Federal Judges

Chief Judge Alex Kozinski (in 2008 and today)

Chief Judge Alex Kozinski of the Ninth Circuit continues to provide us with awesome anecdotes. Back in July, for example, we related a fun story pertaining to his naturalization as an American citizen.

It was an inspiring immigrant story, but it was primarily of historical interest. Cool as it was, it did not have huge relevance to the day-to-day practice of law.

Our latest law-related tale about Chief Judge Kozinski has practical ramifications. California lawyers, you should keep reading; you never know when this knowledge might come in handy.

Also handy: diet tips from His Honor, who has dropped quite a bit of weight lately….

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Judge Ginsburg: back to school.

* Judge Douglas Ginsburg (D.C. Cir.) is taking senior status and joining the NYU Law faculty. Query how this will affect his feeding (and no, we’re not talking about New York versus D.C. restaurants). [The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times]

* “Two Examples of Things Not to Say When You’re at Your Local IRS Office.” [Going Concern]

* Speaking of efficiency-challenged government entities, how can the U.S. postal service be fixed? Professor Gerard Magliocca floats some ideas. [Concurring Opinions]

Madonna: going to court.

* Should you rinse religion from your résumé? Reflections from Professor Paul Horwitz. [PrawfsBlawg]

* The Material Girl is going to trial — over the trademark to “Material Girl.” [Fashionista]

* It’s not just law schools that are getting sued for fraud; it’s happening to art schools too. [PetaPixel]

* Elsewhere in litigation land, Quinn Emanuel is making bank — by suing banks. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* What’s the deal with high-frequency trading algorithms? Fear not; the SEC is on the case. [Dealbreaker]

Judge Sam Sparks

* Remember the “kindergarten party” that Judge Sam Sparks (W.D. Tex.) was planning to hold? His Honor has canceled the festivities. [WSJ Law Blog]

* John Althouse Cohen — yes, son of La Althouse — discusses one way in which Texas might be emulating… Europe? [Jaltcoh]

* Professor Paul Campos opens up a can of whoop-ass on people who say students go to law school — and take on six figures of debt — “for the chance to make a difference.” [Inside the Law School Scam]

* Musical Chairs: Mr. Quinn Goes To Washington (with the help of three Alston & Bird partners). [ABA Journal]

* The latest news on Stephen McDaniel / Lauren Giddings: if the blue gloves don’t fit, you must acquit? [Macon Telegraph]

* Above the Law — of animal cruelty? Steven Seagal, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a dead dog, and a rooster massacre. [TPM Muckraker]

Steven Seagal

* After a judge shot down the effort by NBA star Gilbert Arenas to stop “Basketball Wives: Los Angeles” from airing, Arenas’s ex-fiancee, Laura Govan, was allowed to strut her stuff on television — and it wasn’t pretty. [Sister2Sister]

* Congratulations to super-mensch Stanley Levy, senior counsel at Manatt, on winning Am Law’s Lifetime Achievement Award for 2011. [American Lawyer]

* And congrats to Masimba Mutamba, a 3L at Miami Law, who has just been awarded an apprenticeship with Waller Lansden’s innovative Schola2Juris program. [University of Miami School of Law]

Judge Sam Sparks

You do not want to mess with Judge Sam Sparks, of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas. We recently wrote about Judge Sparks accusing a lawyer appearing before him of incompetence — in a harshly worded order that pulled no punches.

Judge Sparks has been doling out stinging benchslaps for years, and he’s gotten pretty good at it. In particular, His Honor has little patience for discovery disputes. In 2007, for example, he smacked down some lawyers squabbling over a deposition — in rhymed couplets, no less.

Last week, Judge Sparks lit more lawyers on fire….

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First an earthquake, and now a hurricane. If the world is coming to an end, let’s go out doing what we love: talking about Supreme Court clerks.

Since our last round-up, which was over a month ago, there have been a few new hires. And some of them are for the distant future — namely, October Term 2013. Hopefully the world will still be around by then.

Let’s have a look, shall we?

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Watch my fat wallet devour its prey.

* Should we allow circuit judges to sit by designation on the U.S. Supreme Court? Here’s an interesting idea from Professor Gerard Magliocca. [Concurring Opinions]

* Hey Yalies: Did your alma mater accidentally make your name and Social Security number available to the public? (I got a letter about this; I guess it was legit.) [Gawker]

* You’ve got mail! It looks like a bill — from Wachtell Lipton. [Adweek]

* My morbidly obese, George Costanza monstrosity gets a shout-out in an article about oversized wallets. [Smart Money]

Bernie Madoff

* Is Harvard developing a course on business ethics based on the career of Bernie Madoff? Madoff apparently thinks so. [Dealbreaker]

* To all of you who say that my home state of New Jersey is good for nothing, read this. [DNA Info]

* Employment lawyers, any thoughts on this type of workplace behavior? [Fashionista]

* To those of you who want us to moderate comments more aggressively — we do moderate, but only in extreme cases, when brought to our attention — consider these wise words from Professor Paul Campos (aka ScamProf): “Law in general and law school in particular is already too full of fake politeness, fear-induced groveling, craven appeasement of dubious authority figures, unappetizing obsessions with hierarchical status, and other forms of soul-crushing inauthenticity.” So there. [Inside the Law School Scam]

Fortunately, you gave me so much paper. Otherwise, I would have had to watch a Mets game, which would have been a very painful process.

– the eminently quotable Judge Jed Rakoff (S.D.N.Y.), praising the thorough briefing by lawyers involved in the legal battle between the Bernard Madoff trustee, Irving Picard, and the owners of the New York Mets, Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz.

We briefly mentioned a lawsuit over the new ultrasound-before-abortion law in Texas back in June, and now it has turned into a full-blown media circus. The suit argues that this new law is unconstitutional, and it was brought by a group of Texas doctors who are being represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights. The case is being presided over by Judge Sam Sparks of the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas.

And thanks to Judge Sparks, sparks themselves are flying in his courtroom. Lawmakers have tried to intervene in this controversial abortion case at least twice before, and each time, Judge Sparks has politely rejected their attempts to butt in with their amicus briefs. The courtroom, as Judge Sparks sees it, is simply no place for political grandstanding.

But Judge Sparks must have been at his wit’s end with all of these amicus interlopers, because his last order with regard to the subject is anything but polite. You know you’re screwed when a judge has essentially called you an incompetent imbecile….

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Albert Haynesworth III

Albert Haynesworth III

* Does your fledgling company need a full-time general counsel? Lance Levy lays out some considerations. [In-House Blog]

* Why is Marc Randazza “the most inappropriate man in the world”? Well, how many briefs have you filed with phallus-filled footnotes? (Say that last part ten times fast.) [Popehat]

* New England Patriots defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth pleads no contest to simple assault, averting a trial for misdemeanor sexual abuse. [ESPN]

* Looking for a job in legal academia? Get to know the members of the hiring committee! [PrawfsBlawg]

* “Federal Filing of the Day: Nebraska Man Says He Left Baylor With GPS Sewn in Armpit.” [Unfair Park / Dallas Observer]

Ashley Alexandra Dupré, Eliot Spitzer's former paramour.

* Eliot Spitzer gets hit with a libel lawsuit seeking $60 million. That’s worth how many hours of Ashley Alexandra Dupré? [New York Observer]

* Congratulations to Ted Frank and his colleagues at the Center for Class Action Fairness on their latest victory — which appears to represent “the first time the Ninth Circuit has vacated approval of a class action settlement since 2003.” [Center for Class Action Fairness]

* Elsewhere in the Ninth Circuit, justice delayed turns out to be justice denied for a prisoner who died while waiting over five years for a federal district judge to rule on his habeas petition. (The magistrate judge had already recommended granting relief.) [Los Angeles Times]

Many prominent people, including Chief Justice John Roberts and Judge Harry Edwards, have raised their voices about the increasing irrelevance of academic writing to practicing lawyers and judges. Yet, despite railing at the academy, those judges — and law firms, and sophisticated purchasers of legal services — all rely on the academics to identify talented lawyers. Law schools brand the beef, and purchasers buy based on the brand. What do I mean, and why is that process natural and appropriate?

Let’s start with an example for people coming right out of law school: How should judges pick law clerks? One way — perhaps even the “fair” way — would be for judges to assume that each of the 45,000 people graduating from law school is equally likely to make a fine clerk. Judges would solicit applications from all 45,000 and then start the process of sorting the good from the bad.

That cannot work, of course. Judges don’t have the resources (or, necessarily, the ability) to study transcripts, read writing samples, conduct interviews, and do the other spadework needed to assess all of those candidates comprehensively. And judges can’t externalize the cost of the screening process; there’s no person or institution that would play that role for an acceptable price.

What are judges to do? They rely on law schools to brand the beef.

Rant as they may about scholars producing unhelpful scholarship, most judges rely essentially unthinkingly on those same scholars to have separated the potentially gifted lawyers from the crowd. Judges assume that the best students went to the best law schools; that, after arriving, the more talented law students outperformed the less talented ones; and thus that the best performers at the best law schools will make the best clerks. Judges typically pick their clerks from among the top graduates of the elite schools. Judges may think that professors are insane when they’re selecting topics for their scholarship and then devoting months to researching and writing on those subjects, but those same judges rely on the same professors to brand the beef astutely. Whatever criteria law schools are using within the asylum to rank their students, the outside world seems quite happy with it.

Is that fair?

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