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