John Roberts

I respectfully request that the Court allow the American public the opportunity to learn contemporaneously or near-contemporaneously how it resolved one of the most significant issues to come before it in many years. I urge the Court to provide live audio and video coverage of its announcement in the same manner it provides delayed audio recordings of oral arguments. At the very least, I ask for release of such a recording immediately after the announcement.

– a letter from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press co-signed by 49 other media groups and addressed to Chief Justice John G. Roberts, imploring the Supreme Court to offer live audio access to the announcement of its opinion in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act case (aka Obamacare).

(As noted by Lyle Denniston on SCOTUSblog, the chances of this request being granted are “remote to non-existent.”)

There’s nothing a lawyer likes better than winning a case — especially a case that’s been argued before the U.S. Supreme Court. It’s basically the crowning achievement of a successful career in the law. That being said, even the most gracious SCOTUS victor is entitled to do some gloating (even if the subject matter was particularly snooze-worthy, like qualified immunity).

But sometimes lawyers can go a little overboard with their victory dances. Sometimes lawyers will think up some really outside-the-box ways to shame the losing litigant — and, in the process, themselves.

And with that, allow us introduce you to our Lawyer of the Day, a man who decided it would be a great idea to write a letter to his opponent with the suggestion that he read the SCOTUS opinion “eternally from hell”….

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* Two weeks from today, the Supreme Court will be hearing oral arguments on the Obamacare case. Everyone thinks Justice Kennedy’s vote will swing the Court, but Chief Justice Roberts isn’t about to let him steal his sunshine. [New York Times]

* Montana’s Chief Judge stands accused of sending a racist email, but he once counseled law students about the dangers of email. It seems like the man can’t follow his own advice… and that’s some major Cebulls**t! [Billings Gazette]

* Gaming post-graduation employment statistics: the Columbia Law School and NYU Law edition. It looks like it might be time to fire up the Strauss/Anziska machine for the top tier of our nation’s law schools. [New York Post]

* Greenberg Traurig and Alston & Bird think people care about their new, multimillion dollar rental agreements in Los Angeles. No one cares. They just want to know where the spring bonuses are. [Los Angeles Times]

* But speaking of Alston & Bird, some Floridians are complaining about the firm’s bill. $475 an hour for four partners and associates? You really need to stop, because you’re getting the deal of the century. [The Ledger]

* James Humphreys — with a P-H! — donated $1M to GW School of Law so more students can receive scholarships. Maybe one of our favorite Wall Street Occupiers will get one? [National Law Journal]

* Apparently the Roberts Court is unusual in that its elite members lacked opportunities to gain “the most critical judicial virtue: practical wisdom.” Yeah, right. Tell that one to the Wise Latina. [Washington Post]

* In the wake of the contraception controversy, Rush Limbaugh apologized for calling Georgetown 3L Sandra Fluke a “slut.” He’s so very, very sorry… that he lost some of his advertisers. [The Caucus / New York Times]

* The powers that be in Massachusetts have decided to show law bloggers a little bit of respect. Now they’ll get to cover judicial proceedings like real, live journalists — press passes and all. [Metro Desk / Boston Globe]

* Pornography: now with ten percent fewer HIV infections! A Los Angeles city ordinance requiring porn actors to wear condoms during filming will be taking effect today. [L.A. Now / Los Angeles Times]

* After allegedly making two other incidents disappear from her record, former Bronx ADA Jennifer Troiano pleaded guilty to drunk driving last week. It looks like the third time really is the charm. [New York Daily News]

* New York newlyweds allege that Glamour Me Studio Photoshopped their heads onto naked bodies. Groomzilla Todd Remis must be glad that his wedding photography woes weren’t so graphic. [New York Post]

* Is the Roberts court really as pro-First Amendment as we’ve been led to believe? Lawyers aren’t really that good at math, but they’ve done studies, you know. And 34.5% of the time, it works every time. [New York Times]

* The people at the ABA aren’t concerned that William Robinson’s remarks made him seem like a tactless tool. Instead, they’re concerned that his “quotes were used out of context.” [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* Duncan Law wants the ABA to remove a memo denying the school’s provisional accreditation from its website. Why? So students will keep applying and paying them tuition money. At least they’re being honest. [Knoxville News Sentinel]

* Montgomery Sibley, whose license to practice is suspended, is running for president and suing “Barrack” Obama. Well, that’s a unique way to establish standing in a birther lawsuit. [Huffington Post]

Prof. Hans Smit

* Money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy your way out of jail. Just ask Floyd Mayweather. Thanks to this judge, he’ll be fighting someone other than his ex on Cinco de Drinko. [Washington Post]

* Hans Smit, beloved Columbia Law professor (and owner of a $29 million mansion), RIP. [Columbia Law School]

* The actress suing IMDb has finally been unmasked. I’ve never heard of her, but she’s probably suing for more than she’s ever made in her B-movie Z-movie career. [New York Daily News]

John Roberts

I have complete confidence in the capability of my colleagues to determine when recusal is warranted. They are jurists of exceptional integrity and experience whose character and fitness have been examined through a rigorous appointment and confirmation process.

– Chief Justice John Roberts, defending the Supreme Court’s ethical standards in light of calls for Justices Clarence Thomas and Elena Kagan to recuse from the controversial health care case that will be argued before SCOTUS in March. The Chief Justice’s comments were made in his 2011 Year-End Report on the Federal Judiciary.

Justice Elena Kagan

The latest issue of New York magazine contains a very interesting profile of the U.S. Supreme Court’s newest member, Justice Elena Kagan, penned by Dahlia Lithwick. Here’s the bottom-line summary of the piece (via Ezra Klein):

“While Kagan is assuredly a liberal, and likely also a fan of the health-reform law, a close read of her tenure at the Supreme Court suggests that she is in fact the opposite of a progressive zealot. By the end of Kagan’s first term, conservatives like former Bush solicitor general Paul Clement (who will likely argue against the health-care law this coming spring) and Chief Justice John Roberts were giving Kagan high marks as a new justice precisely because she wasn’t a frothing ideologue. The pre-confirmation caricatures of her as a self-serving careerist and party hack are not borne out by her conduct at oral argument, her writing, and her interactions with her colleagues. In fact, if her first term and a half is any indication, she may well madden as many staunch liberals as conservatives in the coming years.”

That’s just the overview. Let’s delve into the details a bit more….

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Welcome to the latest edition of Above the Law’s Grammer Pole of the Weak, a column where we turn questions of English grammar and usage over to our readers for discussion and debate.

Last week, we found out that 52% of our readers thought it was acceptable to end a sentence with a preposition, but with the caveat that it should be avoided if possible. That’s pretty wishy-washy, folks.

This week, we’re going to focus on an issue with a supreme split in authority, and you’re going to have to choose one side or the other. You’re going to pick Clarence Thomas’ side (you’ll soon see why we wrote it that way), or you’re going to pick David Souter’s side, but that’s it. Ooh, that’s a little possessive….

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It’s Friday, Friday, gotta talk about grammar on Friday. Welcome back to Grammer Pole of the Weak, a column where we turn questions of English grammar and usage over to our readers for discussion and debate.

Last week, we discovered that 75% of our readers love to use substantive footnotes in their legal writing. Aww, Scalia would be so proud.

And speaking of Scalia, we’ve given him a little too much time in the limelight in this series. So, this week, we’re going to turn to an issue of grammar with some stylistic flair that was brought to our attention by another member of SCOTUS….

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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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