Federal Judges

'Judge Tacha, I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore.'

Here’s a new mini-trend: federal judges leaving the bench to lead law schools.

In 2007, David F. Levi stepped down as chief judge of the Eastern District of California, to assume the deanship of Duke Law School.

Today, Pepperdine University School of Law announced that Judge Deanell Reece Tacha — who has served on the Tenth Circuit for over 25 years, including a term as chief judge (2001-2007) — will be the school’s new dean, effective June 1.

Judge Tacha follows in the footsteps of another federal judge: former D.C. Circuit Judge Ken Starr, of Whitewater / Monica Lewinsky fame. Judge Starr served as Pepperdine Law’s dean until he left last year for the presidency of Baylor University.

How are students reacting to news of Judge Tacha’s appointment?

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Judge Marjorie Rendell (former First Lady of Pennsylvania).

There’s lots of law-related news coming out of Philadelphia right now.

The lead story on the Philadelphia Inquirer’s website today is about the latest Villanova Law scandal, regarding falsified admissions data being submitted to the ABA. (The article contains a shout-out to ATL, which we appreciate.)

The trial of Gerald Ung, the Temple Law student accused of shooting another young man, is getting underway in Philly this week. Opening arguments are set for this morning. (If you have any tips on the Ung story, please contact us.)

And then there’s the news that has all tongues wagging in the City of Brotherly Love: the split of a big-time Pennsylvania power couple (and a pair of Villanova Law grads, by the way).

Former Governor Edward Rendell, who left the governor’s mansion just last month, and Judge Marjorie Rendell, a prominent judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, are going their separate ways. They announced their separation, after 40 years of marriage, in an email sent to friends….

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Justice Kennedy

* How did Howrey start to unravel? The trouble might have started in Europe. [Washington Post]

* Congratulations to Arvo Mikkanen, a Native American nominee to the federal bench in Oklahoma (and “an all-around great dude,” according to a tipster). [The Atlantic]

* Washington & Lee Law School, which we recently praised for its honesty to prospective law students, gets even more transparent — in an interview with Vault. [Vault's Law Blog]

* In a recent visit to USC, Justice Kennedy presided over a Shakespeare-inspired trial — something he has done before — and denied that the justices think about the news media when making their decisions. Methinks His Honor doth protest too much. [USC News]

'Please don't ship me in a box with no air holes.'

* A New York trial court smacks down a claim of cyberbullying. [Adjunct Law Prof Blog]

* Taxing alcohol to reduce crime? Sounds like that will lead to more muggings for alcohol money. [Going Concern]

* If you try to mail a puppy from Minnesota to Georgia in a box with no airholes, you don’t get your dog back. Also, you get shipped directly to hell. [Runnin' Scared / Village Voice]

* Blawg Review #297: The Hair Shirt Edition. [Big Legal Brain via Blawg Review]


Thank you, Above the Law readers. The results are in for January’s Lawyer of the Month, and I can happily report that I do not write for an audience comprised solely of heartless, cynical d-bags.

Seriously, I’m going to be able to talk to my mother about what I do for a living for a whole week.

In a month that had some worthwhile competitors, one lawyer stood out above the rest…

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Disclosure: I'm pals with Judge Kozinski.

Given my prior stewardship of Underneath Their Robes, it should come as no surprise that I like my judges to exhibit some humanity. My favorite judges are those with personality, spunk, and a sense of humor, not the judicial automatons who just crank out dry opinions.

Sometimes judges can be, well, all too human. They might make mistakes — such as, for example, letting their lovers take nude photos of them in compromising positions, which then wind up on the internet. But that’s okay — the photos might be embarrassing, but they don’t call into question judicial impartiality or otherwise prevent the judge from serving.

(All the photos might show is that judges like sex — and is there anything wrong with that? As Elie quipped to me this morning, with regard to the Justice Lori Douglas photos, “I’m not worried about the judges who like having sex. I’m worried about the ones who don’t like having sex.”)

Earlier this week, the Honorable Alex Kozinski, Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, reminded us that judges are people too — people who still enjoy free speech rights, despite their judicial offices….

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As many of you know, one of our running features here at Above the Law is Lawyer of the Day. We don’t literally name one every day, but we like to keep you informed of the famous and infamous lawyers of the world. At the end of the year, we give you guys an opportunity to vote for a Lawyer of the Year.

Apparently you guys like to vote on lawyers, so why limit the experience to once a year? Above the Law has decided to let you crown a lawyer every month. We’ll pick the nominees (going forward, feel free to submit nominees to us at tips@abovethelaw.com, and you’ll vote for the most deserving. There are no specific criteria — just vote for the lawyer or lawyers you think most deserve the title.

Let’s get to this month’s nominees…

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Well this should be fun. Florida federal judge Roger Vinson has struck down the heart of Obama’s health care reform plan, finding that the individual mandate part of the bill is unconstitutional and therefore the whole thing is unconstitutional.

As Ashby Jones points out on the WSJ Law Blog, that makes the score 2 – 2. Two federal judges have upheld the law; two others have struck it down.

You know what that means? It means that very soon America will be operating under the Anthony M. Kennedy health care system. Does Justice Kennedy think that I have a right to health care? Does he think that pre-existing conditions should be covered? Is he comfortable having an entire nation’s health care system held hostage by a few insurance giants?

Exciting questions! I can’t wait to see how a man who nobody elected will decide our medical futures….

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Judge Gary Sharpe

Do you think there is a child porn “gene”? It’s an interesting scientific question (although I don’t really care, because I don’t believe in genetic determinism). I’m sure that one day science will give us some kind of answer.

But it is not this day. At this point we don’t know if there are any genetic predispositions that explain why sick-ass people are sexually excited by naked children.

This limit in our scientific understanding did not stop U.S. District Judge Gary Sharpe from sentencing an offender based on his belief about what science will one day uncover.

Well, the power of judges may be inscrutable, but it’s not absolute. They can’t make entire sequences of DNA show up on demand. They can’t see into the future. And apparently they can’t keep their sentences from being overturned on appeal when they base their decisions on science that does not exist…

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Padma Lakshmi

* Breast implants linked to cancer, looking awesome. [Associated Press]

* A Russian man is accused of posing as an immigration lawyer and stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from fellow countrymen. Police say they knew he was lying when he began doing bizarre, and ridiculously obvious, things with Oreos. [Sun-Sentinel]

* You know how I know President Obama’s latest nominee to the S.D.N.Y, J. Paul Oetken, is gay? Because this article says so. Bonus: Lat quotes! [Poliglot / Metro Weekly]

* “Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi is treating her baby’s dad like a bottom feeder.” [New York Post]

* Allen “The Ponz” Stanford was found incompetent to stand trial. Aaaaaayyyyyy *thumbs* [Reuters]

* Before the rampage, Jared Lee Loughner performed internet searches on famous assassins, the death penalty, solitary confinement, and law firm bonuses. I think that’s right. [New York Times]

* A Wisconsin attorney was sentenced to four years in prison on his 40th birthday, which reminds me of one of my favorite Onion articles. [Minneapolis Star Tribune]

* Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler, who wants to moonlight as an attorney, isn’t saying state salaries are too low. He’s just saying. [Bloomberg]

[N]eedless to say, I have not read the nineteenth edition. I have dipped into it, much as one might dip one’s toes in a pail of freezing water. I am put in mind of Mr. Kurtz’s dying words in Heart of Darkness — ‘The horror! The horror!’ — and am tempted to end there.

— Judge Richard Posner, in a scathing Yale Law Journal review of The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation (19th ed.).

(For additional discussion and funny excerpts, see Paul Horwitz, Ilya Somin, and Eugene Volokh.)

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