Administrative Law

On Tuesday, the D.C. Circuit benchslapped a gaggle of lawyers for filing briefs with excessive acronyms. The court’s per curiam order directed the parties to “submit briefs that eliminate uncommon acronyms used in their previously filed final briefs.”

Alas, attempts to comply with this order have raised a new problem — a problem that some readers saw a mile away….

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The D.C. Circuit to counsel: readable briefs or GTFO. From an order filed today:

Who are the parties and their counsel? Additional information and the full order, after the jump.

(Also note the UPDATES — in defense of the lawyers, and floating a theory about the judge behind the benchslap — added to the end of this post.)

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‘Gee, my life is so meaningful. Thanks a lot, law school!’

* Despite the fact that the overall demand for legal work was down by five percent during the first nine months of the year, law firms still raised their hourly rates. Hey, what can we say? Math is hard. [Am Law Daily]

* After instructing his lawyers not to speak during what he called a “sham sentencing,” Whitey Bulger received two life sentences plus five years. Don’t worry, the appeal won’t be a sham. [National Law Journal; CNN]

* Attention c/o 2015: the New York City Bar Task Force is considering throwing commercial paper out the window in favor of administrative law. Something something arbitrary and capricious. [New York Law Journal]

* What is law school for, aside from collecting gigantic mountains of non-dischargeable student loan debt? Apparently it’s for creating a more meaningful life, because with poverty comes clarity. [WSJ Law Blog]

* In the very near future, you might need a license to conduct business with virtual money like bitcoin. The Brothers Winklevii are probably already preparing their paperwork to file. [DealBook / New York Times]

After successfully challenging a $50 ticket, attorney Leonard Kohen was feeling pretty good. The Administrative Law Judge hearing the case had agreed that the ticket — for running in a park after dark in February — was flimsy, and the New York City Parks & Recreation Department had to give up the ghost of collecting that $50 fine.

But no one screws over New York’s ersatz Leslie Knope and gets away with it.

New York City is appealing the ticket because there is absolutely nothing more important to spend time and money on than pursuing $50 tickets.

We have a copy of what passes for the appellate brief….

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Ed. note: This is the latest installment of Righteous Indignation, our new column for conservative-minded lawyers.

On Monday, the Supreme Court decided City of Arlington v. FCC. The question before SCOTUS was whether courts must defer to a federal regulatory agency’s interpretation of a statutory ambiguity even when that ambiguity involves the scope of the agency’s authority — its own jurisdiction.

Justice Scalia wrote for the majority, holding that even in cases such as this one, agencies are entitled to the usual deference established in Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. — aka Chevron deference. Chief Justice Roberts dissented, joined by Justices Kennedy and Alito.

The outcome of City of Arlington should be noteworthy to Court watchers — and conservatives in particular — for several reasons. First, the Scalia-Roberts split quiets the simplistic refrain that SCOTUS decides cases down rigid liberal-conservative lines. Second, it highlights an ongoing debate among conservative members of the Court about fundamental issues concerning the separation of powers and constitutional governance. Third, the Scalia and Roberts opinions demonstrate that, far from reserving their barbs for the left, conservatives can be pretty darn snarky amongst themselves.

So, let’s have a closer look….

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Chief Judge Merrick Garland

Merrick Garland, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit since last week, is dreading March 1.

With heavy stress on “not,” Chief Judge Garland said he does “not look forward” to the potential sequester because he knows that it would mean cuts and that he would have to make them.

Garland, along with fellow D.C. Circuit Judge Thomas Griffith and Senior Judge Laurence Silberman, spoke Saturday at the Georgetown University Law Center, as part of the J. Reuben Clark Law Society’s annual conference. I attended the panel presentation.

One positive of the new job for Garland is that he can make more writing assignments. Like Justice Breyer, he was a longtime junior judge. Translation: He had to take what he was given to write.

“The public has seen [Garland’s] last opinion on energy law,” Griffith predicted.

Read more about the panel, including Silberman’s jabs at the recess appointments decision, Griffith’s magical (?) clerk gift, and Garland’s limited edition headgear for a court party, after the jump….

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Now there’s a cover boy for the conservative Tiger Beat.

Paul Clement must still be stinging from that Obamacare loss. The celebrated conservative lawyer and former Solicitor General seemed unbeatable after he managed to secure constitutional approval for the government to hold prisoners indefinitely while blasting Barry Manilow if the Vice President’s office says so.  People actually described him as the Michael Jordan of the law.

And then the Court upheld Obamacare. Even Jordan needed Pippen.

To reestablish his conservative street cred, Clement filed a petition with Justice Ginsburg to jump the line and put his case complaining about NLRB recess appointments, currently residing in a Connecticut district court, in front of the Supreme Court ahead of the high profile Noel Canning v. NLRB decision from the D.C. Circuit (discussed by Elie here).

Justice Ginsburg told Clement to pound sand.

What a diva!

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Court sends Obama back to the drawing board.

It’s been so long since Obama lost something I was beginning to forget what it looked like.

In a reminder that just because the Senate is a dysfunctional band of elderly people doesn’t mean you can put them in a home and wait for them to die, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit knocked down some of the president’s recess appointments.

In January 2012, Obama made some recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board when the Senate wasn’t really in recess. The D.C. Circuit today says that he can’t do that.

Which might, you know, throw out a year’s worth of NLRB work. And it might be bad precedent for the big recess appointment of Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau…

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Yesterday we covered a controversy at Yale Law School over an Administrative Law class with an oversubscription problem. The course, taught by visiting Stanford law professor Daniel Ho, wound up with a waitlist of about 100 students.

Some 3Ls who were denied admission into the class were quite upset, since this represented their last chance to take Admin Law. The situation was described to us as a “near riot.” As a tipster noted, “Only at YLS could students get this bent out of shape about not being let into a black letter law class.”

This morning we bring you an update to this story — which has a happy ending, we’re pleased to report….

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In a few weeks, we’ll start hearing from prospective law students — i.e., 0Ls — who are already reading Above the Law (smart kids!), and who consult us for advice when choosing between law schools (not such smart kids). Last year, for example, we advised students choosing between such fine law schools as Illinois, Vanderbilt, Michigan, Northwestern, Columbia, Chicago, NYU, and Minnesota (with help from you, our readers; we hosted several reader polls pitting the schools against one another).

When I was a college senior choosing between law schools, I did not employ a very sophisticated approach. I simply picked the law school I got into that was highest in the U.S. News law school rankings.

Even though I have no regrets about my law school pick, my decisionmaking process wasn’t very sound. There are real differences between law schools, in terms of their educational programming, their cost to the student, their location (hai Stanford!), and a whole host of other factors.

Today’s story provides an illustration of the phenomenon. Right now, students at one top law school are in a “near riot” — our tipster’s words, not ours — because they feel they’re being denied the education they’re paying so dearly for….

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