Okay, ‘fess up. You didn’t follow the Scooter Libby trial that closely. It struck you as kinda confusing, kinda boring.
You didn’t read that much about the trial while it was going on — maybe an article on the day of opening arguments, and an article or two after the verdict. Whenever the Libby case came up at cocktail parties, you tried to steer the talk towards Britney’s shaved head, afraid of your ignorance being exposed.
Live in fear no longer. Just read this excellent Talk of the Town piece by Jeffrey Toobin, which tells you all you need to know about the case, in clear and concise fashion.
(We heart the MSM! They write about stuff like the Libby trial, so we don’t have to.)
Talk of the Town: Verdicts [New Yorker]
Okay, ‘fess up. You didn’t follow the Scooter Libby trial that closely. It struck you as kinda confusing, kinda boring.
- Arlen Specter, Federalist Society, Habeas Corpus, Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, Jeffrey Toobin, Judicial Nominations, New Yorker, Senate Judiciary Committee, War on Terror, William Haynes
Here’s another excellent article from Jeffrey Toobin of the New Yorker. It’s about the role played by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), outgoing chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, with respect to the recent habeas corpus legislation (aka the Military Commissions Act of 2006).
If you’re confused about the controversy over this legislation, which has wound its way through both the federal courts and the Senate chamber, the article is well worth your time. It explains recent developments in this complex area of law with commendable clarity.
And it also contains fun bits of color and gossip. We collect a few highlights, after the jump.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer demonstrates his hidden talent for pantomime, as Jeffrey Toobin looks on admiringly. (Photo by Startraks.)
This is our final post about Justice Stephen Breyer’s recent appearance at the New Yorker Festival. Prior posts are available here, here, here, and here.
We highlight some of the more interesting or amusing remarks by Justice Breyer, after the jump.
“Nino, you wanna piece of me?” Justice Stephen G. Breyer and Jeffrey Toobin, at the New Yorker Festival. Photo by Startraks.
Somewhat late, but better late than never: part one of the more detailed account that we promised you of Justice Stephen Breyer’s interview with Jeffrey Toobin, at the New Yorker Festival last weekend.
The setting of the interview was impressive. The Celeste Bartos Forum at the New York Public Library is a grand, high-ceilinged room, with marble and dark wood trim gracing the walls. Justice Breyer and Jeff Toobin sat on two directors’ chairs on the small, elevated stage at the front of the room, with a gold and brown backdrop behind them.
Before the talk started, one could feel the buzz of anticipation in the room. Our knees were trembling with anticipation, and our heart was beating almost audibly. Supreme Court justices make us weak! (And apparently we’re not alone. Festival publicist Kimberly Burns informed us that the Breyer/Toobin talk sold out on Ticketmaster in three minutes — like a rock concert.)
More notes, after the jump.
Actually, no, we didn’t ask him that. But the question we did pose was just about as goofy. It felt sort of like Punk’d: Supreme Court Edition.
First, some background. As previously discussed, this past weekend we attended Jeffrey Toobin’s interview of Justice Stephen G. Breyer, part of the New Yorker Festival. It was an interesting talk, even if it may not have met our (perhaps unrealistic) expectations.
We may write even more about the interview later (because it did go on for about an hour and a half). For now, though, we’ll share with you what happened when we got up during the Q-and-A session and posed a question to Justice Stephen Breyer.
Check it out, after the jump.
- Alex Kozinski, Ann Althouse, Celebrities, Federal Judges, Jeffrey Toobin, New Yorker, Richard Posner, Stephen Breyer
It’s another amazingly beautiful day here in New York, and we’re blogging from Bryant Park. The temperature is in the low 70′s, there’s not a cloud in the sky, and a slight breeze is blowing. Life is good.
We don’t have much time — we’re about to run off to another New Yorker Festival event — but after sleeping on it, and reviewing our notes (’cause that’s what they’re for), we’d like to revise our earlier assessment of Justice Breyer’s interview with Jeffrey Toobin yesterday.
Although it could have been more fun, if Justice Breyer had been more forthcoming, there were actually quite a number of interesting stories and humorous moments — more than we remembered. Yesterday’s take may have been influenced by the fact that the interview’s highlights were clustered toward the beginning of the talk, and more of the bland civics-lecture material was near the end. So immediately after leaving the talk, it was the dry stuff that stuck in our mind. We’ll have more to say later about the best parts of the interview.
In the meantime, check out Ann Althouse’s great question:
David Lat gets antsy when an interview with Justice Breyer is insufficiently confessional. Why can’t he be more like Justice Scalia (or Judge Posner or Judge Kozinski)? Is there some reason the conservative judicial stars are more fun? Do liberals always have to demonstrate their circumspection?
It’s a fascinating inquiry, and one that we’ve entertained often ourselves. Do you have thoughts on why today’s leading judicial “rock stars” tend to be conservative? If so, please place them in the comments. (We’d like to see more robust debates in the comments here at ATL, like at other blogs.)
Three thoughts that we’d like to offer, before you accuse us (and Professor Althouse) of being biased in favor of conservatives:
1. There are a number of charismatic, colorful, outspoken federal judges who are quite liberal. Four examples, off the top of our head: Judge Stephen Reinhardt (9th Cir.), Judge Guido Calabresi (2d Cir.), Judge Jack Weinstein (E.D.N.Y.), and Judge Nancy Gertner (D. Mass.). So, in fairness to the left wing, let’s admit that they too have their icons.
2. Today the top judicial celebrities tend to be conservative. Is this just because the Republicans have been in power for quite some time — and because the most recent Supreme Court nominees, as well as any SCOTUS nominees in the near future, will probably be conservatives?
(Or maybe not. Judge Kozinski or Judge Posner are both brilliant, but they are unlikely Supreme Court nominees, perhaps because they are so outspoken and larger-than-life.)
3. It wasn’t always like this. Two of the most enjoyable and entertaining Supreme Court justices of the twentieth century were Justice Douglas and Justice Brennan — and they don’t come more liberal than that. (So don’t accuse us of refusing to recognize fascinating figures of the judicial left. We just feel that the best ones aren’t around today.)
Okay, gotta run. Apologies for typos or sloppy (or sloppier than usual) writing; we haven’t proofread this. Hasta luego.
We’re about to head to dinner, so we’ll write more about this later. For now, from Bryant Park — free wireless! — here’s a quick, rushed, half-baked commentary on Justice Stephen G. Breyer’s interview with Jeffrey Toobin at the New Yorker Festival.
It’s always thrilling to see a Supreme Court justice in the flesh. But, truth be told, we were a little disappointed (and not because SGB dodged our question during the Q-and-A with a rambling hypothetical about green roof tiles). On the whole, Justice Breyer was a bit too tame in his remarks to be a great interviewee.
It wasn’t Jeff Toobin’s fault; Toobin tried to bring Justice Breyer out of his shell (as he did with Edie Falco, who was a brilliant interviewee at last year’s Festival). But Justice Breyer was, on the whole, too restrained and insufficiently gossipy.
Justice Breyer was obviously precluded from talking about substantive legal issues (which several audience made futile attempts to get him to do). So he should have offered up lots of color and dish: harmless random details about life as a SCOTUS justice, tons of funny stories. Sadly, he didn’t do much of that; a little, but not enough.
What did he do? He offered up lots of vague generalities about the role of the courts in a democracy. If you’ve sat through one of Justice Breyer’s civics lectures on C-SPAN, or through the first week of a Con Law course, you’ve heard this all before. A telling refrain that preceded many of his remarks: “As I tell my students” (i.e., the elementary and high schoolers he gives civics lessons to).
The best interviewees are confessional. You feel like they’re at dinner with a close friend (the interviewer), and you’re a fly on the wall, hearing all sorts of juicy stuff you really shouldn’t be hearing. But everything Justice Breyer said today he could have said — and probably has already said — on C-SPAN, or in his book, Active Liberty.
You’re about to complain: “C’mon, how could you expect much fun? The man is a sitting Supreme Court justice, for crying out loud!”
Our response: There are ways to entertain, enrage, or engage your audience, even if you’re a federal judge, without violating ethical precepts. Every time Justice Scalia makes a public appearance, for example, there’s an article in the newspaper the next day about some fun, wacky, or thought-provoking remark he made.
Judge Alex Kozinski and Judge Richard Posner are the same way. They are colorful characters, prolific writers and public speakers. They make us laugh, and they make us think, but without crossing the line into impropriety.
Unfortunately, Justice Breyer shied too far away from that line in his appearance today. We’ll blog about the highlights of what he did say later (and don’t get us wrong; there were a number of funny moments and interesting anecdotes). But on the whole, for those of you who couldn’t get tickets (it sold out in three minutes), you didn’t miss as much as you might think.
Another weekend, another out-of-town excursion. In a few hours, we’re heading back up to the Big Apple, to attend events at the New Yorker Festival. A brief description of the Festival, from its website:
The New Yorker Festival returns for its seventh year, from October 6th through October 8th, in a celebratory weekend of public discourse on arts and ideas. The three-day schedule of events encompasses readings, musical performances, interviews, debates, and excursions around New York City.
If you happen to be attending the Festival too, please come up and say hello. We’ll be at these events:
We’re especially looking forward to the appearance of Justice Stephen G. Breyer, whom we’ve never seen up close and personal.* Justice Breyer will be interviewed by Jeffrey Toobin — who, for obvious reasons, is one of our favorite legal journalists (or writers of any type, period). Last year we attended Jeff Toobin’s interview of Edie Falco, which was nothing short of brilliant — one of the best live interviews we’ve ever attended (and we’ve attended many over the years; we’re interview junkies).
Our excitement about seeing Justice Breyer has only increased since we realized, earlier today, that he looks like an older version of one of our favorite screenwriters and actors: the phenomentally talented, unfailingly hilarious Mike White, who wrote and acted in Chuck & Buck, The Good Girl, and The School of Rock (among many other films).**
Check it out. Here’s the ocular proof:
* We’ve seen all of the justices from across the SCOTUS courtroom, at oral argument (including the late Chief Justice Rehnquist and retired Justice O’Connor). But in terms of actual, formal introductions — of the handshake-and-name-exchange type — we’ve met only Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito.
** Chuck&Buck is one of our favorite movies of all time. We have a weakness for films focused on obsession and insanity. E.g., All About Eve, The Piano Teacher, Fatal Attraction, Monster.
The New Yorker Festival [official website]
Mike White biography [Yahoo! Movies]
Mike White I [IMDb]
- Benjamin Brafman, David Boies, Elena Kagan, Eyes of the Law, Harold Koh, Jeffrey Toobin, Laurence Tribe, Law School Deans, Nancy Grace, Ted Olson
Celebrity sighting columns are a staple of gossip magazines and gossip blogs. E.g., Gawker Stalker, Wonk’d, Judicial Sightations. So, in this spirit, we proudly present The Eyes of the Law — your source for all the legal celebrity sightings that are fit to print (and a few that aren’t).
Since we don’t get out that much — we get an electrical shock if we stray ten feet from our keyboard — we need your help. We’ll need you to make the sightings and submit them to us, by email (subject line: “Sighting”). Then we’ll publish them on the internet, for all the world to enjoy. (We’ve already received a few; keep ‘em coming!)
A few tips and guidelines to help you in your celeb-spotting:
(1) When you make a sighting, please be as observant as possible. How was the person looking — hot, or not? What were they wearing? What kind of mood were they in? Were they alone, or with others?
(2) On a related note, digital photographs to support your sighting are especially welcome. A thousand words, etc.
(3) A true “sighting” requires seeing the personality outside of their natural habitat — and preferably doing something that one might not expect them to be doing. So sightings of federal judges in courthouses and law school deans in the halls of their schools don’t count. But we welcome sightings of judges or deans at, say, a baseball game — or, better yet, a nudie bar.
Here are the types of people who qualify as sighting subjects in our book:
(1) any federal judge (but we’re talking Article III here — no bankruptcy or magistrate judges, ick);
(2) any member of a state’s highest court;
(3) a state court judge from a lower court, but only if they’re notorious for doing the kinds of things that state court judges are known for doing (e.g., using a penis pump on the bench, facilitating the escape of a violent felon, etc.);
(4) famous practicing lawyers, like David Boies, Ted Olson, Mark Geragos, or Ben Brafman (if you have to explain who they are, they’re not famous);
(5) prominent law school deans, like current Yale dean Harold Koh, current Harvard dean Elena Kagan, and former Stanford dean Kathleen Sullivan;
(6) well-known law professors, like Laurence Tribe, Lawrence Lessig, Lani Guinier, or Anita Hill (no, your first-year legal writing instructor doesn’t count); and
(7) law-related television personalities, like Judge Judy Sheindlin, Nancy Grace, or Jeffrey Toobin.
This list is not exhaustive; we may have overlooked certain categories of legal eagles that we’d like you to spot. But it gives you a good idea of the kinds of people we’re interested in.
So enough idle chatter; get to it. Rustle up some juicy sightings, and submit them to us forthwith, by email. Much thanks!