We interviewed a young woman from Brazil outside the U.S. Supreme Court today. We were quite impressed by her. She’s more into the Supreme Court than supermodels!
(As you can see, this was a very “meta” exchange. She made a video of us, making a video of her, being interviewed by us.)
A Taste of Brazil [YouTube]
Remember this poll, showing that Americans are better acquainted with Snow White’s Seven Dwarfs than the nine U.S. Supreme Court justices?
We did a little follow-up research this morning, while waiting outside the Supreme Court building at One First Street:
Nine Supreme Court Justices vs. Seven Dwarves [YouTube]
Seven Dwarfs vs. Supreme Court justices [UPI]
We were very excited for our SCOTUS field trip this morning. We had some friends in from out of town, and the four of us headed over to One First Street, to try and watch two Supreme Court arguments: Morse v. Frederick, the “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” student free speech case argued by former Whitewater prosecutor Ken Starr, and Wilkie v. Robbins, the civil RICO case argued by Professor Laurence Tribe.
Unfortunately, even though we arrived at 8:00 AM — two hours before the scheduled ten o’clock argument — we didn’t make it in for the Morse case. The crowd was simply too large, the line too long. The people who did make it in had been waiting outside the Court, in freezing temperatures, since at least 5:30 AM. Some had folding chairs and blankets, suggesting they had camped out overnight.
We were admitted to watch a few minutes of Professor Tribe’s argument in the Willkie v. Robbins case. But we didn’t make in to that argument until around 11:30 AM.
So we had a lot of time to kill in the cold. Over the three and a half hours, we made a few random videos — like this one:
Outside the U.S. Supreme Court [YouTube]
Yeah, we know — quelle surprise. Or, less delicately, “No s**t, Sherlock.”
Anyway, here’s the data, from a poll in which almost 1500 votes were tallied:
As one of you noted, the results basically form an inverted bell curve. Over 56 percent of respondents clustered at the extremes: “Very Unfavorable” (30.6 percent) was the most popular choice, followed by “Very Favorable” (25.9 percent).
Speaking of SCOTUS-related polls, there’s still time left for you to vote on whether $200,000 bonuses for Supreme Court clerks are too high, too low, or just right. To vote, click here.
Earlier: Justice Thomas: The Sphinx Breaks His Silence
The issue of hefty signing bonuses for Supreme Court clerks has generated lively discussion in the comments, as well as on other blogs.
You clearly have strong views on the subject — and we’re curious about them. So it’s time for one of ATL’s (hugely unscientific) reader polls:
Lithwick on the Supreme Court Signing Bonus [PrawfsBlawg]
That Phat $200,000 Supreme Court Law Clerk Bonus [WSJ Law Blog]
What to make of those astronomical Supreme Court signing bonuses? [Slate]
Earlier: Supreme Court Clerks: Do They Live Up to the Hype?
We’re a day late; Justice Antonin Scalia turned 71 yesterday, on March 11. But better late than never. Does anyone know how Nino celebrated this august occasion?
On the subject of Justice Scalia’s age, here’s an interesting squib from Jan Crawford Greenburg’s most excellent new book, Supreme Conflict, describing how Justice Scalia edged out Judge Robert Bork as a SCOTUS nominee:
[T]he politics of the nomination turned on age and compatibility. Scalia edged out Bork on both. “It came down to the ten years,” one top official later explained. Scalia was almost a decade younger than Bork, and even though he smoked and drank, he also exercised regularly. [DOJ official William Bradford] Reynolds and his team concluded that Scalia was likely to be on the Court longer than Bork because he was in better health — an important consideration if Scalia was to be Reagan’s last nomination.
Greenburg argues that nominating Scalia before Bork was a big mistake:
By nominating Scalia first, alongside the controversial Rehnquist, the White House used up all its political advantages. With Reagan at the height of his popularity and Republicans controlling the Senate, Bork would have been confirmed alongside Rehnquist — leaving the more loquacious and charming Scalia to emerge for the next nomination, all but daring senators to reject the court’s first Italian American nominee.
Hindsight is 20/20; but JCG is probably right about this. And considering that both Antonin Scalia and Robert Bork are alive and well today, in seemingly excellent health, both men would presumably have enjoyed long tenures on the Court had President Reagan switched the order of their nominations.
Happy birthday to Justice Antonin Scalia [How Appealing]
- Biglaw, Bonuses, Clerkships, Dahlia Lithwick, Money, SCOTUS, Skaddenfreude, Supreme Court, Supreme Court Clerks
Or, perhaps more importantly, their $200,000 signing bonuses? That’s the question Dahlia Lithwick takes on in her recent Jurisprudence column for Slate.
The sums in question are even larger than Lithwick notes. She writes:
That will be [a] $200,000 [bonus] on top of a starting salary of $145,000 to $160,000. Which adds up to an awful lot of Pottery Barn sectional furniture for someone who is, on average, 26 years old and just two years out of school. As Chief Justice John Roberts pointed out recently, that $360,000 beats the heck out of the $212,100 he’s taking home for, well, chief justice-ing the entire nation.
Actually, the starting salaries are even higher, since pretty much all firms give Supreme Court clerks seniority credit for their two years of clerking. So a clerk who went straight through to a feeder judge, the SCOTUS, and a private law firm would be paid like a third-year associate: $170,000 in Washington, or $185,000 in New York (or in the D.C. office of a New York firm).
Lithwick interviews Walter Dellinger and Carter Phillips, who offer various justifications for the outsized bonuses as an economic matter. We have our doubts — and are quoted as a dissenting opinion:
On his legal gossip blog, Abovethelaw.com, David Lat tracks lawyer salaries with the glee most of us reserve for American Idol. And according to him, the hefty law clerk bonus stopped making any real economic sense several decimal points ago. Lat notes that these new associates just don’t bill extraordinary hours; that boutique appellate practice isn’t that lucrative; and a good many former clerks have academic aspirations. “They’re billing 1,800 hours, not 2,500, and a lot of them are probably already working on their job talks,” he says, referring to their sales pitches for the academic market.
The real allure of the Supreme Court clerk, says Lat, is that they are trophy purchases, “something for a firm to crow about in their recruiting materials.” Ouch. If Lat is correct about this, the boutique firms are buying former Supreme Court clerks when they might be better off investing in something more enduring, like new leather sofas for their lobbies.
We stand by these remarks, but maybe we’d remove the “Ouch.” These bonuses don’t make pure economic sense (in our opinion); but neither do many other things that law firms spend gobs of money on. If a firm wants to drop $200,000 on a SCOTUS clerk, or on an Alexander Calder for the lobby, that’s their prerogative.
We’re quoted later in Lithwick’s piece:
[S]ome firms, notes Lat, have decided to stop pursing the Supreme Court clerks and spend their recruiting dollars on what he characterizes as the near misses. “For every one of the 36 smartest law kids,” he says, “there is another equally smart law kid who just had a bad interview [for a Court clerkship].” And if law firms make the economic decision to give bonuses to them, “they get all the benefits of a knock-off Prada purse: They perform the same function, they look great, and you know they’ll do a great job.”
We’d single out Kellogg Huber of D.C. as one such firm. Some of you have expressed curiosity about who pays the biggest clerkship bonuses. We believe it’s Kellogg Huber. This tiny, super-elite Washington litigation boutique is rumored to pay clerkship bonuses of $100,000 to federal appeals court clerks — and for that kind of money, combined with the firm’s small size, it can afford to be picky. The non-SCOTUS clerks at the firm tend to be those who came thisclose to landing a job at One First Street (e.g., feeder-judge clerks who interviewed unsuccessfully for Supreme Court gigs).
Update: Do you have an opinion on whether Supreme Court clerkship bonuses are too high, too low, or just right? You can express it by voting in our poll. To vote, click here.
What to make of those astronomical Supreme Court signing bonuses? [Slate]
- Blog Wars, Blogging, Jan Crawford Greenburg, Linda Greenhouse, Media and Journalism, New York Times, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, SCOTUS, Supreme Court, Vicious Infighting
We have previously compared the fierce competition between Supreme Court correspondents Linda Greenhouse, of the New York Times, and Jan Crawford Greenburg, of the Chicago Tribune, to the rivalry between Margo Channing (Bette Davis) and Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter) in All About Eve.
For decades, Linda Greenhouse has ruled the reportorial roost at the Supreme Court — just as Margo Channing reigned over the New York stage. But just as Channing came to be challenged by a young and attractive newcomer, Eve Harrington, Greenhouse now faces tough competition from Jan Crawford Greenburg.
Perhaps this comparison, much as we love it, must stop here. We don’t want to spoil All About Eve for those of you who haven’t seen it. But let’s just say that Margo doesn’t put up much of a fight when Eve moves into her turf.
Linda Greenhouse, in contrast, is NOT going gentle into that good night. She will NOT pass her tiara graciously to Jan Crawford Greenburg, like a Miss America ending her reign. Greenhouse has no intention of allowing Greenburg to ascend to the post of America’s Next Top Supreme Court Reporter — at least not without a (cat)fight.
How do we know this? Just read between the lines of this “Reporter’s Notebook” item by Greenhouse. It’s snarkily entitled “Alarmism in the Blogosphere” — “blogsophere” being synonymous with “unreliable and dubious rumor-mongering” — and in it, Linda G. goes out of her way to embarrass and even humiliate her younger colleague:
Jan Crawford Greenburg, an ABC News correspondent who covers the court, posted a startling item last week on her blog, Legalities. Under the heading “Faith and Frailty,” she wrote that the “real drama” of an argument concerning the Bush administration’s religion-based initiative came when the argument ended.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s delay in getting to her feet and leaving the bench, Ms. Greenburg wrote, seemed a sign of possible ill health and “made me think I’d better start pulling those possible retirement files together.”
The alarming item quickly made its way around the blogosphere, puzzling court insiders who know that Justice Ginsburg, 73, is in fine health and keeps to a schedule that would exhaust most people who are decades younger….
The explanation is, quite literally, pedestrian. According to her chambers, Justice Ginsburg had kicked off her shoes during the argument and could not find one of them.
OUCH. Jan Crawford Greenburg did some phenomenal reporting work for her fantastic new book on the Court, Supreme Conflict. But in a single breezy, casually tossed-off “Reporter’s Notebook” item, Greenhouse makes Greenburg look like a rank amateur.
We conduct a close reading of Greenhouse’s column, after the jump.
- Celebrities, Election Law, Morning Docket, Parties, Rap, SCOTUS, Sean Combs, Supreme Court, Violence, White-Collar Crime
* District Court can dismiss for forum non conveniens without first determining that it has personal jurisdiction. [U.S. Supreme Court (PDF)]
* No standing in Colorado Elections Clause case. [U.S. Supreme Court (PDF)]
* Supreme Court denies Ebbers appeal without comment. [CNN]
* Mo Money, Mo Lawsuits: Diddy sued for alleged assault at party. [AP via Yahoo!]