Constitutional Law

Do chimpanzees deserve legal personhood? A “first of its kind” lawsuit will ask a court to answer that question. Steven Wise, founder and president of the Nonhuman Rights Project, has filed a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of four chimpanzees.

I will now pause while James Franco auditions for the role of Steven Wise.

I’m not sure what rights chimpanzees (or pets) deserve in our human society — but “zero” seems to me to be the wrong and certainly unenlightened answer. Wise argues that the chimps are being held as prisoners against their will. I don’t think anybody can seriously disagree with that assessment.

But if chimps have a “will,” do they also have rights that we are bound to respect?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Lawsuit Of The Apes”

It’s often noted that the United States is governed by the world’s oldest written constitution that is still in use. This is usually stated as praise, though most other products of the eighteenth century, like horse-borne travel and leech-based medical treatment, have been replaced by improved models.

Jeffrey Toobin, writing in the New Yorker about whether the current dysfunction of the federal government might be due, at least in part, to the Constitution.

(Additional notable quotes from his interesting article, after the jump.)

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The other shoe has dropped: Senator Harry Reid went forward with the long-awaited “nuclear option” to end the Republican filibuster of Obama nominees, most notably the nominations of Judge Robert Wilkins, Georgetown Law Professor Nina Pillard, and Akin Gump partner Patricia Millett to three vacant seats on the D.C. Circuit.

By a 52-48 vote, Democrats killed off the filibuster for most of the president’s upcoming nominations, though kindly preserved the minority’s right to filibuster Supreme Court nominees. So they didn’t take away all of our fun.

But you probably already know that. You probably already have a militant opinion about it if social media is to be believed. But as we prepare to welcome three new judges to the D.C. Circuit, our friends, family, politicians, and media people are going to toss around some really hollow sound bytes both for and against this move. Let’s just get some of them out of the way now, so you don’t have to act surprised when you watch Meet the Press on Sunday.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “And Boom Goes The (Nuclear) Dynamite: Previewing The Derptastic Sound Bytes You’re About To Hear”

Is belief in old St. Nick unreasonable?

One of the great things about religious liberty is the ability to believe unreasonable things.

– Professor Andrew Koppelman of Northwestern Law, speaking yesterday at the Federalist Society National Lawyers Convention, on a panel about religious freedom.

(If you’re curious, a little explanation appears after the jump.)

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A person expects that the area under their clothing is private and protected against hostile intrusion … but if a clothed person is out in public and reveals areas under their clothing, whether inadvertently or otherwise, to plain view, she or he no longer has an expectation of privacy.

– Attorney Michelle Menken, arguing that the Massachusetts Peeping Tom law does not apply to her client, a man who was arrested for exercising his right to free speech — by taking “upskirt” pictures of women on the Boston subway.

* Airport security has forbidden joking about bombs and hijacking. Now TSA is cracking down on joking about TSA itself. In the interest of my next flight, “I love you, TSA!” [Daily Mail]

* A detailed analysis of the 14th Amendment’s role in the debt ceiling debate. President Obama should employ this solution now before the Supreme Court realizes there’s another part of the 14th Amendment they can overturn. [Main Street]

* Law school professors do not take kindly to your antics. [Law Prof Blog]

* A Cooley Law professor is arguing against gay rights. Sorry, a Western Michigan Law professor is arguing against gay rights. [Pride Source]

* The rules don’t apply to Yale or Harvard. Or at least the rules don’t apply to their law reviews. [Professor Bainbridge]

* Congress is still trying to decide how to regulate FM radio instead of looking at salient issues in modern copyright law. Given how brilliantly they keep the government open, maybe FM radio is the biggest issue we should give them right about now. [The Daily Caller]

* The lawyer as generalist is fading into obscurity. Let’s commemorate it in poetry, shall we? [Poetic Justice]

* A preview of some upcoming Supreme Court cases this week. Complete with cartoons! [The Spark File]

* Finally, here’s a little gem for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg fans that we got….

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* “There are no magic bullets here.” Caught in a “trilemma,” President Obama is up against the wall and is running out of options. He soon might be forced to choose the least unconstitutional solution to the nation’s problems. [Bloomberg]

* During the government shutdown, it certainly wouldn’t be worth it for furloughed employees to hire lawyers to fight their “essential” versus “non-essential” determinations — please, like they’ll be able to afford legal representation right now. [National Law Journal]

* It seems some partners at both Dentons and McKenna Long & Aldridge aren’t fans of a possible tie-up, so they’re heading for the hills as fast as they can. Perhaps it simply wasn’t meant to be? [Am Law Daily]

* It’s time for our favorite show, As the Weil Turns! Partners from various offices are departing for other Biglaw firms, and we can now confirm that Steven Peck is a new face at Proskauer. [Law360 (sub. req.)]

* We told you last week that Matthew Martens of Fabulous Fab fame would be leaving the SEC, but now we know where he’s landing. Congrats on your new home at WilmerHale. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* Ohio is the latest state to offer “hazy” abortion restrictions that skirt the very edge of Supreme Court jurisprudence in order to make women feel guilty about their own right to choose. [New York Times]

* “Without makeup she looks like the Joker in Batman.” Joan Rivers is locked in a $15 million condo catfight with a Canadian socialite who isn’t afraid to pull punches. Meow! [New York Daily News]

Justice Antonin Scalia

Everyone’s talking right now about New York Magazine’s fascinating and fantastic interview with Justice Antonin Scalia. Some of what’s covered will be familiar to longstanding Scalia groupies, but some of it will be new. In a wide-ranging discussion with Jennifer Senior, Justice Scalia discusses everything from his pet peeves (like women cursing, or majority opinions that ignore the dissent); whether he has any gay friends; his tastes in television (hint: “No soup for you!”); and his desire to hire more law clerks from “lesser” law schools.

The whole thing is worth reading, but here are ten highlights to whet your appetite:

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I nearly did not write this post this week. (I’ll pause while some of you wish that ‘nearly’ weren’t a part of that sentence.) I started the week with a mild toothache. By the time I reached my dentist on Tuesday morning, that niggling pain had bloomed into an infection that spread from my tooth to my jaw bone to the soft tissue of my face. Despite oral penicillin (and Vicodin!), I developed a high fever, the left side of my face swelled to grotesque proportions, and my jaw seized shut. I ended up in an ER on IV antibiotics.

While portions of the federal government ground to a halt due to insufficient funds, I held ice packs to my head and prayed quiet prayers about septicemia and the relative impermeability of the blood-brain barrier. Vaguely, in the background, I knew Congress and the president were arguing about health care. About funding the PPACA. Obamacare.

My heart goes out to folks harmed by the federal government shut-down this week. I also agree with those who are dismayed that Capitol Hill can’t reach a consensus sufficient to end the current crisis. It’s their job to find workable agreements, after all. That much, I hope most of us can agree on. Since we’re not here to agree, let’s talk a bit about Obamacare, the source of this week’s trouble in Washington . . . .

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “When Democracy Hurts: The Painful But Legitimate Debate Over Obamacare”

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

* “We’re in uncharted territory right now.” The federal courts made it through the first week of the shutdown, but they’re approaching “here be dragons” land in terms of funding. [National Law Journal]

* “It would be the most interesting case in decades.” Legal experts debate whether President Obama can ignore the debt ceiling for much longer. [New York Times]

* People are getting out of Biglaw while the getting’s good. Reed Smith’s global managing partner is leaving the firm for a general counsel gig after 13 years at the helm. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* Law firm leaders met to discuss how to empower women attorneys, and agreed it’s wise to parade them around in front of clients. Getting to work on those clients’ cases is another question. [Blog of Legal Times]

* No debacles here, contrary to past precedent: Kasowitz Benson poached two superior legal minds from NBCUniversal and welcomed them to the firm to open an entertainment litigation practice. [Bloomberg]

* Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s lawyers want their client’s prison restrictions to be lifted and are raising a slew of constitutional claims. We think the members of his fan club are the only ones feeling sorry for him. [CNN]

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