Federal Judges

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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Judge Terence Evans

* Professor Eugene Volokh poses this question to his readers (we considered a similar query before): “I Got Awful Grades My First Year in Law School. Should I Quit?” [Volokh Conspiracy]

* I’m not that familiar with canon law, but I don’t think it looks favorably upon alleged groping of teenage girls. [La Crosse Tribune]

* Professor Douglas Berman wonders if there should be a social networking website designed for use by prisoners. (Commenter challenge: come up with a name for this “Facebook for jailbirds” social network.) [Sentencing Law and Policy]

* Stroock stricken with lawsuit by former partner. [Am Law Daily]

* Professor Paul Horwitz’s (thoughtful and measured) response to the law prof turned scamblogger. [Prawfsblawg]

* Seventh Circuit Judge Terence Evans, RIP. [Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel]

Sheryl Sandberg

* Shocker: tenured law professors are well-paid (check out their median salaries), and they enjoy high job satisfaction. [TaxProf Blog]

* Congratulations to David Boies and Ted Olson on winning the American Bar Association Medal, for their remarkable work on Perry v. Schwarzenegger (aka the Prop 8 case). [American Foundation for Equal Rights]

* In other LGBT news, lawyer turned pundit Ann Coulter makes nice with the gays, claiming her crown as the “Queen of Fabulous.” [Poliglot / Metro Weekly]

* Meanwhile, the Queen of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, gets profiled by the New Yorker. Here is Professor Christine Hurt’s take. [The Conglomerate]

* In the law firm world, beauty contests pit one law firm against another. In the strip-club world, beauty contests pit one vajayjay against another. [Fashionista]

Harry Wellington

* If you leave your bag of meth at the tanning salon, don’t go back for it. [Legal Blog Watch]

* The London riots show how technology and social media can be used to commit or to combat criminal activity. [Associate's Mind]

* Obama is taking his time on judicial nominations but at least he’s promoting diversity, reports John Schwartz. [New York Times]

* The ideas that Zach Shemtob and I discussed in our NYT op-ed are explored in greater detail in this (mercifully short) piece for the Tennessee Law Review. [SSRN]

* Harry Wellington, former dean of Yale Law School and New York Law School, RIP. [Yale Law School]

Is this guy loving Citizens United or what?

* Is a Ropes & Gray attorney behind a shell company that gave $1 million to the Romney campaign? [The Docket / Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly]

* Working on the matter pro bono, Skadden wants greater cooperation from the NYPD in the case of a missing eight-year-old boy. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Breaking down the Alex Rodriguez poker scandal. [Legal Blitz]

* Can’t the ABA and NALP just get along? [Law School Transparency]

* How is that we have more lawyers than we can shake a stick at, but not nearly enough judges? Ian Millhiser looks at the numbers. [Think Progress]

Know who this guy is? Click on the picture to find out.

* Can’t all the people in same-sex marriages facing deportation just move to New York? [Stop the Deportations]

* Who is “the most important American you’ve never heard of”? Read a well-reviewed new book, Michael Toth’s Founding Federalist (affiliate link), to find out. [Ricochet]

* Great job Tea Party, no really. You guys sure you won’t want any social spending when you are living in the wonderful economy you’ve wrought for us? [Huffington Post]

* Don’t forget to sign up for our chess set giveaway. Or join us on Linked In. [Above the Law]

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