If you watched the inauguration ceremonies, whether in person or on television, you may have noticed all nine Supreme Court justices out in force. Supreme fashions generated tons of talk on Twitter, especially Justice Alito’s snazzy sunglasses; Justice Ginsburg’s huge hat, which made her look like a toy soldier; and Justice Breyer and Justice Scalia’s jaunty skullcaps, discussed by Tony Mauro and Josh Blackman (among others). According to Kevin Walsh, Justice Scalia’s was a gift from the St. Thomas More Society of Richmond, Virginia.
That’s on the level of style. What about substance? How will the Supreme Court affect President Obama, and how will President Obama affect the Court, as we enter the 44th president’s second term?
Legal elites fared well on election night. For example, Harvard law professor Elizabeth Warren is now Senatrix-elect Elizabeth Warren, after expertly landing Langdell Hall on top of Scott Brown (“I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little pickup truck too!”). As a Divacrat — I support strong, strident, brilliant (sorry Sarah Palin) women, regardless of their political party — I’m already fantasizing about Clinton/Warren in 2016.
Joining Warren on the Senate floor will be another great legal mind who spent some time in Cambridge, Harvard law grad and former SCOTUS clerk Ted Cruz. The Morgan Lewis partner is one of several current or former Biglaw attorneys who won office on Tuesday. (For more, see Am Law Daily.)
The biggest winner of the evening, of course, is also a legal elite: President Barack Obama. He’s a former law professor, like Warren; an HLS grad, like Cruz; and the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review. Things don’t get much more elite than that.
And in the legal world, things don’t get much more elite than the United States Supreme Court. This brings us to today’s question: What will a second Obama term mean for the Supreme Court?
The last time we covered the lavish signing bonuses for Supreme Court clerks who head to law firms after their time at the Court, the bonuses were flirting with $280,000. We say “flirting with” because, at the time, only certain firms were offering $280K. That princely sum was not yet the market rate for talent emerging from One First Street.
A little over a year later, we can report some change on this front. Even though regular associate bonuses and partner profits might be flat this year, the price for Supreme Court clerks is going up, up, up….
Only two things are certain in life: death and taxes.
The Supreme Court has upheld the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). Chief Justice John Roberts has upheld the individual mandate. But not under the Commerce Clause. Instead, Roberts has said that the law can proceed under Congress’s ability to tax.
It’s a tax. That thing that Democrats were trying so hard not to do so Republicans couldn’t call Obama a “tax and spend” Democrat is now called a tax by the Supreme Court. And now it’s a victory. Until the GOP starts saying that Obama “raised your taxes.”
I LOVE AMERICA. It’s so funny sometimes.
Oh, we’re going to have more coverage after the jump, including the vote breakdown (and other updates)….
* “Dominique Strauss-Kahn Gets Off, As Did Everyone Else Who Stayed In His Room At The Sofitel.” Or: what you don’t want to know about your high-end hotel room. [Dealbreaker]
* F**k yeah — trademark law! Or: some reflections on the “immoral or scandalous” bar to trademark registration, by fashion lawyer Chuck Colman. [Law of Fashion]
* The New Jersey Supreme Court just issued a major new decision calling for changes in the way that courts handle eyewitness identifications — an issue that will also be going before SCOTUS in the coming Term. [The Innocence Project]
* Congratulations to Professor Neal Katyal, former acting U.S. solicitor general, who’s apparently headed to Hogan Lovells. [Am Law Daily]
There was a threat of a filibuster, but it was averted. Last night, the Senate confirmed Donald Verrilli Jr. to serve as U.S. solicitor general, by a vote of 72-16.
As one might expect of an SG, Verrilli has an incredible résumé. He graduated from Yale College and Columbia Law, where he served as editor-in-chief of the Columbia Law Review, then clerked for two legendary judges, Judge J. Skelly Wright (D.C. Cir.) and Justice William Brennan.
And that was just the start of a long and phenomenally successful legal career. Let’s go drool over Don Verrilli’s credentials — and check out his net worth, which is quite robust….
[T]hat’s how law clerks are hired. That’s how baristas at Starbucks are hired. You have to ask these open-ended questions because as an employer, you don’t really know… where the pressure points or danger spots in an individual application are.
– Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal, comparing hiring law clerks to hiring Starbucks baristas, during oral argument in NASA v. Nelson.
President Barack Obama has hit the ground running. Even before President Obama was done flubbing taking the oath of office, the revamped White House website was launched. You can check the WH website, including the new “Briefing Room” blog, for news of notable nominations and appointments.
A few more names have surfaced since then. Some of them pertain to the Office of Legal Counsel, the most prestigious DOJ component to work for other than the Solicitor General’s office (and arguably more powerful). We once dubbed OLC the Finishing School for the Elect:
If you don’t land a Supreme Court clerkship that immediately follows your feeder judge clerkship, cool your heels at the OLC, then reapply to the Court. Success is practically guaranteed!
As previously reported, with the Senate’s consent, the headmistress of the Finishing School will be Dawn Johnsen (pictured). Professor Johnsen teaches law at Indiana University – Bloomington and served at OLC during the Clinton Administration, as Acting Assistant Attorney General and Deputy Assistant Attorney General, so she is well-prepared for the job. When we spoke at IU almost two years ago, students we met were already speculating that Professor Johnsen — described as a “brilliant” scholar, even if not the clearest or most effective classroom teacher — might someday return to government.
Since President Obama is a former legal academic, it should come as no surprise that he’s recruiting so many law profs to join the upper echelons of his administration. The marquee names of Kagan, Sunstein, Johnsen, Barron and Lederman will also be joined by one of the brightest young stars of the legal firmament: Georgetown law professor Neal Katyal (pictured), of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld fame. As reported by the Legal Times (via the WSJ Law Blog), wunderkind Katyal has been tapped to serve as Elena Kagan’s right-hand man, principal deputy solicitor general.
For a comprehensive listing of the top legal eagles in the Obama Administration, see this handy round-up over at the BLT. As you can see, these are big, boldface names — gods and goddesses of our profession. Congratulations and good luck to all of them (not that they’ll need it).
We’ll have more hiring news — including items about less celestial beings, more junior lawyers, people you might actually know — in subsequent posts. If you have info to share, please email us. Thanks.
Update: Add Harvard’s Einer Elhauge to the list of legal academics bound for the Obama Administration. Details via Brian Leiter.
“Dear Jim: Thanks for the great job you do pushing the mail cart around the office. You truly are a special person!”
[Charlie Savage signs a copy of his book for Aaron Zitner, politics editor for the Los Angeles Times.]
Earlier this week, we attended a delightful book party for Takeover: The Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of American Democracy, by Charlie Savage of the Boston Globe. Savage won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting, based on his work on presidential signing statements.
Photos and discussion of the star-studded event — after you win a Pulitzer, everyone is your friend! — after the jump.
We’ve been writing a fairamount about Jeffrey Toobin’s exciting new book, The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court. Its scheduled publication date is September 18, but we’ve gotten our grubby paws on a copy. We’ll have more to say after we’ve read it.
In the meantime, check out this great report from ABC News, which highlights some of the book’s juiciest parts. It mentions the business about a crying Justice Souter, which is already old news, but it also has these tidbits:
* The decision to rush the swearing-in of Justice Clarence Thomas spared the controversial nominee the publication of more embarrassing personal revelations than Anita Hill’s notorious testimony. That same day, three Washington Post reporters were set to write a story about Thomas’ extensive taste for pornography, including accounts from eyewitnesses such as the manager of his local video store. “But since Thomas had been sworn in, the Post decided not to pursue the issue and dropped the story.”
* Former Chief Justice Warren Burger, an Anglophile who collected antiques and fine wines, was so vain that “he placed a large cushion on his center seat on the bench, so he would appear taller than his colleagues.”
* Rehnquist was not impressed with Bill Clinton and his wife. When told that the newly elected president was thinking of nominating Hillary as attorney general, the chief justice quipped, “They say Caligula appointed his horse counsel [consul?] of Rome.”
Plus there’s a great story about the justices trying to get to the Court during a snowstorm — lawlessness and hilarity ensue — and some gossip about Justice Souter’s love life. Read the full article here.
Meanwhile, in other Jeffrey Toobin news, he’s conducting an awesome event later this month at the New Yorker Festival. It’s a conversation about the future of the Supreme Court, featuring two of our favorite members of the Elect: Rachel Brand (OT 2002 / Kennedy) from the right, and Neal Katyal (OT 1996 / Breyer) from the left.
We wouldn’t miss it for the world. If you’d like to attend, ticket information is available here. Tickets to Festival events go on sale at 12 noon E.T. on September 15th, at ticketmaster.com — and they tend to go fast. So mark your calendars! Under the Robes: Secrets of the Supreme Court [ABC News] Rachel Brand, Neal Katyal, and Jeffrey Toobin: The Future of the Supreme Court [New Yorker Festival]
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The holiday season is upon us, and yet again, you have no idea what to get for the fickle lawyer in your life. We’re here to help. Even if your bonus check hasn’t arrived yet, any one of the gifts we’ve highlighted here could be a worthy substitute until your employer decides to make it rain.
We’ve got an eclectic selection for you to choose from, so settle in by that stack of documents yet to be reviewed and dig in…
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