Ed. note: This is the first installment of Righteous Indignation, one of Above the Law’s new columns for conservative-minded lawyers.
In this new column, I’ll occasionally be weighing in on legal issues from a conservative, right-of-center political perspective. My aim for my contributions is to balance the liberal heft that regularly gets thrown around on the pages of Above the Law. (That’s got to be a metaphorical scale we’re using to do the balancing, if Elie’s on one end and I’m on the other.)
Where am I coming from that I might alter the usual ATL ideological balance?
* Chief Judge Edith Jones of the Fifth Circuit, the judicial diva herself, will be stepping down from her role at the head of the bench earlier than expected, due to “family issues.” Perhaps she told someone to “shut up” too many times? [Tex Parte Blog]
* Apple asked U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh to deny Samsung’s request that she bar all further communication with trial jurors, because the company claims it wants “equal access to information” (aka jury foreman Velvin Hogan). [Bloomberg]
* “[T]here’s no way to preserve the definition of marriage [as one man and one woman] other than by preserving the definition. It becomes somewhat circular.” That, and you rely on law from 1885. Argh! [BuzzFeed]
* ASU Law wants to move from Tempe to Phoenix, and to make it financially feasible, the school may increase enrollment and raise tuition. Sound like a good idea, prospective law students cash cows? [Arizona Republic]
* Now compare/contrast: Stanford Law had to dip into its coffers to come up with the cash to cover its financial aid promises this year, but the school isn’t cutting out a dime that’s owed to students. [National Law Journal]
* Massachusetts appealed the Michelle Kosilek sex-change ruling. The state claims it provided “adequate medical care,” but it’s questionable whether that was the case if the prisoner tried to castrate herself. [CNN]
* Tully Rinckey, a midsize firm, is planning to open an office in Buffalo, New York, so it sent out recruitment letters to 5,469 attorneys in the region. Unemployed law grads: open the letter, it’s not a bill! [Buffalo News]
Our candidates for the coveted Lawyer of the Month title have been a bit tame for the past few months. This time around, we’ve chosen some lawyers and law students who represent our more prurient interests and our unabashed love for scandal.
Chief Judge Edith Jones: Underneath her robe beats a judicial diva's heart.
Can you enforce civility by being… uncivil? That’s the question being raised, over and over again, by federal judges from Texas these days.
Before we get to the latest ridiculousness, let’s review. Back in August, Judge Sam Sparks (W.D. Tex.) benchslapped some rude lawyers with a snarky order inviting them to a “kindergarten party,” where they would learn such lessons as reasonableness and courtesy.
Ironically enough, some found Judge Sparks’s civility-seeking order to be… rude. Chief Judge Edith Jones (5th Cir.) issued an email reprimand to Judge Sparks, condemning his “caustic, demeaning, and gratuitous” order as “cast[ing] disrespect on the judiciary.” Some observers in turn thought it rude of Chief Judge Jones to call out Judge Sparks in writing, so publicly — she cc’d all of the other Western District of Texas judges on her email — when she could have just made a private phone call.
Chief Judge Jones is a highly regarded conservative jurist and a fixture on Supreme Court short lists, but she might not be the best authority on civility and etiquette these days. Check out the latest craziness — an en banc hearing before the Fifth Circuit that generated judicial fireworks, culminating in Judge Jones essentially telling a colleague to STFU or GTFO….
The benchslapper has become the benchslapped. Judge Sam Sparks, of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, just got smacked around by a higher authority: Chief Judge Edith Jones, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
Last month, Judge Sparks issued a sharply worded order in which he compared the counsel appearing before him to squabbling schoolchildren — and invited them to a “kindergarten party,” where they would learn such lessons as “how to telephone and communicate with a lawyer” and “how to enter into reasonable agreements about deposition dates.” In the end, Judge Sparks ended up canceling the party, after the publicly shamed lawyers worked out their issues — but not before his infamous order received national attention within the legal community.
Many observers were amused by Judge Sparks’s order — which was not the first time His Honor has gotten saucy with lawyers in recent weeks (or in his judicial career, for that matter). But a minority felt that the order was over the top and gratuitously nasty.
Among the unamused: Edith Jones, who oversees the federal courts of Texas in her capacity as Chief Judge of the Fifth Circuit. What did she have to say to Sam Sparks?
For years we’ve been huge fans of Judith Edith H. Jones. She had a reputation as a tough, smart, conservative judge. She was known as as a badass of the bench, more than capable of eviscerating counsel or colleagues who crossed her. Her dramatic nickname — “horsewoman of the right-wing apocalypse” — pretty much said it all. (See here, hottie #3.)
(The high-powered Judge Jones was also a recurring Supreme Court short-lister — so frequent a SCOTUS mention, in fact, that Slate once dubbed her “Susan Lucci in Judicial Robes.”)
So our obsession with Judge Jones went way back. How could we not adore such a strong-willed, right-wing judicial diva? Sometimes muttering her full name under our breath — the Honorable Edith Hollan Jones — would make us shiver involuntarily.
This past weekend, at the Federalist Society conference, we actually got to meet Judge Jones. It was a thrill! And we even got to take a picture of her — so cool!
(Alas, Judge Jones forbade us from publishing it on the internet — and we don’t want to be found in contempt. So the picture will have to remain in our personal stash of federal judicial portraits. Sorry!)
In addition, we had the chance to observe Judge Jones up close, while she was in the audience of the final panel of the conference — a magnificent shouting match between social conservatives and libertarians that was nominally entitled “The Role of Government in Defining Our Culture.” (We expect to write more about this steel-cage match panel discussion later.)
We are sad to report, however, that some of these observations have changed our view of Judge Jones. We reveal what we saw, after the jump.
In a land that is right here and in a time that is right now, a technology has arisen so powerful that it can replace basic human document review. Is it time to bow down before our new robot overlords?
First, here’s a little story about me: my life in the legal world began as a paralegal. My first case was a GIANT patent infringement case that was already six years old and had involved as many as five companies, multiple US courts, the ITC and an international standards committee. I knew nothing about any of this.
On my first day, my supervisor (a paralegal with at least eight other cases driving her crazy) sat me down in front of a Concordance database with a 100,000+ patents and patent file histories. “Code these,” she said. I learned that “coding”, for the purposes of this exercise, meant manually typing the inventor’s name, the title of the patent, the assignee, the file date, and other objective data for each document. I worked on that project – and only that project – for at least the first six months of my job. After a week or so, time began to blur.
What I know, in retrospect and with absolutely certainty, is that as time began to blur, so did my judgment. So did my attention to detail. If you could tell me that I did not make at least one mistake a day – one inconsistent spelling, one reversed day and month, one incorrectly spaced title – I frankly would need to see your evidence. I would not believe it. The human mind is trainable but it is not a machine.
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