SCOTUS

I hope Anthony Kennedy is happy. It’s Justice Kennedy’s world now, and we’re all just playing by the rules he lays down. Despite all the talking points you may have heard about how Citizens United really isn’t that big of a deal, what Justice Kennedy calls speech is flooding American politics ahead of this November’s mid-term elections. So reports Michael Luo of the New York Times.

I know what you are thinking, especially if “you” happen to be Justice Alito: Not True! But you have theories about what might happen, while the Times has facts about what is happening.

And the facts speak for themselves. According to the Campaign Media Analysis Group, which monitors political advertising, “television spending by outside interest groups has more than doubled what was spent at this point in the 2006 midterms.”

Of course, at least four Supreme Court justices could have told you that would happen. And I’d imagine that even the other five damn well knew that tons of corporate money would flood into politics, and just didn’t care. What’s marginally more interesting than the “water is wet” fact that money is pouring in is the reason why captains of industry are speaking spending freely…

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Monday, October 4, marked the start of a new Supreme Court Term — October Term 2010, to be more specific. It also marked the first day of oral arguments for the newest member of the Court — Lady Kaga, aka Associate Justice Elena Kagan. As Justice White famously observed, a new justice makes a new court.

New Term, new justice, new court — and that’s not all that’s new in SCOTUS-related matters. There’s a new conservative sheriff in town, at least according to Jan Crawford. There’s a new book out about the Court — the long-awaited biography of Justice Brennan, by Seth Stern and Stephen Wermiel.

And, of course, we have new Supreme Court clerk hires to report, for the Term after this one — October Term 2011. Not all the justices are done hiring, at least as far as we know; but if you covet a Supreme Court clerkship, accurately described by Adam Liptak as “the most coveted credential in American law,” you should know that the window of opportunity is closing — fast. One justice has even hired a clerk for October Term 2012.

Let’s check out the new hires, shall we?

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[A]ll of us in a pluralistic society have components to our identity; we are Republicans or Democrats, we are Christians or atheists, we are single or married, we are old or young.

– Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, waxing poetic at oral argument in Snyder v. Phelps (via Jan Crawford).

[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.

[A] résumé need not be destiny.

Linda Greenhouse, former Supreme Court correspondent for the New York Times, discussing the Roberts Court.

Anna Nicole Smith: her candle burned out long before her legend ever did. And the great beauty’s legend continues to grow, over three years after her untimely death in February 2007, as litigation involving her estate contributes to the development of a rich body of law regarding bankruptcy and probate law — in a tribunal no less distinguished than the Supreme Court of the United States.

Over at USA Today, Joan Biskupic has this report:

The Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to hear an appeal from the estate of Anna Nicole Smith, the late Playboy model and TV reality-show star, in the decades-old dispute over an inheritance from her tycoon husband.

The action, involving a sensational set of characters in an otherwise dry case at the intersection of probate and bankruptcy law, came on a day of varied court business that included acceptance of 14 new cases for the 2010-2011 term that officially begins Monday.

Sounds scintillating. Let’s get all up in Anna Nicole’s business, shall we?

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A Supreme Court clerkship is, in the words of Adam Liptak of the New York Times, “the most coveted credential in American law.” When SCOTUS clerks leave their posts at the Court to join private law firms, they get signing bonuses of as much as $250,000 (on top of normal associate salaries and bonuses).

But typically they join their firms as associates (or maybe counsel, if they have a few extra years of practice in addition to clerking). How many clerks come in to Biglaw as partners?

As reported yesterday — by Tony Mauro in The BLT and by Marisa Kashino in Washingtonian magazine, among others — at least one Supreme Court clerk from the Term just ended, October Term 2009, is going to straight into a partnership at a major law firm.

Meet Elizabeth Papez. She clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas in OT 2009. Now she’s joining the D.C. office of Winston & Strawn, where she will practice in commercial and appellate litigation, with a focus on intellectual property and energy law, as well as government relations.

We interview Papez about her interesting career path, after the jump.

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As for doing what I like, I never do what I like! Ask my wife Joanna….

Justice Stephen Breyer, rejecting the notion that unelected judges can do whatever they want, at an event at the New York Public Library to promote his new book, Making Democracy Work: A Judge’s View.

Today’s New York Times has a meaty and interesting front-page article about political ideology and Supreme Court clerk hiring. The piece, written by SCOTUS correspondent Adam Liptak, reminded us a lot of one that Liptak wrote last year (which we discussed here). But since there’s no such thing as too much talk about The Elect, let’s dig into it.

(By the way, speaking of Supreme Court clerk hiring, we’re working on an update that should come out soon. If you’re aware of a clerk hire that wasn’t included in our last write-up, listing both OT 2010 and OT 2011 clerks, please email us (subject line: “SCOTUS clerk hiring”). Thanks.)

Liptak begins by discussing the fabulosity that is a SCOTUS clerkship:

Each year, 36 young lawyers obtain the most coveted credential in American law: a Supreme Court clerkship. Clerking for a justice is a glittering capstone on a résumé that almost always includes outstanding grades at a top law school, service on a law review and a prestigious clerkship with a federal appeals court judge.

One could quibble with the number of 36, but we’ll get to that later. Let’s focus on the main point of the piece, the growing politicization of high-court clerk hiring….

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Am I correct in asserting that Jimmy Smits has had more judicial experience than Elena Kagan?

Dahlia Lithwick, opining on Jimmy Smits’s new show Outlaw. On the show, Smits plays a Supreme Court justice who steps down to “fight for change in the legal system,” because as we all know, SCOTUS justices are so powerless.

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