Last week was short, thanks to the New Year’s holiday; but it sure was busy. Here are some highlights from a very momentous week:
* No more jokes about Harriet Miers: the ill-fated ex-SCOTUS nominee has resigned as White House counsel. Speculation about her successor abounds.
* No more jokes about the Dewy Orifice: the ill-fated merger between Dewey Ballantine and Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe has been called off.
* Turns out that Chief Justice Rehnquist was a painkiller junkie. Once, while suffering withdrawal symptoms, he tried to bust out of a hospital in his PJs.
* Chief Judge David Levi, of the Eastern District of California, will be the new Dean of Duke Law School.
* All About Jan? Just as the aging Margo Channing’s reign over Broadway was threatened by the comely Eve Harrington, the aging Linda Greenhouse’s reign over One First Street is being threatened by the comely Jan Crawford Greenburg.
* Who knew? Law professors and legal bloggers sure know how to party! Photos of drunken legal academics available here and here.
* Cravath partner John Beerbower has enjoyed some amazing apartments over the years. Cravath partnership + Wealthy wife = $20 million, Park Avenue pad.
* Who’s your favorite First Circuit judge? Cast your vote here.
* If you’re a right-winger hoping that Justice Stevens will step down soon, don’t hold your breath.
* Today’s D.C. Circuit: Despite the occasional catfight, it’s not as bitchy as it used to be. Sigh.
* Oppressed law clerks, your Devil Wears Prada is on its way. Coming soon to a bookstore near you: Chambermaid, by former Third Circuit clerk Saira Rao.
John Paul Stevens
- 1st Circuit, Biglaw, Blogging, Book Deals, Books, D.C. Circuit, David Levi, Dewey Ballantine, Dewy Orifice, Drugs, Duke Law School, Federal Judges, Harriet Miers, Jan Crawford Greenburg, John Beerbower, John Paul Stevens, Law Firm Mergers, Law Professors, Linda Greenhouse, Parties, Pictures, Real Estate, Saira Rao, SCOTUS, Supreme Court, Week in Review, White House Counsel, William Rehnquist
Last week was short, thanks to the New Year’s holiday; but it sure was busy. Here are some highlights from a very momentous week:
- Fashion, Gerald Ford, Jan Crawford Greenburg, John Paul Stevens, Media and Journalism, Old People, SCOTUS, Supreme Court
Well, not in so many words. But in his interview last night with Jan Crawford Greenburg of ABC News — his first
television appearance network television interview ever — Justice John Paul Stevens seemed healthy, lucid, and far from death’s door.
(Our apologies to the ConfirmThem crew. We hate to be the bearers of bad news.)
We did catch the interview last night. Twice, actually — we watched the excerpt on World News Tonight, then the full version on Nightline. You can access a video clip of an abridged version by clicking here.
Our thoughts on the interview:
1. Justice Stevens gets style points for the turquoise paisley bowtie. Paisley is a fashion cliche here in D.C.; but JPS wears it in a “I don’t care what you think” sort of way, which is great.
2. Negative style points for the brown plastic eyeglasses. Justice Stevens, you can do better. We know the Chief is always bitching about how little you guys get paid. But your most recent financial disclosure forms reveal that you’re a millionaire. You can afford wire-framed glasses.
3. Throughout the interview, Justice Stevens is articulate and alert. Yes, his head is permanently stuck in a slight rightward tilt. But that’s par for the course for old people. (JPS is 86 years old, turning 87 on April 20 of this year.)
4. Jan Crawford Greenburg is still a hottie. The reddish brown hair — is that its natural color? — is simply faboo. (Click here, then scroll down, for our exclusive photos of her.)
5. Justice Stevens reminisces about his late friend, President Gerald R. Ford, who appointed him to the Supreme Court. JPS describes Ford as “a fine lawyer” and ” the kind of person I would really like to have as a friend, because you like him right away.”
6. Greenburg asks whether President Ford was surprised by how Justice Stevens turned out as a SCOTUS jurist. Ford was a Republican, and JPS has turned out to be one of the Court’s most liberal members.
Justice Stevens: Ford may have been surprised by “some of my decisions.” But “over the years, I gather he was not unhappy with the results on the whole.”
7. Greenburg questions JPS further about his ideology and jurisprudence. She notes that President Ford’s attorney general, Edward Levi, described Justice Stevens as “a moderative conservative.” She asks the justice: How do you see yourself today?
Justice Stevens says that he sees himself as a “moderate conservative.” He adds: “I don’t think I’ve really changed. I think there has been a lot of change on the Court.”
8. The coup de grâce: near the end of the interview, Justice Stevens says: “I see myself as a conservative, to tell you the truth.”
Okay, maybe the old man is losing it — just a little bit.
Update: Orin Kerr’s thoughts on point #8 appear here. Can Justice Stevens perhaps consider himself a “judicial conservative” (even if he’s not a political conservative)?
Justice John Paul Stevens: The Silent Justice [ABC News (video)]
Justice Appointed By Ford Remembers the Late President [ABC News]
Is Justice Stevens a Judicial Conservative? [Volokh Conspiracy]
- 2nd Circuit, Biglaw, Blogging, Death Penalty, Deaths, John Paul Stevens, Morning Docket, Perverts, Saddam Hussein, SCOTUS, Sex Scandals, Supreme Court, Videos
(Yes, this is ridiculously late. But we hope, for the love of God, that you don’t rely upon us for real legal news. News aggregation is not our primary purpose, and there are many other sites that do it better and faster.)
* Now that President Ford has passed away, everyone must write the obligatory article about his long-lived SCOTUS appointment, Justice John Paul Stevens. [Chicago Tribune, ABC News, Los Angeles Times, WSJ.com; all via How Appealing]
* State bars tend to give government lawyers a wide berth. So when a bar brings ethics charges against a prosecutor, you know something stinks to high heaven. [Associated Press]
* Videotaping an execution is pretty grotesque. But then again, it’s probably no more disturbing than this video. [CBS News]
* You can accuse the Catholic Church of many things; but selective application of their teachings is probably not one of them. The Vatican opposes the death penalty even for Saddam Hussein. [Associated Press]
* Speaking of death penalty cases, the Supreme Court’s incredible shrinking docket may be getting even smaller. [SCOTUSblog]
* Biglaw + Racial Issues = Lively Blog Comment Threads. [Overlawyered; WSJ Law Blog]
* Tax lawyers at Cravath aren’t the only ones with a weakness for underage girls. [Associated Press]
* Oyez, oyez: Interested in an administrative gig that pays over $150K? The Second Circuit is seeking a new Clerk of Court. [2nd Circuit (PDF) via How Appealing]
- John Paul Stevens, Milberg Weiss, Morning Docket, Prisons, Shopping, Supreme Court, Tobacco / Smoking
- Ann Coulter, Crime, Food, John Paul Stevens, Lunacy, Rank Stupidity, Sandra Day O'Connor, SCOTUS, Supreme Court
Earlier this year, controversial blonde pundit Ann Coulter joked about putting rat poison in Justice John Paul Stevens’s creme brulee.
Did Coulter give someone an idea? Check out this story, from the Star-Telegram of Forth Worth:
When federal appellate Judge Danny Boggs said at a Friday legal conference at Las Colinas that physical assaults aimed at judges have come mainly from “the deranged,” Justice Sandra Day O’Connor underscored the safety concerns.
“Every member of the Supreme Court received a wonderful package of home-baked cookies, and I don’t know why, the staff decided to analyze them,” she recounted. “Each one contained enough poison to kill the entire membership of the court.”
Sounds pretty serious, right?
But we must call out Justice O’Connor for exaggerating the seriousness of the threat. It seems the ol’ cowgirl is playing fast and loose with the record. As reported by SCOTUS press corps diva Linda Greenhouse:
The danger posed by the packages was immediately apparent. Each contained a typewritten letter stating either, “I am going to kill you,” or, “We are going to kill you,” and adding, “This is poisoned.”
Supreme Court justices get accused of many things. But illiteracy is not usually among them.
Moreover, Justice O’Connor’s casual statement of “I don’t know why, the staff decided to analyze them” — implying the deadly treats came thisclose to reaching supreme judicial lips — is misleading. Again, per the Queen Bee:
All mail received at the Supreme Court is screened, and the tainted packages never reached the justices, said Kathleen Arberg, the court’s public information officer.
So it’s not that easy to poison a Supreme Court justice. Furthermore, even if the poisoned food somehow makes it past the initial screening, to reach a justice’s chambers, success is still not guaranteed. Why? In addition to their other duties, some Supreme Court clerks serve as food tasters for their bosses.
Finally, we fail to see how Justice O’Connor’s tale of the poisoned baked goods refutes Judge Boggs’s point that most threats against judges comes from “the deranged.” Clearly Barbara Joan March, who sent the poisoned packages to the Supreme Court — accompanied by notes that helpfully disclosed their toxic nature — is not a right-thinking person. At the very least, she’s not the most sane, nor the most intelligent, resident of Bridgeport, Connecticut.
Sitting Ducks on the Bench [Star-Telegram (Fort Worth)]
Justice Recalls Treats Laced With Poison [New York Times]
Ann Coulter to Justice Stevens: Drop Dead — Here, Let Me Help [Wonkette]
- Anthony Kennedy, Evan Caminker, Football, John Paul Stevens, Judicial Nominations, Law School Deans, Morning Docket, Politics, Senate Judiciary Committee, War on Terror
* It’s finally here: Ohio State vs. Michigan. And the respective law school deans are getting in on the wagering. Dean Nancy Hardin Rogers of Ohio State and Dean Evan Caminker of Michigan cleverly weave law with the age-old rivalry. Dean Rogers asks: “A burning question among the national media is whether the outcome in Columbus on Saturday will have res judicata effect between these two teams, or whether the loser will be able to appeal for a trial de novo at the National Championship game in January.” [WSJ Law Blog]
[Ed. note: Dean Caminker (pictured at right) is no stranger to the pages of Above the Law. ATL readers recently voted him the Hottest Law School Dean in America, an award that he accepted graciously.]
* Law students help uncover more possible violations at Gitmo. [MSNBC]
* Church and state are at it again. [Opinion Journal via How Appealing]
* John Dean chimes in on the re-nominations controversy. [FindLaw]
* Bobbleheads of Justices Kennedy and Stevens are up for bidding on eBay, with proceeds going to chairty. [SCOTUS Blog]
- 9th Circuit, Anthony Kennedy, Death Penalty, John Paul Stevens, Linda Greenhouse, SCOTUS, Supreme Court
We meant to write about this yesterday: Ayers v. Belmontes, the death penalty case in which a closely divided Supreme Court reversed the Ninth Circuit. The opinion was handed down on Monday. It was the first opinion of the Term, and it was an unusual first opinion.
The typical first opinion of the Term is some unanimous, per curiam opinion about some soporific statutory issue (often written by Justice Ginsburg). But Ayers v. Belmontes was a signed opinion (by Justice Kennedy), in a death penalty case, reflecting a 5-4 vote. Interesting.
A possible explanation, from the Queen Bee of the SCOTUS Press Corps, Linda Greenhouse:
No one at the court on Monday could remember a term that began with a 5-to-4 decision. But while this decision might, on the surface, suggest that the current court is on the way toward setting a record for internal division, that is not necessarily the case. A more likely explanation is that much of the majority opinion was in fact drafted last spring, before the court agreed to hear California’s appeal.
The entry on the court’s public docket shows that while the state’s appeal was pending the justices discussed it nine times at closed-door conferences. With cases typically being discussed only once or twice, if at all, nine is an unusually high number. It suggests that a group of justices was trying to win majority support for an opinion that would decide the case summarily, without argument or further briefing.
The failure of such an effort typically results in a compromise decision to accept the case for argument, with much of the opinion already having been drafted.
In other words: Ayers v. Belmontes could have been a standard-issue, summary reversal of the Ninth Circuit; but the votes weren’t there. So the benchslap-in-the-making was quickly converted into a majority opinion for a divided Court. (But props to Justice Stevens for cranking out his dissent with such speed.)
Also, the case features the coolest name ever for a jury member: “Juror Hailstone.”
Justices Uphold a Death Sentence Twice Overturned [New York Times]
Ayers v. Belmontes [Legal Information Institute, Cornell Law School]
- Biglaw, Borat, Britney Spears, Celebrities, Dewey Ballantine, Divorce Train Wrecks, John Paul Stevens, Money, Movies, Music, Politics, Robert Bork, SCOTUS, Senate Judiciary Committee, Shakira, Supreme Court, Wall Street, Week in Review
* The Democrats are in the House — and Senate, too. Say hello to the new chairmen of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the House Judiciary Committee. (And goodbye to Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.)
* It was a big week for politics — and celebrity divorces. Parting ways: Britney Spears and Kevin Federline.
* Dewey Ballantine + Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe = Sexytime!!!
* Hit movie Borat + Two dumbass frat boys = Lexytime!!!
* “Shake-It-Like-Shakira” contest + Drunken Jersey girl = More Lexytime!!!
* Rumors of Justice Stevens’s retirement: Greatly exaggerated? Or for real this time around?
* Speaking of the SCOTUS, here’s a fun fact: “It is unlawful to… make a harangue or oration… in the Supreme Court Building.”
* For the record, onetime Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork “doesn’t go seducing women at a convent.”
* News flash: Your friends who went into investment banking make WAY WAY WAY more money than you. (Unless you’re a new Wachtell Lipton partner, in which case they make WAY more money than you.)
- Brett Kavanaugh, Federal Judges, Janice Rogers Brown, John Paul Stevens, Maureen Mahoney, Peter Keisler, SCOTUS, SCOTUS Potential, Supreme Court
Rumors that Justice John Paul Stevens is about to step down from the Supreme Court are a recurring feature of the legal gossip landscape. As we previously observed, JPS retirement rumors “return each spring, with the birds and the flowers.”
But hey, we’re good sports, so we’ll blog about them. ‘Cause one of these days, they might actually turn out to be true — and we wouldn’t want to be caught flat-footed. (Our personal view, though, is that Justice Stevens will leave the Court as the late Chief Justice Rehnquist did — through death, not retirement.)
Anyway, here’s the latest gossip. Per Sean Rushton, executive director of the Committee for Justice, and an active participant in judicial confirmation battles:
For the past several weeks, there has been a rumor circulating among high-level officials in Washington, D.C., that a member of the U.S. Supreme Court has received grave medical news and will announce his or her retirement by year’s end. While such rumors are not unusual in the nation’s capital, this one comes from credible sources. Additionally, a less credible but still noteworthy post last week at the liberal Democratic Underground blog says, “Send your good vibes to Justice Stevens. I just got off the phone with a friend of his family and right now he is very ill and at 86 years old that is not good.”
President Bush isn’t looking very far for his next conservative pick to the U.S. Supreme Court: His top two candidates work just 12 blocks away in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Insiders say Judge Janice Rogers Brown, appointed in June 2005, tops the list, followed by Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, appointed in May.
Also up: Peter Keisler, whose nomination to the D.C. court is pending. So there’s no vacancy, you say? With apologies to Justice John Paul Stevens, 86, it’s his seat they hope to fill.
As ATL readers know, we love ourselves some Janice Rogers Brown. But would this outspoken, conservative judicial diva be able to make it through a Democrat-controlled Senate? The same goes for Brett Kavanaugh, whom Senator Chuck Schumer once described as “the Zelig of young Republican lawyers.”
So we’d be interested in your views on a question that a (clearly conservative) reader sent to us earlier today:
How about a piece on SCOTUS candidates Bush could get through the Senate now that it’s controlled by Communists?
(Now now, dear reader, conservatives are trying to play NICE with Nancy Pelosi and her pals. No name calling.)
One obvious response: Maureen Mahoney (above right). We previously wrote about Mahoney in great detail over here. We expressed concerns over whether she would be perceived as conservative enough to secure the nomination. But in a Senate controlled by Democrats, being a moderate conservative — as opposed to a hardline one — would be a plus.
Update: Lots of interesting names in the comments.
The Rumor About John Paul Stevens [Human Events]
Talking About Judge Brown [Confirm Them]
Another Reason to Go GOP [Confirm Them]
Washington Whispers [U.S. News and World Report]
Maureen Mahoney: “The Female John Roberts”? [Underneath Their Robes]
- Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, David Souter, John Paul Stevens, John Roberts, Reader Polls, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Samuel Alito, SCOTUS, Stephen Breyer, Supreme Court
You may recall our recent Above the Law reader polls for Most Favorite Supreme Court Justice and Least Favorite Supreme Court Justice. The results of those polls are available here and here, respectively.
One of you had an interesting suggestion: Combine the results of the two polls to generate “net popularity scores” for the justices. These scores, combining measures of how much each justice is liked and disliked, could be viewed as measuring “overall” popularity.
We thought it would be interesting to see the results, so we went ahead and did this. We took the percentage of the vote each justice received in the “Most Favorite” poll, then subtracted from it the percentage of the vote received in the “Least Favorite” poll. We labeled the result the justice’s “Net Popularity Score” (NPS).
Here are the results of this number-crunching, with the justices ranked by NPS, from highest to lowest:
A few quick thoughts:
1. The rankings strike us as decent measures of overall popularity. Two of the top three finishers are favorites of their respective ideological wings. Justice Scalia, a cult figure among conservatives, comes in first; Justice Stevens, a hero of the liberals, places third.
2. The Chief is like Sara Lee: Nobody doesn’t like him. He got zero percent of the votes in the “Least Favorite” poll (just 24 votes out of 6,290). And, presumably due to his good looks and great resume — since he doesn’t have many opinions to be judged by yet — he won 16 percent of the “Most Favorite” vote. This gave him an NPS of 16, almost enough to beat Nino.
3. The next three justices — Justices Breyer, Thomas, and Alito — have net popularity scores close to zero. This makes sense too: as jurists, they don’t excite grand passion (even if Justice Thomas, prior to his confirmation, was a controversial figure).
4. Justice Alito, a fairly low-key personality, earns a “perfect” score of zero. Two percent of voters picked him as their favorite; two percent picked him as their least favorite. He’s like The Justice Who Wasn’t There (although, in fairness to Justice Alito, he’s too new to the bench to have made many enemies or fans).
5. Three justices have negative net popularity scores: Justices Kennedy, Souter, and Ginsburg. Their negative scores may have been affected by the fact that the voter pool in the “Least Favorite Justice” pool skewed to the right (thanks in large part to an Instapundit link).
6. As for why Justice Ginsburg attracted such a high percentage of the “least favorite” votes, Ann Althouse — and her commenters — have some interesting thoughts on the matter.
Earlier: ATL Poll Results: Your LEAST Favorite Supreme Court Justice
ATL Poll Results: Your Favorite Supreme Court Justice