“Nino, you wanna piece of me?” Justice Stephen G. Breyer and Jeffrey Toobin, at the New Yorker Festival. Photo by Startraks.
Somewhat late, but better late than never: part one of the more detailed account that we promised you of Justice Stephen Breyer’s interview with Jeffrey Toobin, at the New Yorker Festival last weekend.
The setting of the interview was impressive. The Celeste Bartos Forum at the New York Public Library is a grand, high-ceilinged room, with marble and dark wood trim gracing the walls. Justice Breyer and Jeff Toobin sat on two directors’ chairs on the small, elevated stage at the front of the room, with a gold and brown backdrop behind them.
Before the talk started, one could feel the buzz of anticipation in the room. Our knees were trembling with anticipation, and our heart was beating almost audibly. Supreme Court justices make us weak! (And apparently we’re not alone. Festival publicist Kimberly Burns informed us that the Breyer/Toobin talk sold out on Ticketmaster in three minutes — like a rock concert.)
More notes, after the jump.
Actually, no, we didn’t ask him that. But the question we did pose was just about as goofy. It felt sort of like Punk’d: Supreme Court Edition.
First, some background. As previouslydiscussed, this past weekend we attended Jeffrey Toobin’s interview of Justice Stephen G. Breyer, part of the New Yorker Festival. It was an interesting talk, even if it may not have met our (perhaps unrealistic) expectations.
We may write even more about the interview later (because it did go on for about an hour and a half). For now, though, we’ll share with you what happened when we got up during the Q-and-A session and posed a question to Justice Stephen Breyer.
Check it out, after the jump.
It’s another amazingly beautiful day here in New York, and we’re blogging from Bryant Park. The temperature is in the low 70′s, there’s not a cloud in the sky, and a slight breeze is blowing. Life is good.
We don’t have much time — we’re about to run off to another New Yorker Festival event — but after sleeping on it, and reviewing our notes (’cause that’s what they’re for), we’d like to revise our earlier assessment of Justice Breyer’s interview with Jeffrey Toobin yesterday.
Although it could have been more fun, if Justice Breyer had been more forthcoming, there were actually quite a number of interesting stories and humorous moments — more than we remembered. Yesterday’s take may have been influenced by the fact that the interview’s highlights were clustered toward the beginning of the talk, and more of the bland civics-lecture material was near the end. So immediately after leaving the talk, it was the dry stuff that stuck in our mind. We’ll have more to say later about the best parts of the interview.
David Lat gets antsy when an interview with Justice Breyer is insufficiently confessional. Why can’t he be more like Justice Scalia (or Judge Posner or Judge Kozinski)? Is there some reason the conservative judicial stars are more fun? Do liberals always have to demonstrate their circumspection?
It’s a fascinating inquiry, and one that we’ve entertained often ourselves. Do you have thoughts on why today’s leading judicial “rock stars” tend to be conservative? If so, please place them in the comments. (We’d like to see more robust debates in the comments here at ATL, like at other blogs.)
Three thoughts that we’d like to offer, before you accuse us (and Professor Althouse) of being biased in favor of conservatives:
1. There are a number of charismatic, colorful, outspoken federal judges who are quite liberal. Four examples, off the top of our head: Judge Stephen Reinhardt (9th Cir.), Judge Guido Calabresi (2d Cir.), Judge Jack Weinstein (E.D.N.Y.), and Judge Nancy Gertner (D. Mass.). So, in fairness to the left wing, let’s admit that they too have their icons.
2. Today the top judicial celebrities tend to be conservative. Is this just because the Republicans have been in power for quite some time — and because the most recent Supreme Court nominees, as well as any SCOTUS nominees in the near future, will probably be conservatives?
(Or maybe not. Judge Kozinski or Judge Posner are both brilliant, but they are unlikely Supreme Court nominees, perhaps because they are so outspoken and larger-than-life.)
3. It wasn’t always like this. Two of the most enjoyable and entertaining Supreme Court justices of the twentieth century were Justice Douglas and Justice Brennan — and they don’t come more liberal than that. (So don’t accuse us of refusing to recognize fascinating figures of the judicial left. We just feel that the best ones aren’t around today.)
Okay, gotta run. Apologies for typos or sloppy (or sloppier than usual) writing; we haven’t proofread this. Hasta luego.
We’re about to head to dinner, so we’ll write more about this later. For now, from Bryant Park — free wireless! — here’s a quick, rushed, half-baked commentary on Justice Stephen G. Breyer’s interview with Jeffrey Toobin at the New Yorker Festival.
It’s always thrilling to see a Supreme Court justice in the flesh. But, truth be told, we were a little disappointed (and not because SGB dodged our question during the Q-and-A with a rambling hypothetical about green roof tiles). On the whole, Justice Breyer was a bit too tame in his remarks to be a great interviewee.
It wasn’t Jeff Toobin’s fault; Toobin tried to bring Justice Breyer out of his shell (as he did with Edie Falco, who was a brilliant interviewee at last year’s Festival). But Justice Breyer was, on the whole, too restrained and insufficiently gossipy.
Justice Breyer was obviously precluded from talking about substantive legal issues (which several audience made futile attempts to get him to do). So he should have offered up lots of color and dish: harmless random details about life as a SCOTUS justice, tons of funny stories. Sadly, he didn’t do much of that; a little, but not enough.
What did he do? He offered up lots of vague generalities about the role of the courts in a democracy. If you’ve sat through one of Justice Breyer’s civics lectures on C-SPAN, or through the first week of a Con Law course, you’ve heard this all before. A telling refrain that preceded many of his remarks: “As I tell my students” (i.e., the elementary and high schoolers he gives civics lessons to).
The best interviewees are confessional. You feel like they’re at dinner with a close friend (the interviewer), and you’re a fly on the wall, hearing all sorts of juicy stuff you really shouldn’t be hearing. But everything Justice Breyer said today he could have said — and probably has already said — on C-SPAN, or in his book, Active Liberty.
You’re about to complain: “C’mon, how could you expect much fun? The man is a sitting Supreme Court justice, for crying out loud!”
Our response: There are ways to entertain, enrage, or engage your audience, even if you’re a federal judge, without violating ethical precepts. Every time Justice Scalia makes a public appearance, for example, there’s an article in the newspaper the next day about some fun, wacky, or thought-provoking remark he made.
Judge Alex Kozinski and Judge Richard Posner are the same way. They are colorful characters, prolific writers and public speakers. They make us laugh, and they make us think, but without crossing the line into impropriety.
Unfortunately, Justice Breyer shied too far away from that line in his appearance today. We’ll blog about the highlights of what he did say later (and don’t get us wrong; there were a number of funny moments and interesting anecdotes). But on the whole, for those of you who couldn’t get tickets (it sold out in three minutes), you didn’t miss as much as you might think.
Another weekend, another out-of-town excursion. In a few hours, we’re heading back up to the Big Apple, to attend events at the New Yorker Festival. A brief description of the Festival, from its website:
The New Yorker Festival returns for its seventh year, from October 6th through October 8th, in a celebratory weekend of public discourse on arts and ideas. The three-day schedule of events encompasses readings, musical performances, interviews, debates, and excursions around New York City.
If you happen to be attending the Festival too, please come up and say hello. We’ll be at these events:
We’re especially looking forward to the appearance of Justice Stephen G. Breyer, whom we’ve never seen up close and personal.* Justice Breyer will be interviewed by Jeffrey Toobin — who, for obvious reasons, is one of our favorite legal journalists (or writers of any type, period). Last year we attended Jeff Toobin’s interview of Edie Falco, which was nothing short of brilliant — one of the best live interviews we’ve ever attended (and we’ve attended many over the years; we’re interview junkies).
Our excitement about seeing Justice Breyer has only increased since we realized, earlier today, that he looks like an older version of one of our favorite screenwriters and actors: the phenomentally talented, unfailingly hilarious Mike White, who wrote and acted in Chuck & Buck, The Good Girl, and The School of Rock (among many other films).**
Check it out. Here’s the ocular proof:
Judge William H. Pryor, Jr., of the Eleventh Circuit, had an interesting op-ed in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, in which he took issue with various “leaders of the bench and bar [who] have decried what they describe as unprecedented threats to the independence of the judiciary.” It’s a fun little piece, largely because the position Judge Pryor critiques is accepted in many quarters as a truism.
From the perspective of Article III groupies, however, this might be the best paragraph in the whole thing. It is, in essence, a concise collection of notable benchslaps — which Judge Pryor marshals in support of the proposition that recent critiques of the judiciary may not be as harsh as they seem.
Many contemporary criticisms of judicial decisions by politicians are no more heated than the criticisms written by jurists in dissenting opinions. In Roper v. Simmons, Justice O’Connor protested that “the Court [had] preempt[ed] the democratic debate through which genuine consensus might develop.” Justice Breyer warned, in what he called the “highly politicized matter” of Bush v. Gore, that “the appearance of a split decision runs the risk of undermining the public’s confidence in the Court itself.” Consider also the harsh words of Justice William Brennan in Oregon v. Elstad: “the Court mischaracterizes our precedents, obfuscates the central issues, and altogether ignores the practical realities . . . that have led nearly every lower court to reject its simplistic reasoning.”
Lately you haven’t been sending many legal celebrity sightings our way. C’mon, guys — we know you can do better. If you harbor doubt as to who constitutes a “legal celebrity” in our book, please review this post.
Due to your delinquency, we’ll have to resort to some rather hoary sightings. Here’s the first, inspired by our recent post about legal hotshots chowing down:
As for food sightings, I hear that Leonard Leo has his own wine locker at Morton’s. One day this past summer, he was there and Miguel Estrada was in the next booth.
For those of you outside the Beltway, Leonard Leo is Grand Poobah of the Federalist Society — ringmaster of the good Senatrix’s “vast right-wing conspiracy.” Miguel Estrada — aka “the kid from Teguicalpa” — is the brilliant Latino lawyer, and former nominee to the celestial D.C. Circuit, who is often talked about as a possible SCOTUS nominee (in a Republican administration).
And what do great legal minds do to work off all those calories? Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Judge Consuelo Callahan (9th Cir.), and Judge Kathleen Cardone (W.D. Tex.) are aerobics aficionados. And all three, coincidentally, used to teach it. Justice O’Connor led the female law clerks in aerobics at the Supreme Court; Judge Callahan was an instructor at Jack La Lanne Fitness in Stockton, California; and Judge Cardone led classes at EP Fitness in El Paso, Texas.
Meanwhile, Justice David Souter, feeder judges J. Harvie Wilkinson (4th Cir.) and Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain (9th Cir.), and ex-Judge Michael Chertoff (3d Cir.) enjoy running. And they’re not the only ones:
An older sighting (March), but a good one. I was driving my car in Georgetown one Sunday morning behind a jogger (blue/black long spandex pants and windbreaker). He was trotting right down the middle of the street, leaving no opportunity to pass on either side.
We followed behind him for about 2 blocks, going an infuriating 4 mph. When he hits the end of the block, he turns and starts jogging the opposite way, and now he’s heading straight in our direction. It was unmistakably Justice Stephen Breyer.
We commend Justice Breyer for his fitness regimen (which may explain why he’s one of the more svelte of the justices). But please, Your Honor — show some consideration for the motorists.
(Yeah, we know — those brick sidewalks in Georgetown can be a real bitch. But remember the words of Nietzsche: “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”)
* The Judicial Conference of the United States, the policy-making body for the federal judiciary (but not the SCOTUS), has announced measures to improve the judiciary’s self-policing and public accountability. They include required installation of “conflict checking” software — get with it, Your Honors, that’s long overdue — and enhanced disclosure concerning judicial junkets. [New York Times; Washington Post]
* Speaking of judicial naughtiness, a commission headed by Justice Stephen G. Breyer has concluded that the Ninth Circuit mishandled its investigation of Judge Manuel Real — who is now facing an impeachment inquiry. [Los Angeles Times via How Appealing]
* The latest news in L’Affaire HP: Lawyers all around! HP general counsel Ann Baskins has retained white-collar specialist Cristina Arguedas, and Larry Sonsini has retained Michael Madigan, of Akin Gump. [The Recorder; WSJ Law Blog]
* Trying to come up with legislation to govern interrogation and treatment of terror suspects: Still a big ol’ mess. Wake us up when something’s actually accomplished. [Washington Post; New York Times]
It’s that time of the year again, kids: when the members of the Supreme Court release their financial disclosure forms. We now get to engage in a little bit of financial voyeurism, learning which justices have gold-plated gavels, and which ones must settle for plastic. Delicious!
Unfortunately, the information isn’t as comprehensive as it could be. Asset values are reported in ranges, not exact dollar amounts. Primary residences aren’t included. But we’ll take what we can get.
As was the case last year, Justice Ginsburg and Justice Souter top the list. Here are the asset ranges, justice by justice:
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…
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past six years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We currently have a very exciting and rare type of in-house opening in China at one of the world’s leading internet and social media companies. Our client is looking for an IP Transactional / TMT / Licensing attorney with 2 to 6 years experience. The new hire will be based in Shenzhen or Shanghai. Mandarin is not required (deal documentation will be in English) but is preferred. A solid reason to be in China and a commitment to that market is required of course. This new hire will likely be US qualified (but could also be qualified in UK or other jurisdictions) and with experience and training at a top law firm’s IP transactional / TMT practice and could be currently at a law firm or in-house. Qualified candidates currently Asia based, Europe based or US based will be considered. The new hire’s supervisors in this technology transactions in-house team are very well regarded US trained IP transactional lawyers, with substantial experience at Silicon Valley firms. The culture and atmosphere in this in-house group and the company in general is entrepreneurial, team oriented, and the work is cutting edge, even for a cutting edge industry. The upside of being in an important strategic in-house position in this fast growing and world leading internet company is of the “sky is the limit” variety. Its a very exciting place to be in China for a rising IP transactional lawyer in our opinion, for many reasons beyond the basic info we can share here in this ad / post. This is a special A+ opportunity.
If your firm is in ‘go’ mode when it comes to recruiting lateral partners with loyal clients, then take this quiz to see how well you measure up. Keep track of your ‘yes’ and ‘no’ responses.
1. Does your firm have a clearly defined strategy of practice groups that are priorities of growth for your office? Nothing gets done by random chance, but with a clear vision for the future. Identify the top practice areas for which you wish to add lateral partners. Seek input from practice group leaders and get specifics on needs, outcomes, and ideal target profiles.
2. In addition to clarifying your firm’s growth strategy, are you still open to the hire of a partner outside of your plan? I’ve made several placements that fit this category. The partner’s practice was not within the strategic growth plan of my client, but once the two parties started talking with each other, we all saw how it could indeed be a seamless fit. Be open to “Opportunistic Hires.” You never know where your next producing partner might come from, so you have to be open to it. I will be the first to admit that there is a quirky element of randomness in recruiting.
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