Federal Judges

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?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Inside Straight: How The Legal System Brands The Beef”

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]

[W]asting the Court’s time with nonsense is not the way for plaintiff to have any hope of prevailing in this case…. Plaintiff is either toying with the Court or displaying her own stupidity. She made the correct redactions when she re-filed her Complaint and Amended Complaint. There is no logical explanation she can provide as to why she is now wasting the Court’s time, as well as the staff’s time, with these improper redactions.

– Chief Judge Royce Lamberth (D.D.C.), benchslapping the so-called “Queen of the Birthers,” lawyer cum dentist Orly Taitz (pictured), for improper redactions in her court filings. Check out the complete order, via The BLT.

(Chief Judge Lamberth, as you may recall, knows how to dole out a benchslap. See also his condemnation of an e-discovery screw-up.).

Chief Judge Alex Kozinski (sans robe).

Immigration is a hot topic these days. It was the subject of a recent Supreme Court case, Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting (a rare loss for the Chamber, which fares well at SCOTUS). It’s getting implicated in the LGBT rights movement, as gay and lesbian binational couples fight deportations caused by the Defense of Marriage Act. And as Election 2012 gets underway, we’ll surely be hearing more about immigration in the weeks and months ahead.

As the immigration debate continues, let’s keep in mind the important contributions made to our nation by immigrants. For example, one of our most distinguished federal judges — Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, of U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit — is an immigrant. He was born in Bucharest, Romania, in 1950, and he immigrated to the United States with his family in 1962, at the age of 12.

Chief Judge Kozinski recently sent me a great story relating to his naturalization, which I will now share with you (with His Honor’s permission)….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Citizen Kozinski: A Cool Coincidence, and an Inspiring Story”

As the first openly gay man to be confirmed as a federal judge, he will be a symbol of how much we have achieved as a country in just the last few decades. And importantly, he will give hope to many talented young lawyers who until now thought their paths might be limited because of their sexual orientation. When Paul becomes Judge Oetken, he will be living proof to all those young lawyers that it really does get better.

– Senator Chuck Schumer, commenting on the confirmation yesterday of Paul Oetken to serve as a judge on the Southern District of New York, by a Senate vote of 80-13.

(Because we are fair and balanced here at Above the Law, we offer a decidedly different perspective on the Oetken confirmation, after the jump.)

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Quotes of the Day: Dueling Perspectives on Judge Paul Oetken”

On Monday we published an update on Supreme Court law clerk hiring. In the wake of that update, we received a veritable cornucopia of tips and news of new hires (for which we thank you).

The most welcome information came from the Supreme Court itself. The Court’s Public Information Office kindly provided us with the official list of law clerks for October Term 2011. This list does not include law school and prior clerkship information, which the PIO will release later this year, but it does allow us to verify all of the crowdsourced hiring information we have gathered on our own.

So let’s take a look at (1) the official list of SCOTUS clerks for OT 2011, courtesy of the Court itself; (2) our unofficial list of OT 2011 clerks, with law school and prior clerkship information; and (3) an updated list of October Term 2012 hires thus far (at least three justices are already done)….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Supreme Court Clerk Hiring Watch: The Official List for October Term 2011″

July has arrived. At law firms, partners leave early on Friday, so they can beat the traffic out to the Hamptons (or the Eastern Shore, or the Cape).

At the Hollister store across the street from the Above the Law offices, hot shirtless men stand outside, trying to lure shoppers into the darkened, heavily perfumed, previously bedbug-ridden space. At 7-11 stores, they are giving away 7.11-ounce Slurpees (because today is 7-11 — geddit?).

And at One First Street, home of the Supreme Court of the United States (aka “SCOTUS”), clerk classes are transitioning. July is when outgoing Supreme Court clerks leave the marble palace — do pass go, do collect a $250,000 signing bonus — and their replacements arrive. The arrivals and departures are staggered over the entire month, so the departing clerks can train the newest members of the Elect.

July is a good time for an update on Supreme Court law clerk hiring. Let’s have a look….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Supreme Court Clerk Hiring Watch: The Changing of the Guard”

Not only am I dismissing your case — WITH PREJUDICE — but I am also referring you to the grievance committee, and will personally recommend that you are sanctioned. You lied to this Court, and that will not be countenanced. Now please leave my courtroom.

Judge Jed Rakoff, benchslapping (as reported by an ATL reader who witnessed Judge Rakoff in action for the first time, from the safety of the gallery).

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