Diarmuid O’Scannlain

Let’s play a quick game (which we might return to later if there’s interest). If we were to give out awards to the different federal judicial circuits, in the manner of a high school yearbook, which awards would go to the different circuits? Here are some of my nominations:

(Article III groupies: Feel free to suggest others, in the comments.)

As for the other awards, well, they’d all go to the Ninth Circuit. It’s the nation’s most famous (or infamous) federal appeals court, so it would win “Most Likely To Become A Celebrity.” It’s the biggest, so it would win “Most Popular” (especially among the ACS and ACLU crowd). It would win “Most Athletic,” since it includes California. And it would win “Biggest Flirt,” thanks to its numerous superhottie judges. (Don’t you wish they all could be California jurists?)

The Ninth Circuit would also run away with “Most Likely To Be Made Fun of on YouTube” — since it already has been. How many circuit courts can claim that distinction?

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Law clerks aren't jumping for joy these days, especially when it comes to pay.

I spent last weekend in Portland, Oregon, where I attended the 25th judicial anniversary celebration and law clerk reunion of my former boss, Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain of the Ninth Circuit. It was a warm and wonderful occasion, a chance to reconnect with old friends and to catch up with the O’Scannlains (Judge and Mrs. O’Scannlain were joined by all eight of their children for the festivities). Former clerks shared happy memories from their time in PDX clerking for DFO.

Most former law clerks I meet — mainly law clerks to federal judges, whether Article III or magistrate or bankruptcy — recall their clerkships fondly. They praise the excellent experience, the clerkly camaraderie, and the training and mentoring they received from their judges (for the most part; a few describe judicial clerkships from hell).

It struck me as strange, then, that “law clerk” recently came in at #7 on CNBC’s list of 10 Most Hated Jobs. I can’t help wondering whether courthouse administrative personnel with the title of “clerk” were somehow mixed in with federal judicial law clerks. The median salary of $39,780 a year suggests that this might be the case, since federal law clerks (and many state law clerks) make more than $40K these days.

Then again, people don’t clerk for the money. Sure, clerkship bonuses, especially Supreme Court clerkship bonuses, can be considerable — but in most cases, a graduate who goes straight into a law firm will do better financially than her classmate who clerks after graduation.

If you’re planning to clerk or interested in clerking for a federal judge, you should be aware of the latest news about law clerk compensation….

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In our most recent Grammer Pole of the Weak, over two-thirds of you voted against the use of gender-neutral language, opting instead for the historic use of “he,” “him,” and “his” to cover both sexes. In the poll before that one, over 80 percent of you voted in favor of the serial comma. These results suggest that Above the Law readers are traditionalists in matters of grammar, usage, and writing style.

But back in August, 60 percent of you said that you are all right with “alright.” So perhaps ATL readers are open to the evolution of the English language and the creation of new words.

How do y’all feel about neologisms? Let’s look at two new words, coined by none other than the newly svelte Alex Kozinski, Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Grammer Pole of the Weak: ‘I Respectfully Dissental’”

July has arrived. At law firms, partners leave early on Friday, so they can beat the traffic out to the Hamptons (or the Eastern Shore, or the Cape).

At the Hollister store across the street from the Above the Law offices, hot shirtless men stand outside, trying to lure shoppers into the darkened, heavily perfumed, previously bedbug-ridden space. At 7-11 stores, they are giving away 7.11-ounce Slurpees (because today is 7-11 — geddit?).

And at One First Street, home of the Supreme Court of the United States (aka “SCOTUS”), clerk classes are transitioning. July is when outgoing Supreme Court clerks leave the marble palace — do pass go, do collect a $250,000 signing bonus — and their replacements arrive. The arrivals and departures are staggered over the entire month, so the departing clerks can train the newest members of the Elect.

July is a good time for an update on Supreme Court law clerk hiring. Let’s have a look….

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The [Ninth Circuit] seems to have cherry-picked the aspects of our opinions that gave colorable support to the proposition that the un-constitutionality of the action here was clearly established.

Qualified immunity gives government officials breathing room to make reasonable but mistaken judgments about open legal questions. When properly applied, it protects ‘all but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law.’ [Former Attorney General John] Ashcroft deserves neither label, not least because eight Court of Appeals judges agreed with his judgment in a case of first impression.

– Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the Court in Ashcroft v. al-Kidd (via Josh Blackman). (The eight Court of Appeals judges are those who joined Judge O’Scannlain’s dissent from the denial of rehearing en banc.)

There’s always something fun going on in the Ninth Circuit. Last week, the Court voted against rehearing en banc in United States v. Alvarez, a case raising the constitutionality of the Stolen Valor Act (a law that essentially criminalizes false claims of military heroism). A divided three-judge panel struck down the Act on First Amendment grounds, and the Ninth Circuit voted against reconsidering that decision en banc.

Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain (disclosure: my former boss) wrote a spirited and persuasive dissent from the denial of rehearing en banc, on behalf of himself and six other judges. The dissenters argued that the Act passes constitutional muster and that the First Amendment does not protect knowingly false statements of fact (subject to certain exceptions not presented by the law). The position that the Stolen Valor Act is constitutional is shared by a number of prominent scholars, including First Amendment guru Eugene Volokh.

But this is far from an open-and-shut case (unlike many of the Ninth Circuit cases that generate dissents from denial of rehearing, which we’ve previously described as the “Bat Signal” flashed by right-of-center Ninth Circuit judges to the Supreme Court when the lefties run amok). On the other side of the Alvarez case was Chief Judge Alex Kozinski — Professor Volokh’s former boss, and a jurist who, like Judge O’Scannlain, is often vindicated by SCOTUS smackdowns of Ninth Circuit liberals.

(Digression: I don’t like it when two of my most favorite federal judges cross swords! It’s like watching a fight between My Two Dads. I’d much rather see the two of them join forces against the Emperor Palpatine and She Who Must Not Be Named.)

Chief Judge Kozinski wrote a rather colorful concurrence to the denial of rehearing en banc. Some hilarious highlights from it, plus a fun movie-related tidbit from His Honor, after the jump.

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And just like that, it’s December. Flurries fill the sky, Wham’s “Last Christmas” saturates the airwaves, and the list of weddings in the New York Times shortens dramatically. Quality tends to decline along with quantity, but we’ve been pleasantly surprised to find plenty of comment-worthy nuptials (and attractive brides!) over the past couple of weeks.

Here are the three weddings that most caught caught our eye:

Elizabeth Kronick and Michael Kleinman

Alexandra Endelson and Michael Bassik

Lucy Martinez and James Sullivan Jr.

Check out these couples’ pictures and write-ups, including one jaw-dropping wedding registry — plus a list of all the recent legal eagle weddings — after the jump.

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We’ve decided to tweak the format of Legal Eagle Wedding Watch a bit. Beginning today, we’ll be bringing you all the lawyer weddings featured in the New York Times.

This, admittedly, is the kind of everyone’s-a-winner feel-goodism that we normally abhor. Alas, to be frank, we’re sick of the constant death threats from couples who don’t make our column. Don’t worry — we’ll keep the focus on our brilliant featured couples, as always. But starting with today’s installment, you’ll also be able to check out the honorable mentions (and others) at the end of each post.

Also, congratulations to Elena Lalli and Guillermo Coronado, who edged out Caroline Lopez and Nicholas Miranda in our last reader poll for Couple of the Week.

This week’s featured couples are:

1. Meredith Osborn and Christiaan Highsmith

2. Claire McCusker and Michael Murray

3. Emily Keifer and Jordan Barry

More about these couples — and a list of all the NYT’s recent legal eagle matings — after the jump.

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Chief Judge Alex Kozinski gives a thumbs up to privacy for the poor

A user’s manual that’s 200+ years old can be difficult to apply to modern technologies. Thus, it’s been a challenge for judges interpreting the Fourth Amendment as it applies to police surveillance via GPS tracking devices on cars.

There has been a plethora of precedents set across the country as to whether slapping a GPS tracker on a car is considered a “search” and whether a warrant is needed. A Wisconsin state court decided last year that warrantless GPS surveillance is okay. Within a week of the Wisconsin decision, a New York state court disagreed. More recently, the D.C. Circuit ruled that GPS tracking is indeed a search, and introduced what the Volokh Conspiracy’s Orin Kerr called a “mosaic theory of the Fourth Amendment,” i.e., that a series of discrete facts may be public, but their aggregation may violate privacy rights. Kerr dissed the D.C. Circuit’s mosaic ruling, but Cato’s Julian Sanchez was a fan.

The Ninth Circuit got in on the GPS-Fourth Amendment throwdown too. As noted by How Appealing, a Ninth Circuit panel — consisting of two of the court’s more conservative members, Diarmuid O’Scannlain and Randy Smith, and Judge Charles Wolle (S.D. Iowa), sitting my designation — ruled that police officers who placed a GPS device on the underbed of a suspected drug dealer’s car while it was parked outside of his house did not violate his constitutional rights.

Chief Judge Alex Kozinski was not happy about their decision. He wrote an angry dissent from the denial of rehearing en banc, accusing the judges of “cultural elitism,” by granting privacy rights to the rich but not to the poor…

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Calls his fellow judges ‘cultural elitists’ when it comes to privacy.

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LEWW’s memory isn’t what it once was, but we can’t recall a stronger week in legal nuptials than this one. All six of our featured newlyweds are truly impressive, and a few are even interesting! And not to give anything away, but if you love SCOTUS clerks (and oh, we do!) prepare to curl your toes in ecstasy.
Here are our finalists:

1. Lee Bickley and Martin Carr
2. Betsy Anderson and David Gottlieb
3. Karen Dunn and Brian Netter

Join us in evaluating these couples, after the jump.

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