huguely V, the UVA lacrosse player who beat his girlfriend to death, was sentenced to 23 years in prison. Distasteful joke alert: for his sake, we hope the prison uniforms have poppable collars. [Bloomberg]

* A Maryland lawyer with autism and Sensory Processing Disorder has created a way for people to stop getting up in your personal space while riding public transportation. Say hello to the Sensory Shield! [Huffington Post]

Releasing a book may not bring you fame or fortune, but it surely brings you interesting e-mails. I devoted last Thursday’s column to an e-mail I received from a reader of the Inside Straight book asking whether law firms undervalue good lawyering. I’m devoting this column to an e-mailed reaction posing a different question: Must a lawyer specialize if he or she hopes to develop business effectively?

My correspondent (who again is a partner at an Am Law 100 firm and again gave me permission to edit and reproduce his or her words anonymously) wrote: “Your case study of how you developed a pharmaceutical product liability practice (when you worked at a big firm) says as much by implication as it does expressly. You’re implicitly asserting that one develops business more effectively by showing that you’re a specialist in a field the client needs rather than saying that you have a fungible skill. But I suspect that your true value as a lawyer was largely unrelated to your business development pitch in which you pretended that you were a specialist.

“Ultimately, what you brought to the table in private practice wasn’t a nearly 30-year career in pharmaceutical products law. You brought a vast wealth of experience gleaned from cases that had nothing to do with the area of law that, at a particular time, happened to govern specific cases.

“It pains me that lawyers feel compelled to become specialists — or, at a minimum, to pretend that they’re specialists — if they want to develop business . . . . ”

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* Sorry, Rob Portman, while you’re very good at making law students flee from commencement ceremonies, you don’t get to be Mitt’s running mate. Instead, you get to pretend to be the president. Dreams do come true. [Recess Appointment]

* Just because there was an undergrad rankings scandal at our school doesn’t mean that our law school data isn’t sound. ::pout:: Oh Emory, that’s so precious. [TaxProf Blog]

* Breast implants don’t make women healthier?! Damn you, Congress! [New York Magazine]

* Scamming insurance companies > scamming dying AIDS patients. [Dealbreaker]

* Scott Greenfield is running a book giveaway contest. Well, here’s my submission: The law doesn’t suck; it’s just the week before Labor Day, so writing about the law sucks. [Simple Justice; Legal Blog Watch]

* Given the number of men who ignore their girlfriends in favor of video games, it’s surprising that more women haven’t been charged with misdemeanor battery. [Legal Juice]

Professor John Corvino is the co-author of an excellent new book, Debating Same-Sex Marriage. The book consists of a debate between Corvino, who supports gay marriage, and Maggie Gallagher, who opposes it — and who has, through her work for the National Organization for Marriage, vigorously resisted the legal recognition of same-sex marriage.

The issue of gay marriage can be divisive, but the book has in many ways been uniting. In addition to bringing together Corvino and Gallagher — who have done numerous joint events to promote the book, despite their very divergent views — even the book’s blurbs have made for strange bedfellows. In the words of Dan Savage, author of the Savage Love sex advice column, Debating Same-Sex Marriage “is the first and, without a doubt, the last book in the whole sordid history of books that will be blurbed by both me and Rick Santorum.”

Over the weekend, I interviewed Corvino about the issues discussed in the book, with a focus on legal issues relating to same sex-marriage….

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