Dahlia Lithwick

Justice Scalia

[Victories for same-sex marriage] will keep happening. And someday soon, Justice Scalia will have the chance to deliver the most vitriolic ‘I told you so’ in recent Supreme Court memory.

Jesse Wegman, a member of the New York Times Editorial Board, discussing how prescient Justice Antonin Scalia has been on the issue of marriage equality.

(Additional notable quotes and links, after the jump.)

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A sterner talking-to than Lanny Breuer gave HSBC.

* You can go to jail for possession, but if you actively aid and abet drug cartels, you can walk away with a fine worth 5 weeks of your income. It also helps if instead of “poor” you’re a bank. Hooray for “Too Big To Hold Accountable For Anything!!! [Rolling Stone]

* Disney has gotten fed up with “mockbusters,” films that jack the studio’s logo to confuse people into buying a different DVD. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve been itching to check out this new flick September: Osage County. [Jezebel]

* Dahlia Lithwick explains that too many schools feel the cure for the trauma of school shootings is… creating more trauma. [Slate]

* Chief Judge Theodore McKee of the Third Circuit rules that the government can detain you for carrying Arabic flashcards. This doesn’t even make racist profiling sense: “bad guys” would already know how to speak Arabic, right? [The Raw Story]

* Defendants need to understand that getting an acquittal requires them to expend some personal effort, too. [Katz Justice]

To accompany Noam Scheiber’s big article on Biglaw — which I discussed yesterday, and Anonymous Partner analyzed this morning — the New Republic asked six prominent observers of the legal profession (including yours truly) for their ideas on how to fix law school. For all of the blame that Biglaw gets for the profession’s problems, some of the difficulties can be traced back to the legal academy and how it teaches and trains lawyers (or fails to do so).

Let’s check out the various reform proposals. Which ones do you agree with?

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I was born and raised in Kansas. No big whoop. That state is where I took my first dump, drank my first beer, and felt my first boob. So, y’know, lotta fine memories. It’s where I first embraced my own mediocrity, never rising above third chair in a middle school band that had four trumpets. I have stories in which hay bales feature prominently. The town I was born in, Manhattan, is nicknamed the Little Apple. The more cosmopolitan among us always get a kick out of that last one.

Yesterday, a research attorney for a Kansas Court of Appeals judge was fired for tweeting the sentiment you see in the headline above these words. She was fired for getting all fired up and telling the world what she thought about one of the more irksome characters to pass through Kansas jurisprudence in the past many years. Sarah Peterson Herr, the lady who was fired yesterday for the tweets, learned an invaluable life lesson. Namely, that truth is almost never a defense. That you cannot, and probably should not, speak the truth whenever the mood strikes.

Even if it is about a man who doesn’t know how to spell his own first name…

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(Or, why Phill Kline is a total tool.)”

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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Southwestern Bell payphone with new AT&T signage

Not human enough to warrant 'personal privacy'

There’s some good news this week for those people whose blood boils at the mention of Citizens United. The Supreme Court proved that it is not always sympathetic to the rights of corporations — and is even willing to have some fun at their expense.

Chief Justice John Roberts penned a tongue-in-cheek opinion lambasting AT&T lawyers’ legal reasoning that has Dahlia Lithwick at Slate asking whether Roberts is the funniest justice ever. (Cue a scowl here from the legions of Scalia lovers in the audience.)

The case at the heart of the hilarity is FCC v. AT&T. The telephone company was involved in a billing practices investigation in 2004, in which it paid a $500,000 fine but admitted no wrongdoing. Some clever rivals at CompTel — a trade association representing some of AT&T’s competitors — wanted to take advantage of FOIA to get documents from the investigation and find out more about AT&T’s inner workings and alleged wrongdoing.

AT&T claimed protection under the Freedom of Information Act’s “personal privacy” exemption. A lower court was sympathetic to AT&T: “Corporations, like human beings, face public embarrassment, harassment and stigma” when they get involved with investigations by authorities. In other words: artificial persons have feelings too!

The Supreme Court did not agree. John Roberts whipped out a can of dictionary definitions to explain why corporations aren’t entitled to “personal privacy.”

Read on at Forbes….

A prudential perspective, because it appeared in Slate’s advice column, Dear Prudence (alongside an inquiry from a woman dating a wonderful man who unfortunately has a “micropenis”):

Dear Prudence,

I am just a little over a year away from becoming a lawyer, and I’m miserable because I hate it. I wasn’t forced into the profession. I just mistakenly believed that since I loved to read and debate, law was the natural progression. But I don’t like law, and I’m not applying myself to it wholeheartedly. I can’t imagine being in this field for the rest of my life or even a few years. My parents have sacrificed and spent so much on my education, and I have no idea how to tell them that I made a mistake. Worse, my mom thinks this is my dream, and I don’t have the heart to tell her that it isn’t. The only thing that really brings me joy is escaping into books that have nothing to do with law. Please help me.

—Inadmissible

So what did Prudence say to “Inadmissible”?

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Molly Wei

* Professor Larry Lessig’s review of The Social Network. [New Republic]

* Dahlia Lithwick’s review of the big new Brennan biography, by Seth Stern and Stephen Wermiel. [New York Times]

* Molly Wei, one of the two Rutgers students involved in the Tyler Clementi case, feels “attack[ed]” — but she’s hanging in there. [Celebitchy]

* Reports of a hunter’s death may have been greatly exaggerated, but they don’t entitle him to a defamation award. [Courthouse News]

* “Thinking of a Career in Law? Hahaha!” (Or: the U.K. legal market sounds a whole lot like ours.) [Charon QC]

* Can a lawyer use publicly available information on Facebook in a pending case without friending the person? [Adjunct Law Prof Blog]

* Vanderbilt law professor and leading class-action scholar Richard Nagareda, R.I.P. [TortsProf Blog]

Star Wars divorce card front.jpgLet’s return to our series of open threads on small law firms in different practice areas. We’ve covered seven fields so far; check them out here.
The latest topic to tackle: FAMILY LAW. This is the area of law that our somewhat cantankerous, dearly departed grandmother urged us to enter. She was firmly convinced that when a couple splits up, the divorce lawyers end up with all the couple’s money.
But not everyone is a fan of this practice area. Dahlia Lithwick, Slate’s fabulous and funny Supreme Court correspondent, previously practiced family law at a small firm in Reno, Nevada. It seems that she found divorce law depressing rather than enriching.
Here’s what Lithwick said during a talk at UVA Law School last year, when we asked what led her to move from practicing law to writing about it:

“One thing that really helps is doing doing divorce law.” After representing clients in their “bickering over the pots and pans,” she said, everything else starts to look much more attractive.

That seems like a rather negative take on the field, doesn’t it? In fairness to family law, it has its upsides.
Find out the advantages of this field — and check out the inside of this greeting card (above right), courtesy of the folks at Pig Spigot — after the jump.

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Dahlia Lithwick Slate Senior Editor.jpgWe spent a fair amount of time last week in lovely Charlottesville, Virginia, where we spoke at the University of Virginia Law School (coverage of our talk appears here and here). We spent lots of quality time with UVA Law students — at dinner, at a karaoke bar, and walking around the beautiful grounds.

One of the highlights of our trip was attending a luncheon talk by the fabulous Dahlia Lithwick, who has covered the Supreme Court for Slate for the past ten years (and who also served as a celebrity judge on ATL Idol). Despite suffering from a nasty flu, she delivered remarks that were hilarious and insightful, shedding much light upon media coverage of the Court.

Read more, after the jump.

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