Clarence Thomas

John Roberts

I have complete confidence in the capability of my colleagues to determine when recusal is warranted. They are jurists of exceptional integrity and experience whose character and fitness have been examined through a rigorous appointment and confirmation process.

– Chief Justice John Roberts, defending the Supreme Court’s ethical standards in light of calls for Justices Clarence Thomas and Elena Kagan to recuse from the controversial health care case that will be argued before SCOTUS in March. The Chief Justice’s comments were made in his 2011 Year-End Report on the Federal Judiciary.

Justice Clarence Thomas

Elie here. Imagine Santa Claus stopping by your house — except this time Saint Nick is a mute, who stuffs your stocking with personal responsibility and brings you wooden toys, because those were the only ones available when his legend was born.

Well, joking aside, Justice Clarence Thomas will be stopping by Yale Law School on December 14th. And since there won’t be a case in front of him, he’ll actually be talking.

But not to everybody. Sources tell us — and Yale Dean Robert Post confirmed, in a school-wide email — that Justice Thomas will be speaking to the Yale Federalist Society and to the Black Law Students Association, as well as attending a class and a private reception. He won’t be making any general public appearance.

Setting aside commencement, it’s fairly typical for guest speakers (including Supreme Court justices) to speak to specific student groups and not the law school at large. If Justice Elena Kagan went to Yale, she’d likely speak to the American Constitution Society and the Socratic Hard-Ass Faculty Coven.

Some students claim, however, that the Yale administration has contacted several student organizations and asked them not to protest during Thomas’s visit. We don’t know if that’s true, and a message from Dean Post (reprinted below) does not directly mention anything about student protests. But the mere rumor of Yale trying to quash protests, circulated on “The Wall” (the YLS list-serv), has made some students angry.

Should they be? Strap yourselves in for an ATL Debate….

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Justice Elena Kagan

The latest issue of New York magazine contains a very interesting profile of the U.S. Supreme Court’s newest member, Justice Elena Kagan, penned by Dahlia Lithwick. Here’s the bottom-line summary of the piece (via Ezra Klein):

“While Kagan is assuredly a liberal, and likely also a fan of the health-reform law, a close read of her tenure at the Supreme Court suggests that she is in fact the opposite of a progressive zealot. By the end of Kagan’s first term, conservatives like former Bush solicitor general Paul Clement (who will likely argue against the health-care law this coming spring) and Chief Justice John Roberts were giving Kagan high marks as a new justice precisely because she wasn’t a frothing ideologue. The pre-confirmation caricatures of her as a self-serving careerist and party hack are not borne out by her conduct at oral argument, her writing, and her interactions with her colleagues. In fact, if her first term and a half is any indication, she may well madden as many staunch liberals as conservatives in the coming years.”

That’s just the overview. Let’s delve into the details a bit more….

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I once observed that federal judges are “the closest thing this nation has to an aristocracy.” If that’s the case, then justices of the United States Supreme Court are royalty — or maybe even deities, gods, and goddesses who walk among us (and occasionally crash into us, too).

Alas, it seems that two members of SCOTUS didn’t get the memo. They are comporting themselves in public in ways that are inconsistent with the dignity of the Article III judiciary.

This is a bipartisan problem. One of the offenders comes from the left side of the Court, and one comes from the right….

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I really think after-dinner speeches are a barbarous institution.

– Justice Antonin Scalia, in after-dinner remarks at the annual banquet of the Federalist Society, where he and Justice Clarence Thomas were honored for their respective 25 and 20 years of service on the Supreme Court.

(Justice Scalia comments playfully on Justice Thomas, after the jump.)

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Herman Cain: victim of a high-tech lynching?

* Here is Bess Levin’s take on the Groomzilla lawsuit brought by Todd J. Remis, son of a Goodwin Procter partner. [Dealbreaker]

* What advice would crisis management guru Lanny Davis give to Herman Cain about Cain’s sexual harassment scandal? Here’s an imagined conversation. [The Hill]

* And here is a real conversation — between Herman Cain and Ginni Thomas, also about the sexual harassment allegations. [Daily Caller]

* Current law students, at Brooklyn Law and Cardozo, call upon the ABA to get its act together. [BLS Advocate; Cardozo Jurist]

Judge J. Paul Oetken (S.D.N.Y.)

* The legal career of NBA star Ben Wallace is off to a great start. [Yahoo! Sports]

* Antonin Pribetic asks: “Are GCs Shifting The Balance of BigLaw Power?” [The Trial Warrior]

* Congratulations to Judge Paul Oetken on joining the distinguished S.D.N.Y. bench! (I was lucky enough to attend his ceremonial induction last week, which was fabulous.) [Poliglot / Metro Weekly]

* And congratulations to the Dave Nee Foundation, a non-profit committed to fighting depression and preventing suicide, on its record number of law firm supporters for this year’s masquerade ball (taking place tomorrow night). [Dave Nee Foundation (press release)]

* “Rising tuition. Misleading employment statistics. Inadequate skills training.” So what are legal educators doing about it? Blogging, of course. [Law School Review]

* Trendspotting: cute judges the federal bench? The Senate has confirmed Loyola Law professor Stephen Higginson for a seat on the Fifth Circuit. [National Law Journal]

* People in New Jersey have morals. Who knew? When faced with aborting babies or aborting their careers, some nurses from UMDNJ decided to sue. [Washington Post]

* Elbert Lin is returning to Wiley Rein after a stint clerking for Clarence Thomas. We wonder what his wife would say about him if he was one of her LEWW contestants? [Blog of Legal Times]

* Another Real Housewife of New Jersey is facing legal troubles, but this time to the tune of $7.8M. Sorry Teresa, but at least Jacqueline Laurita’s got her hairline under control. [Huffington Post]

* Is Justin Bieber the father of a baby, baby, baby? That’s what a 20-year-old from California says, and she wants a paternity test to prove it. [New York Post]

Welcome to the latest edition of Above the Law’s Grammer Pole of the Weak, a column where we turn questions of English grammar and usage over to our readers for discussion and debate.

Last week, we found out that 52% of our readers thought it was acceptable to end a sentence with a preposition, but with the caveat that it should be avoided if possible. That’s pretty wishy-washy, folks.

This week, we’re going to focus on an issue with a supreme split in authority, and you’re going to have to choose one side or the other. You’re going to pick Clarence Thomas’ side (you’ll soon see why we wrote it that way), or you’re going to pick David Souter’s side, but that’s it. Ooh, that’s a little possessive….

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Clarence Thomas set the table for the tea party by making originalism fashionable again.

Berkeley Law professor John Yoo, in an interesting Wall Street Journal piece discussing how his former boss, Justice Clarence Thomas, has defended the Constitution and embraced originalism during his twenty years on the high court.

Professor Stephen Smith

Perhaps this is part of some elaborate research project into the workings of the criminal justice system. Professor Stephen F. Smith, who teaches criminal law and criminal procedure at Notre Dame Law School, stands accused of a serious crime.

According to the South Bend Tribune, Professor Smith faces one count of domestic battery, a class D felony. He’s accused of striking and kicking his wife at their home, in an incident that allegedly took place back in June.

Professor Smith doesn’t fit the profile of the typical defendant in a domestic violence case. How many DV defendants have clerked on the U.S. Supreme Court? How many have graduated from Dartmouth College, where Smith served as a trustee, and the University of Virginia School of Law, where he once taught?

After graduating from Dartmouth and UVA Law, Smith clerked on the D.C. Circuit (for Judge David Sentelle) and SCOTUS (for Justice Clarence Thomas). He practiced at Sidley Austin before joining the UVA Law faculty, where he served as John V. Ray Research Professor before moving to Notre Dame. (Query: What prompted Professor Smith to move from UVA to ND?)

Legal pedigrees don’t get much better than this. But enough of Professor Smith’s dazzling résumé. Let’s learn about the lurid allegations against him — and hear from ND law students about a campus controversy he created….

UPDATE: Please note the updates added to the end of this story. Thanks.

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