Sonia Sotomayor

As I noted in my liveblogging of Elena Kagan’s confirmation hearings, Solicitor General Kagan decided to wear the same outfit that then-Judge Sonia Sotomayor wore to day one of her confirmation hearings: an electric blue blazer over a black blouse.

A reader who was also struck by this sartorial similarity sent us a photographic comparison. Check it out, and vote in our reader poll….

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Sorry, we didn’t mean to get your hopes up (or maybe we did). The famously sphinx-like Justice Thomas did not ask a question at oral argument yesterday — but he did open his mouth and emit hearty laughs. From CNN:

Sometimes the most complicated of cases at the Supreme Court brings out the best arguments. It certainly brought out the giggles in a little-watched appeal Tuesday over federal prison terms.

The justices managed to crack themselves up — along with the public audience — at least a dozen times in the hour-long oral debate. Justice Clarence Thomas rarely speaks at the high court’s normally sober sessions, but he especially enjoyed the gentle insults and self-deprecating jibes his colleagues showered on each other. His booming laugh could be clearly heard at times.

So what gave CT a case of the chuckles during Barber v. Thomas?

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David Souter Justice David H Souter David Hackett Souter.jpgJustice David H. Souter may be gone from the Supreme Court, but he has not been forgotten. He still gets recognized in public, for example. From an ATL reader in Beantown:

After a day of toil for a client adamantly opposed to paying for nighttime cab rides home, I walked to Boston’s Park Street subway station. A little before 10:00 PM last night, as I turned the corner at the turnstiles, I saw an impeccably dressed man in a form-fitting suit and a red tie. Turns out it was Justice David Souter, in Boston for some pinch-hitting on the First Circuit.

So what did our tipster do next?

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Lawyer of the Year 2009 AboveTheLaw blog Above the Law ATL.jpgVoting has concluded in our LAWYER OF THE YEAR contest. From over 160 comments, we developed a slate of ten nominees. Over 1,600 votes later, we have a winner.

With so many worthy competitors, the voting was close. These were your top three vote-getters, each with over 15 percent of the vote:

  • The Anonymous Laid-Off Big Firm Attorney: Last year certainly created many more laid-off lawyers — almost 5,000 of them, according to conservative estimates — and also brought to light the stories of many individual laid-off attorneys. E.g., Roxana St. Thomas, of Notes from the Breadline; Mark Levy, former chair of the Supreme Court and appellate practice of Kilpatrick Stockton, who took his own life in April 2009.
  • Sonia Sotomayor: In August 2009, this Wise Latina Woman made history, becoming the 111th justice, the third female justice, and the first Latina justice of the United States Supreme Court.
  • A. William Urquhart: Bill Urquhart, a name partner at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges, is one of the country’s top litigators. In October 2009, he sent out a famous firm-wide email urging all Quinn lawyers to show constant vigilance in checking their email. (This spawned the “CHECK YOU EMAILS” meme in ATL comments, from a typo in his email’s subject line.)

So who prevailed? Make your guess, then learn the identity of the 2009 honoree, after the jump.

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sonia sotomayor above the law.jpgThe most recent New Yorker features a profile of the newest resident of the High Court, Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Given the tone of the piece, you might think One First Street is turning into Melrose Place. Journalist Lauren Collins describes Sotomayor as “the first celebrity Justice”: a “diabetic, a divorcée, a dental-bill debtor, a person who, the night before her investiture ceremony, belted out “We Are Family” in a karaoke bar at a Red Roof Inn.”
The profile covers some familiar territory, highlighting attacks on Sotomayor’s intellect during the confirmation process and indignation over her aggressive questioning during oral arguments since taking a seat on the High bench.
Overall, though, it’s more favorable in tone than the profile of John Roberts in the magazine last year. As the WSJ Law Blog notes, Sotomayor comes across as “eminently personable” and as a “stickler for preparation.”
Tina Brown of the Daily Beast, a former editor of the New Yorker, is a bit more graphic in her reaction to the piece for NPR:

Brown says the justice comes across as an “up-from-the-bootstraps woman who loves to bust out a poker game and knock back a scotch.” But, Brown adds, she also comes across as meticulous, rigorous and heavily influenced by her mother, a nurse, who emphasized education above all else…
“Sotomayor is not a great prose styler, not a fancy-flourish merchant,” says Brown. “She’s not a person who’s going to reinvent the philosophical approach to law, but she does believe that the law is to be understood by the common man in the street. And I think that there’s a lot to be said for that, actually.”

We concur with Brown’s ruling on the piece. We’ve excerpted our favorite anecdote from the profile after the jump. Clerking for Sotomayor sounds fun….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “SCOTUS Justice Sonia Sotomayor Has Star Power”

Lawyer of the Year 2009 AboveTheLaw blog Above the Law ATL.jpgThanks to everyone who submitted possible nominees for our Lawyer of the Year award. We reviewed your 160+ comments and developed a slate of ten worthy candidates.

Before we reveal them, we’ll talk about a few folks we passed over. A number of you suggested Mike Leach, the lawyer turned football coach who was recently fired by Texas Tech University. Although Leach’s achievements on the gridiron are considerable, he’s more of a football figure than a legal figure, so he didn’t make the team.

A few of the lawyers you suggested, while certainly well-known, really belong to years prior to 2009. These include former New York governor and Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who resigned in disgrace after his dalliances with prostitutes came to light; former administrative law judge Roy Pearson, of the infamous $54 million (originally $67 million) pants lawsuit; and prominent IP litigator Jeremy Pitcock.

Also named: Kathy Henry, a former Legal Secretary of the Day, whose alleged oversight could have cost PepsiCo a pretty penny — over a billion dollars (until the default judgment was vacated). But since she’s a legal secretary rather than a lawyer (or even a law student), we passed her over.

So who made the cut? Check out the nominees and vote for your favorite, after the jump.

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Racial anonymous firefighters.jpgIn late June, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of white New Haven firefighters and their claims of racial discrimination. The SCOTUS decision in Ricci v. DeStefano overturned an earlier decision by then-2nd Circuit Judge Sonia Sotomayor.
Given the SCOTUS decision, I should have seen the lawsuit by a black New Haven firefighter coming. It’s such an obvious reaction to SCOTUS that I’m surprised it took this long. Here’s the introduction to the complaint:

The 2003 New Haven fire lieutenant examination had two parts: a multiple-choice written test and an oral exam. Ranking on the eligibility list depended on how the City chose to weight the scores on the two components. The oral exam was a better way to assess candidates’ skills and abilities than the written test and had less disparate impact on African-Americans. Yet the City chose to weight the written test 60 percent and the oral exam 40 percent. This weighting reduced the validity of the overall selection process; it was arbitrarily chosen, without any pretense that it was job related; it was contrary to standard practice among similar public safety agencies, where the norm is to weight the oral component 70 percent; it had a disparate impact on African-American candidates; and it will prevent the plaintiff from being promoted to the rank of lieutenant, even though he is one of the most highly qualified candidates.

Apparently, this plaintiff had the highest score on the oral exam. But once the written exam was factored in, the plaintiff was ranked 24th and not eligible for promotion.
The disparate impact of “cramming,” after the jump.

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Sonia Sotomayor on the dancefloor.jpgJust last week SCOTUS Justice Sonia Sotomayor was spotted cutting a rug at the Irish Channel Pub in Washington, D.C.’s Chinatown. This week, she’s on the dance floor again, but this time the location is a bit more upscale.
From the Reliable Source at the Washington Post:

The annual gala of the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts is known for drawing the stars — but a D.C. luminary outshone the Hollywood kind Tuesday night. Justice Sonia Sotomayor would have been the belle of the ball even if she had never left her table, so the room exploded when actor Esai Morales pulled the Supreme Court’s first Latino member onto the dance floor for an impressively confident salsa.

See the dance video, and the other legal stars at the party, after the jump.

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Sotomayor day 2.jpgSometimes stereotypes are true. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the Supreme Court’s first Latina justice, loves to dance — and she’s pretty darn good at it, too.
Consider this comment — posted back in May 2005, about then-Judge Sotomayor — from Underneath Their Robes:

In October [2004], attended the wedding of two law school classmate, one of whom (the bride) clerked for Judge Sotomayor. Judge Sotomayor was delightful and gracious — she took the time to introduce herself to the bride’s mother (and invited her to lunch when she was next in NYC to see her daughter). But the best was yet to come.

The Judge is a dancing machine. She danced it up with the groom, the bride, and the bride’s district court judge (Judge Underhill of Connecticut, who is no slouch on the dance floor either). She has mad rhythm. Don’t be fooled by the robes that she’s got!

Indeed. Residents of Washington who were out on the town Monday night were treated to the sight — and sound — of Justice Sotomayor celebrating her Supreme Court appointment, dancing and singing karaoke with family and friends.
An eyewitness (and earwitness) account, plus some grainy video, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Eyes of the Law: Partying with Sonia from the Block”

Wise Latina Judge Sonia Sotomayor.jpg* Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor officially took her seat at One First Street yesterday. [Caucus Blog/New York Times]
* Jennifer Lopez is not Sotomayor’s only music industry friend. Ricky Martin was among the attendees at the ceremony yesterday. [Washington Post]
* Maybe you can start billing that Facebook time. [Bloomberg]
* Could GPS bracelets solve the prison overcrowding problem? Philadelphia DA candidate Michael Untermeyer thinks so, and will be wearing one for the next month. [True/Slant]
* An Atlanta law firm got scammed. Isn’t anyone afraid of lawyers anymore? [CBS Atlanta]

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