Federal Judges

The old ball and chain, dischargeable in bankruptcy only in the most limited of cases. Go ahead, try and prove you’ve got a ‘substantial hardship’ preventing you from paying. We dare you.

* Now that a federal judge has classified California’s death penalty as unconstitutional, it’s only a matter of time before the issue reaches the Supreme Court. We have a feeling the justices will likely roll their eyes. [National Law Journal]

* Word on the street is that Bingham McCutchen has got the urge to merge, and has apparently spoken to a handful of potential partners over the course of the past three months. We’ll have more on these developments later. [Reuters]

* As it turns out, it was neither Wachtell Lipton nor Jenner & Block that managed to snag the coveted GM litigation oversight job. Nice work, Quinn Emanuel — you’re considered a “well-respected outside law firm.” [WSJ Law Blog]

* Congrats, Flori-duh, you did something right. A state court judge has ruled that Florida’s ban on gay marriage violated the U.S. Constitution in the latest post-Windsor victory for equality. Yay! [Bloomberg]

* Thanks to their hundreds of thousands of dollars in law school debt, many graduates are considering declaring bankruptcy. Too bad most won’t be able to get their loans discharged. [Connecticut Law Tribune]

On Tuesday evening, I returned to the offices of Wachtell Lipton, the law firm where I toiled as an associate years ago. Luckily, I wasn’t there to bill hours; instead, I attended a reception marking the launch of a delightful new book, The Mother Court: Tales of Cases that Mattered in America’s Greatest Trial Court (affiliate link).

“The Mother Court” is the nickname for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, regarded by many as the preeminent federal trial court in the nation. In the book of the same name, James Zirin, a leading litigator who’s now senior counsel in the New York office of Sidley Austin, shares with readers the fascinating history of this top tribunal.

In a review that ran yesterday in the New York Law Journal, Thomas E.L. Dewey hailed the book as a “richly textured, immensely readable overview of the modern history of the Southern District of New York.” Last month, in the New York Review of Books, Judge Jed Rakoff praised Zirin’s “fluid prose and eye for detail.”

What fun tidbits and interesting opinions did James Zirin share in his remarks on Tuesday night?

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Ed. note: This is the latest post by Steve Dykstra, our new columnist covering the Canadian legal market.

I am a Canadian-trained lawyer. I live about five hours away from the Supreme Court of Canada located in Ottawa. I thought it would interesting to see how many justices of the venerable SCC I could name off the top of my head.

I got Beverley McLachlin (the Chief Justice) and Louis LeBel. Two out of nine. I missed Rosalie Abella (whom I’ve met), Marshall Rothstein, Thomas Cromwell, Michael Moldaver, Andromache Karakatsanis, Richard Wagner, and Clément Gascon (the newbie on the court).

Then I tried the current SCOTUS. I got Alito, Ginsburg, Thomas, and Roberts. Four of nine.

I admit, it’s a bit embarrassing that I can name more U.S. justices than Canadian….

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Chief Judge Loretta Preska

According to Black’s Law Dictionary (affiliate link), a judicial diva is “a particularly confident, skilled, and physically attractive female judge.” By this definition, Chief Judge Loretta Preska (S.D.N.Y.) is a judicial diva. She is highly regarded, as both a judge and an administrator, and she never looks anything short of fabulous.

I’ve been fascinated by Judge Preska for years. I had this to say about her back in 2004 at my first website, Underneath Their Robes: “Magnificent. Tall, thin, elegant. Great bone structure, perfectly coiffed silver hair. Note to self: nominate for superhotties contest next year?”

This gorgeous judge now owns a gorgeous apartment. Chief Judge Preska and her husband, a partner at one of the nation’s most profitable law firms, just paid almost $9 million for a penthouse apartment on the Upper East Side….

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* Congrats to William Voge, who was elected as the new chairman of Latham & Watkins. He succeeds Robert Dell in this position, who is one of the Am Law 100′s longest-serving leaders. [Am Law Daily]

* Dewey’s former execs filed a motion to dismiss their criminal charges, lamenting the fact that the Manhattan DA made them “scapegoats” for the total failure of their firm. [DealBook / New York Times]

* A judge banned the Washington Redskins name from his court, proclaiming that the offensively monikered team shall be known only as “the Washington Team” in documents submitted. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid thinks that if it were up to Judge Judy, House Speaker John Boehner’s “show trial” suit against President Obama would be thrown out in “half a second.” Well then. [ABC News]

* A Michigan attorney was arraigned yesterday on a felony charge of homicide-solicitation of murder. It seems that the hired hitman warned his target. He’s not getting a good Yelp review. [UpNorthLive.com]

* If you’re an international student with a foreign law degree trying to get a law degree in the U.S., why the hell would you waste your money on a J.D.? Just get an LL.M. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News]

* Oh baby8: Nadya Suleman (formally doing business as Octomom) pleaded no contest to welfare fraud charges after she failed to report income from all of her public appearances and porn videos. [Reuters]

Judge Richard KopfNine days ago, Judge Richard Kopf wrote an article about the Supreme Court’s decision in Hobby Lobby that suggested, “[a]s the kids say, it is time for the Court to stfu.” It was a good post, but something that seemed of such little controversy that we relegated it to an in-blurb mention within Non-Sequiturs.

And then all manner of shock and hand-wringing commenced.

It’s not the first time a federal judge received criticism for speaking out. Are jurists like Judge Kopf out of control?

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Judge Emmet Sullivan

* Judge Emmet Sullivan (D.D.C.) wants the IRS to explain, in a sworn declaration, how exactly it lost Lois Lerner’s emails. [WSJ Law Blog]

* And the fun for the IRS continues today in the courtroom of Judge Reggie Walton (D.D.C.), as reported by Sidney Powell, author of Licensed To Lie (affiliate link). [New York Observer]

* Speaker John Boehner wants to take the Republicans’ crusade against Obamacare to the courts. [New York Times]

* Andrew Calder, the young M&A partner that Kirkland & Ellis snagged from Simpson Thacher for a reported $5 million a year, is already bringing in big deals. [American Lawyer]

How the cupcake crumbles: the once-successful venture of an NYLS grad and her husband needs a rescue.

* “Duke University is not and never has been in the business of producing, marketing, distributing, or selling alcohol.” Some bros down in Durham disagree. [ABA Journal]

* If you see something… sue someone? The ACLU and Asian American civil rights groups, together with some help from Bingham McCutchen, have filed a legal challenge to the Suspicious Activity Reporting database. [New York Times]

* Congrats to David Hashmall, the incoming chair of Goodwin Procter — and congrats to outgoing chair Regina Pisa, the first woman ever to lead an Am Law 100 firm, on her long and successful leadership. [American Lawyer]

* A group of investors might end up devouring Crumbs, the cupcake-store chain founded by New York Law School grad Mia Bauer that suddenly shut down this week amid talk of a bankruptcy filing. [Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)]

As the Supreme Court’s October Term 2013 fades into memory, and the bickering over Hobby Lobby subsides, let’s look ahead to October Term 2014 — and beyond. We know now the identities of all the OT 2014 SCOTUS clerks, as well as a growing number of the clerks for October Term 2015.

The clerk hiring contains some bad news for Dean Erwin Chemerinsky and other liberals who want Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to retire before it’s too late. The Notorious RBG has picked her posse for OT 2015, suggesting that she won’t be leaving the Court anytime soon.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. First let’s look at the official list of Supreme Court law clerks for October Term 2014, starting up in just a few months….

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Justice Samuel Alito

[T]he 64-year-old [Samuel] Alito — a George W. Bush appointee — is aggressively staking out ground as a successor or even rival of sorts to Justice Antonin Scalia, 78, who’s often viewed as the intellectual leader of the court’s conservative wing. But he’s doing so in a less pugnacious and more politically palatable way than Scalia.

Josh Gerstein and David Nather of Politico, in an article about Justice Samuel Alito’s “moment” on the Supreme Court in the wake of his delivery of the majority opinions in both the Harris and Hobby Lobby cases.

Bryan A. Garner

This May, Thomson Reuters published the tenth edition of the estimable Black’s Law Dictionary (affiliate link). The most widely cited legal book in the world, Black’s is a must-have for every lawyer and law student.

Henry Campbell Black published the first edition in 1891. Starting with the publication of the seventh edition in 1995, Black’s has been edited by Professor Bryan A. Garner, the noted lexicographer, legal-writing expert, and author of such books as Garner’s Modern American Usage, Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges, and Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts (the last two co-authored with Justice Antonin Scalia (affiliate links)).

I met with Garner during his recent visit to New York, where he taught his famous legal-writing course to various law firms and government employers. His voice was hoarse from a summer cold, but he generously soldiered through an interview with the help of some tea. Here’s a (lightly edited and condensed) write-up of our conversation.

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