Appellate Advocacy

Judge Richard Posner isn’t amused — but we are!

Judge Richard Posner isn’t trying to entertain us. He just does.

When he benchslaps prominent Biglaw partners or government lawyers fighting marriage equality, he’s not trying to be funny. He’s just trying to understand the facts of a case or get to the bottom of the legal arguments — and he’s, well, maybe not as diplomatic as some other judges in going about his business.

Let’s check out the latest argument where Judge Posner snarked on hapless counsel….

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There’s not really much to say here. There are just a few things to remember to avoid an embarrassing oral argument. Basically, don’t condescend to the judges on your appellate panel, and try to show up wearing pants (and maybe some socks). Pretty simple, right?

We’ve seen this kind of confrontational tone out of lawyers before, and it never ends well for the attorney. Like when Jones Day’s Matthew Kairis thought it wise to continuously interrupt Judge Posner in Notre Dame v. Sibelius. What happened next was… entirely predictable: Kairis ended up with an earful from Judge Posner about the proper role of an advocate before an appellate panel.

This poor fellow earns the same basic tongue-lashing, just with a different accent…

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In my last column, I shared how Judge Richard Wesley of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit is using his iPad while on the bench. I explained how he got started using technology—by using PDFs instead of paper documents—and eventually transitioned to using his iPad for many of his judicial duties. And we learned that not only does he use an iPad, he has managed to convince some of his Second Circuit colleagues to do the same, thus reducing the amount of paper used by the judges.

It was clear from my last column that Judge Wesley is sold on the benefits of using technology. But he’s also well aware of the drawbacks—a topic I promised to cover in today’s column. So let’s get started.

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Lawyers have embraced mobile computing at a much faster rate than other types of emerging technologies. In fact, according to the American Bar Association’s 2013 legal technology survey, nearly 91% of lawyers now use smartphones in their law practices, up from 89% in 2012. Tablet use has also increased quickly, with 48% of lawyers reporting that they now use tablets in their law practices, up from 33% in 2012.

Those are impressive numbers considering that the iPhone was first released in 2007 and the iPad became available to the public in just 2010. So in less than a decade, these mobile tools have become commonplace in law offices, and tablet continues to rise.

And it’s not just practicing lawyers who use tablets. Believe it or not, judges do, too. In fact, not only do some of them use tablets — some of them rely on their tablets to get their jobs done. Judge Richard Wesley of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit is one of those judges. In this two-part series, I’m going to share with you how he uses his iPad to increase his efficiency on the bench and what he thinks about the effects of technology on the legal profession.

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Next week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the Conestoga and Hobby Lobby cases, the high-profile challenges to the Obamacare contraception mandate. Many ordinary citizens wish they could tune in to the arguments on TV, or at least catch clips on the Daily Show nightly news. After all, how else can Americans access this valuable information that could change their lives forever? I mean, without an Upworthy piece or a Buzzfeed listicle?

Of course, serious folks make serious arguments championing televised coverage of Supreme Court arguments. UC Irvine School of Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky wrote an opinion piece this week, arguing that “[t]here is no excuse for keeping cameras out of the Supreme Court.” (Apparently, Chemerinsky wants cameras in and Justice Ginsburg out, for those keeping track of Chemerinsky’s wish list.) Earlier this month, the Coalition for Court Transparency, a group of press organizations and pro-transparency NGOs, sent a letter to Chief Justice Roberts, urging the Court to permit the video recording and broadcast of its courtroom.

So, what are opponents of cameras at One First Street so scared of? Do they worry that Chief Justice Roberts will start mugging for the camera? That Justice Scalia will insist on an added laugh track? That Justice Kagan will embark on a dangerous juice fast to slim down like a Hollywood starlet? (Actually, it looks like she already has.)

Those are not my concerns, but here is why I still think video coverage of U.S. Supreme Court arguments is a terrible idea….

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Judge Richard Posner

From the Above the Law mailbag: “Is ATL ever going to call out Judge Posner for being so needlessly nasty to litigants?”

Ummm, no. I’m a big fan of Judge Richard Posner, who is brilliant and hilarious. (Yes, hilarious — if you doubt that, check out the awesome podcast that he and I did together, which you can download and listen to during your commute or at the gym.)

But in the interest of fairness, I will make this reader’s case. This correspondent cited the recent oral argument in Notre Dame v. Sebelius, which we alluded to yesterday, in which Judge Posner dispensed some benchslaps to Matthew Kairis, head of litigation in the Columbus office of Jones Day. The reader also mentioned the argument on remand in the Conrad Black case, alleging that Posner “was particularly nasty to Miguel Estrada, seemingly piqued that Estrada got him reversed by SCOTUS.”

Let’s focus on the Notre Dame v. Sebelius argument, since it just happened. How bad was it?

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Judge Frank Easterbrook

Let’s play a game of circuit-court word association.

D.C. Circuit? Prestigious.

Ninth Circuit? Wacky.

Sixth Circuit? Vicious.

Seventh Circuit? Benchslappy.

If you question this assessment, please consider the latest benchslaps emanating from 219 South Dearborn Street….

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Elizabeth Wurtzel

* Elizabeth Wurtzel: “I am a lawyer. The first rule of law: All the promises will be broken. Attorneys could not be in business if people did not fail to do what they agreed to do all the time — and lawyers are very busy.” [Nerve.com]

* Laura Ingraham clerked for SCOTUS, so presumably she knows that Puerto Ricans are American citizens — right? [Media Matters]

* Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, known for zero tolerance of prosecutorial misconduct, has written the foreword to a new book on the subject. [Facebook]

* In addition to the one we mentioned yesterday, here’s another petition for the Obama Administration that’s aimed at addressing the student debt crisis. [WhiteHouse.gov]

* Thomson Reuters Concourse keeps getting bigger and better. [Thomson Reuters]

* Appellate law? In California? What’s not to like? Check out these job openings in the California SG’s office. [California Department of Justice; California Department of Justice]

* Want to know the backstory behind the awesome Jamie Casino Super Bowl ad? Keep reading….

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Justice Scalia is kind of a troll sometimes. He routinely snarks out his fellow justices and is a total dick to legal luminaries like Judge Posner. His belligerence is drenched in sarcasm and usually arbitrary.

In a sense, Antonin Scalia is ATL’s spirit guide.

But when he went after an attorney appearing before him, he got immediately chastised by a fellow justice and raised the ire of even conservative commentators.

In this instance, I’m going out on a limb and say Justice Scalia was absolutely, positively, 100 percent right….

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* Downton Abbey has inspired a new bill making its way through the House of Lords, who apparently watched the show and figured out for the first time that women get screwed by the law of entail. Now if they can just pass a law that would keep Bates out of prison in the first place. [The Atlantic]

* Ben Adlin reminisces about the era when the Supreme Court actually cared about oral arguments. [Summary Judgments]

* An interesting infographic on where Superlawyers went to school. Finally a ranking where NYU can top Yale. [Online Paralegal Programs]

* Another installment of classic ads ruined by lawyers. [Vice]

* Fifth Circuit judges aren’t the only ones to tell their colleagues to shut up; here’s some fun news from the Philippines. [Manila Times]

* French cities have banned performances of a comedian with a history of racking up hate speech fines. I mean, since when has anti-Semitism been a problem in Europe? [Al Jazeera]

* If you think conservative arguments against the Affordable Care Act are dumb, check out liberal columnists arguing that Obama screwed up by not pushing for single-payer. [Lawyers, Guns & Money]

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