Barack Obama

For the first black president, Barack Obama doesn’t really talk a lot about race. People talk about his race all the time, and once again it’ll be a critical factor in the campaign, but the president himself doesn’t often wade into racial controversies.

But the excellent people at Buzzfeed have hopped into the waaaay-back machine and uncovered video of Obama speaking eloquently about a racial controversy while he was president of the Harvard Law Review.

It’s a fun video, not just because of the content, but because it turns out that 20 years ago, Obama sounded exactly the same.

And as Huffington Post reporter Mike Sacks just gchatted me (and tweeted), Obama did this one without a teleprompter…

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Montana Chief Judge Richard Cebull

Montana Chief Judge Richard Cebull started the first day of the rest of his life today. The judge who sent around a racist and sexist email about Barack Obama and the president’s dead mother started the “damage control” process that will never really end.

Richard Cebull could emancipate slaves and everybody would still know he’s a racist. Obviously, his family and friends already knew he was racist, but now the general public gets to know. There’s nothing for it now. Whether or not he will still be allowed to have a job is pretty much all he can fight for.

And he is: he’s voluntarily asked the Ninth Circuit to review his conduct. And he’s written a letter of apology to President Obama — who is rapidly on his way to becoming the most poorly treated president in American history (even though the last one was openly thought to be mentally retarded, and the one before that was impeached for getting a BJ).

But we’ll get to all that. First, free of charge, I’m going to slow down long enough let everybody catch up to why the original letter was racist, and why sending the thing makes Cebull a racist, too….

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Chief Judge Richard Cebull

We mentioned this last night in Non-Sequiturs, but it merits more coverage. Judge Richard F. Cebull, current chief judge for the District of Montana, admitted to forwarding a racially charged joke about President Barack Obama from his courthouse email account. Chief Judge Cebull, a graduate of the University of Montana Law School and a former federal magistrate judge, was appointed to the district court by President George W. Bush in 2001. One of the readers who brought this story to our attention described Cebull as “a good judge.”

A good judge who tells bad jokes. Let’s get to what you all want to know: What was the joke? And was it offensive, or funny, or both?

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Everybody on the whole cell block…

* Now prison inmates will literally be able to listen to the jailhouse rock. Dancing to it is a different issue. [USA Today]

* Why do students surf the web in class instead of taking notes? Probably because their professors are boring. [Legal Skills Prof Blog]

* The current Supreme Court justices have less time practicing law or working in politics than any other previous Supreme Court roster. But they have way more pillow fights. [Social Science Research Network via Instapundit]

* The chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana emailed some friends a fairly offensive, racially charged joke about President Obama from his courthouse chambers. He will probably have to apologize. [Great Falls Tribune]

* “It’s like having a pace runner in a marathon: I don’t have to burn out running the 26.2 miles as fast as I can.” The only difference is that this new tool measures billable hours instead of miles. [ABA Journal]

SCOTUS in the house at SOTU.

President Barack Obama delivered his State of the Union address this evening, and it was even less exciting than last year (which was less exciting than the year before, when the famous Obama v. Alito showdown over Citizens United took place). Tonight was light on drama — one of the most compelling moments came early on, with the arrival in the chamber of retiring Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords — and President Obama’s speech was light on new ideas. Considering that we’re in an election year, with no major legislation likely to pass anytime soon, this shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Your Above the Law editors covered the speech via Twitter. See @ATLblog, @DavidLat, @ElieNYC, and @StaciZaretsky.

Here’s an open thread for discussion of the address. We’ll get the party started with a few legally oriented highlights, after the jump.

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C'mon, Your Honors, look lively!

Tonight, as everyone knows, President Barack Obama will deliver his State of the Union address. The speech starts at 9 p.m. (Eastern time). For real-time reactions over Twitter, follow @ATLblog, @DavidLat, @ElieNYC, and @StaciZaretsky. For a post-speech wrap-up, check Above the Law, either late tonight or tomorrow morning.

For Supreme Court nerds, here’s the perennial question: How many members of SCOTUS will show up at the SOTU? Feel free to make your guesses, in the comments.

Here’s some historical perspective to inform your speculation….

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Rick Perry is so sad.

* Rick Perry’s primary ballot election law suit in Virginia was unsuccessful, but maybe the Fourth Circuit will help him out on appeal. Or not. At least Huntsman’s out of the race, right? [Bloomberg]

* That didn’t take too long. The National Federation of Independent Business has officially popped the cherry on filing lawsuits challenging Obama’s recess appointments. [Businessweek]

* Even if law schools changed their teaching methods to include more experiential learning opportunities, would anyone care? To that, the latest hiring patterns say: “LOL, srsly?” [National Law Journal]

* Joran van der Sloot has been sentenced to 28 years for the murder of Stephany Flores. Parents will now be able to allow their college-aged kids to spend spring break in Aruba until 2038. [CNN]

* Protip for child predators: claiming that you don’t remember pleading guilty will bring you as much success as your career in children’s balloon entertainment and law — not a lot. [Orlando Sentinel]

* The lawyers at this small firm might quality for senior citizen discount specials, but they’re working hard to put their 161 years of experience to good use. P.S. they’re hiring! [New York Times]

It’ll take some time before a court rules on the legality of Barack Obama’s recess appointment of Richard Cordray to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. In case you haven’t been paying attention, Obama nominated Cordray two years ago, but the Republicans have refused to allow his nomination to come to a vote. Obama then wanted to use his recess appointment powers to fill the vacancy while Congress was away, but Republicans have blocked that through a series of sham sessions in which a couple of members gavel in and gavel out in a few seconds every couple of days. Last week, Obama decided those sessions did not constitute real sessions and appointed Cordray anyway, and we’ve all been treated to a week of howling from the right about an “illegal” power grab by the executive branch.

I appeared on the Mike Huckabee Show this weekend and defended the president’s appointment. It felt a lot like writing here at ATL: the live studio audience even booed me to make me feel at home.

But on Friday, Republican lawmakers did something really funny: they asked Eric Holder and the Department of Justice to explain what role the Office of Legal Counsel played in advising or authorizing Obama’s move. I’m immediately reminded of Bones McCoy trying to get back to the quarantined Genesis planet in Star Trek III when he says: “There aren’t gonna be any damned permits! How can you get a permit to do a damned illegal thing?”

Regardless of the legality of the recess appointments, did Obama do the right thing?

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* Is the Roberts court really as pro-First Amendment as we’ve been led to believe? Lawyers aren’t really that good at math, but they’ve done studies, you know. And 34.5% of the time, it works every time. [New York Times]

* The people at the ABA aren’t concerned that William Robinson’s remarks made him seem like a tactless tool. Instead, they’re concerned that his “quotes were used out of context.” [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* Duncan Law wants the ABA to remove a memo denying the school’s provisional accreditation from its website. Why? So students will keep applying and paying them tuition money. At least they’re being honest. [Knoxville News Sentinel]

* Montgomery Sibley, whose license to practice is suspended, is running for president and suing “Barrack” Obama. Well, that’s a unique way to establish standing in a birther lawsuit. [Huffington Post]

Prof. Hans Smit

* Money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy your way out of jail. Just ask Floyd Mayweather. Thanks to this judge, he’ll be fighting someone other than his ex on Cinco de Drinko. [Washington Post]

* Hans Smit, beloved Columbia Law professor (and owner of a $29 million mansion), RIP. [Columbia Law School]

* The actress suing IMDb has finally been unmasked. I’ve never heard of her, but she’s probably suing for more than she’s ever made in her B-movie Z-movie career. [New York Daily News]

Mountain Dew: a mouse could not survive in this environment, according to PepsiCo counsel.

* Pepsi lawyers offer a creative (if disturbing) defense to a lawsuit by a man who claims he found a mouse in his Mountain Dew. [Madison County Record via The Atlantic Wire]

* Will birther queen Orly Taitz get to depose — i.e., “rupture the jurisprudential hymen” — of President Barack Obama? That would be kind of awesome. [Columbus Ledger-Inquirer]

* Professor Ann Althouse raises an interesting “who decides?” question about Cleveland’s controversial ban on trans fats. [Althouse]

* Please, lawyers, stick to cocaine. Allegations of crystal meth usage are très déclassé. [NewsOK.com]

* Kudos to Kirkland & Ellis for coming to the defense of lesbian and gay public employees in Michigan. [Poliglot / Metro Weekly]

* It seems that the Montana Supreme Court isn’t a fan of the Citizens United decision. [Huffington Post]

* Jamin Soderstrom, a (rather cute) former S&C associate and current Fifth Circuit clerk, has written a book (affiliate link) analyzing the qualifications of presidential candidates and the relationship between résumés and presidential success. [Tex Parte Blog]

* If you’re a law professor / blogger who wants to get a rise out of fellow profs, write posts in praise of Paul Campos (just voted our 2011 Lawyer of the Year — congrats again, Professor Campos). [PrawfsBlawg]

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