Supreme Court

Chief Justice Bart Simpson in 2033, photographed with his father.

Watching old Simpsons episodes can be a little like reading Nostradamus. The early episodes are filled with gags that seem creepily prescient in the light of hindsight. Like how Stop The Planet of the Apes I Want To Get Off predated the “let’s make an old movie into a musical” craze. Or how Fox is gradually transitioning into a hardcore sex channel.

But a tipster noted that a controversial Supreme Court case from this Term gets a predictive wink from an episode that aired in 1992….

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The latest batch of presidential papers from the Clinton Administration, recently released to the public, contain some fun nuggets for law nerds. We’ve mentioned a few of them already — e.g., the time that a pre-robescent Elena Kagan, then a White House staffer, dropped the f-bomb in a memo to White House counsel Jack Quinn. Another just came to light today: as reported by Tony Mauro, a pre-robescent John Roberts, then in private practice at Hogan & Hartson, came close to representing President Clinton in the U.S. Supreme Court in Clinton v. Jones.

The papers contain other interesting tidbits too — and some are sad rather than salacious. For example, there’s the story of how a brilliant and distinguished circuit judge came thisclose to landing a seat on the Supreme Court, until health problems derailed his nomination….

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The source of the Supreme Court’s tech problems?

Ed. note: In honor of Columbus Day (and Canadian Thanksgiving), Above the Law will be on a reduced publication schedule today. We will be back in full force tomorrow.

* The Supreme Court’s new Term is off to a great start: Thanks to a copy machine’s error, we almost missed the surprise cert denials in the gay marriage cases. What kind of screw-ups will this week bring us? [National Law Journal]

* On the other hand, in what’s considered an unsurprising move following its cert denials en masse, the Supreme Court allowed same-sex marriage to begin in Idaho. Congrats to the Gem State. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Jenner & Block’s data privacy practice is making waves in an “uncharted but lucrative field,” and its leader thinks that the “Internet of Things” will help heat up her work soon. [Capital Business / Washington Post]

* A future Law & Order: SVU episode? Sanford Rubenstein, a personal injury and civil rights lawyer who’s been described as “[f]lashy, brash and always camera-ready,” is now being accused of rape. [ABC News]

* Yale Law’s most interesting student goes to all of his classes, but never has to study or take any of his finals. It’s not because he’s lucky — it’s because he’s a 93-year-old course auditor. [New Haven Register]


After the U.S. Supreme Court denied the petitions for certiorari in several leading same-sex marriage cases this week, media coverage exploded with headlines like “Legal Argument Over Gay Marriage Is All But Over.”  Advocates of LGBT rights seemed to view all future court action as a mere victory lap.  Sarah Warbelow, the legal director for the Human Rights Campaign, told the press, “It’s really hard to imagine the Supreme Court would have allowed thousands of same-sex couples to get married, including in some very conservative areas like Utah, and then turn around and say, ‘Just kidding, there’s nothing wrong with state bans.'”

Warbelow deserves some slack for her sanguine interpretation of this week’s news.  After all, she has a cause to promote.  And as a general rule, when SCOTUS declines to hear a case on a particular question, one might reasonably assume that they aren’t concerned with correcting the lower court’s treatment of the issue.  But this is hardly a routine legal matter.  Nothing emanating from First Street this week made the fate of same-sex marriage in America certain.  So, why are so many other observers acting as though the Court just handed the LGBT community a gift box of equal rights, neatly wrapped in denied cert petitions?  Why is there so much denial about what these cert denials mean?

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Lindsay Lohan

* This just in: Now that the Fifth Circuit has refused to hear the Texas abortion case en banc, it looks like we may see a viable case about a major social issue being brought to Term before SCOTUS after all. [National Law Journal]

* Skadden came out on top of the Bloomberg, Thomson Reuters, and Mergermarket league tables for the highest transactional value of its mergers and acquisitions deals in 2014. Congrats on kicking the competition’s ass. [Am Law Daily]

* Per HBR Consulting, clients are winning the war when it comes to getting legal services on the cheap. Consider this a “call to action for law firms to reconsider the way they do business.” [WSJ Law Blog]

* The Elon University School of Law is completely revamping its academic offerings in order to offer a law degree that can be earned in 2.5 years, and for about $14,000 less. Nice work! [Triad Business Journal]

* Lindsay Lohan’s attorneys filed an amended complaint in her case against Grand Theft Auto’s publisher, this time going so far as to spell their client’s name correctly. [Hollywood, Esq. / Hollywood Reporter]

Would you like a touch of sugar with that, Your Honor?

Federal judges are… fruity! I once visited Chief Judge Alex Kozinski in chambers, where I witnessed the judge engage in a spirited argument with one of his law clerks over the proper way to peel and eat an orange. Everything is up for debate in the Kozinski chambers.

And it seems like Judge Kozinski isn’t the only judicial giant with a fruit fetish. In oral arguments yesterday for Integrity Staffing Solutions v. Busk, concerning whether Amazon warehouse workers can get paid overtime for going through an end-of-day security screening, Justice Elena Kagan raised this fun scenario: if a federal judge orders his clerks to come into chambers early, to cut up his grapefruit and make the rest of his breakfast, should the clerks get paid for that?

As it turns out, this “hypothetical” is based on real life. Which federal judge actually does this?

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* Some marriage equality enthusiasts applauded the Supreme Court’s decision to stay out of the way and let the circuits do their thing. But the history of miscegenation in America suggests the Supreme Court had a moral obligation to interject. [USA Today]

* On this subject, Professor Dorf presents a fascinating hypothetical: is it in the strategic interest of an anti-gay marriage conservative lower court judge to strike down same-sex marriage bans in light of the Supreme Court’s cert denials? [Dorf on Law]

* One more story while we’re at it, after the Ninth Circuit struck down bans on same-sex marriages, District Judge Robert C. Jones of Nevada, who upheld the ban in the first place, recused himself rather that be forced to issue an opinion in accordance with Ninth Circuit precedent. [BuzzFeed]

* If you’ve ever wondered how Islamic State manages to recruit Western youth to the cause, the answer is a “Disney-like” social media campaign. It’s like a Biglaw summer program, but for murder. [Cornell Journal of Law and Public Policy]

* “Better Hold Off Sexting With High School Students” in Indiana. The Indiana Supreme Court finally weighed in last week after the lower court had okayed a teacher texting a 16-year-old to sneak out of the house for sex. Wait, this required the Supreme Court to weigh in? What is wrong with you Indiana? [Valpo Law Blog]

* Looking professional with a pixie cut. [Corporette]

* Enter for a chance to win a Chief Judge Randall Rader bobblehead! Yes, these exist. [Santa Clara Law]

* The Zephyr Teachout book tour for Corruption in America (affiliate link) begins. Is your town on the list? [Teachout-Wu]

* New Orleans taxpayers spent around $75K traveling judges to conferences and resorts last year. Quoth the tipster: “I could make a joke about New Orleans judges going to the third world to learn how to run their courtrooms, but I think I already did.” [The Times-Picayune]

For aficionados of books about the U.S. Supreme Court, 2014 has been a very good year. The past few months have brought us Uncertain Justice, by Laurence Tribe and Joshua Matz; The Case Against the Supreme Court, by Erwin Chemerinsky; Scalia: A Court of One, by Bruce Allen Murphy; and American Justice 2014, by Garrett Epps. (Forthcoming on the fiction side in a few weeks: my very own Supreme Ambitions.)

One of the most eagerly anticipated of these books is Breaking In: The Rise of Sonia Sotomayor, by veteran SCOTUS reporter Joan Biskupic. She recently posted a juicy excerpt on Reuters, in which Justice Antonin Scalia is quoted saying of Justice Sotomayor, “I knew she’d be trouble.”

What prompted Nino to make this comment about Sonia? It has to do with allegations of the Wise Latina engaging in unwise behavior at a Supreme Court party….

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* Since SCOTUS punted on same-sex marriage, people in states where gay marriage bans still exist are wondering when it will be their turn. It’s just a waiting game from here on out. [USA Today]

* Babies wait for no one: a pregnant lesbian couple fighting the Texas ban on gay marriage filed an usual request asking that the Fifth Circuit hurry up and schedule arguments. [WSJ Law Blog]

* The “puff, puff, pass” defense? Robel Phillipos, friend of accused Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, claims he was so high during the aftermath he can’t remember a thing. [Bloomberg]

* When should you apply to law school? When you can get into a top school, have clear career objectives, and won’t have to take out loans. You’re preaching to the choir. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News]

* A Burger King customer is suing because he claims the restaurant’s manager attacked him with a knife and a Taser. This all allegedly happened over some cold onion rings, of course. [New York Daily News]

* New Supreme Court term kicks off with some bizarre argumentation. [The Volokh Conspiracy / Washington Post]

* Professor Tribe doesn’t think Obama’s getting another justice confirmed. Vegas is setting the over/under off his remarks. [Coverage Opinions]

* More on The Law Hawk (insert screeching eagle sound effect). [Legal Cheek]

* Picking the right legal recruiter is important. It’s like having an agent, which is awesome because it makes you feel like Peyton Manning for a bit. [Major, Lindsay & Africa]

* What. The. Hell? You can survive being sucked into a jet engine? Without wearing Iron Man Mark V armor. [Lowering the Bar]

* You know what’s lame? Civil forfeiture. John Oliver rants after the jump… [Last Week Tonight]

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