Over the last two decades, a dedicated Supreme Court bar has gained prominence, focusing on arguing the increasingly few cases before the justices each term. These lawyers face fierce competition in persuading clients to hire them, participating in a not-so-glamorous competition known in the industry as a “beauty contest.” At these lawyerly pageants, attorneys competing to take the case make their pitch and try to persuade the client that their firm is the best suitor.
In my new book, Unprecedented: The Constitutional Challenge to Obamacare (affiliate link), I go backstage and look at two of the most high-profile beauty contests in Supreme Court history: who would represent (1) the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) and (2) twenty-six states in their respective challenges to the constitutionality of Obamacare.
How did these litigants go about choosing their counsel? Which lawyers and law firms got passed over?
Justice Scalia and Justice Ginsburg, longtime colleagues and good friends, don’t share much in terms of jurisprudence but do share a love of opera. It’s fitting, then, that their Con Law clashes will serve as the basis for a new operatic work.
Where did Wang come up with the idea for an opera about these two distinguished jurists? As it turns out, Wang is not only a composer but a law school graduate. Where did he go to law school, and why?
A Catholic lawyer, a Jewish lawyer, and a Muslim lawyer all walk into a bar. The Muslim lawyer says, “I’m filing an injunction to stop this den of sin from serving alcohol.” The Jewish lawyer says, “I’m suing you for working on the Sabbath.” The bartender looks at the Catholic lawyer and says, “Jesus, what do you want?” The Catholic lawyer says, “How the hell should I know? But I’ll take a scotch while you wait for an answer.”
It’s not every day that you see a person specify that they want a lawyer who is from a certain religious background. Law is generally a secular profession. Sure, Moses is the first law giver in the Judeo-Christian tradition, but the only God most lawyers consult before deciding whether or not to take a case is the one bathed in green.
Still, when you are a whack-job on Craigslist who is trying to mount an assault on the calendar, I suppose the only way you’re going to get help is with the aid of a true believer.
Yeah, you heard me right, I’m talking about a guy who wants to sue… somebody… over the calendar…
* The NSA has violated the Constitution for years, you say? And it’s been misleading the FISA court about all of its domestic spying activities? As of this moment, the NSA is on double secret probation! [New York Times]
* “[N]o one has a crystal ball,” but right now, it’s highly likely that the Supreme Court will take up another gay marriage case. Perhaps it’ll be the one that’s currently unfolding in Pennsylvania. [Legal Intelligencer]
* According to a recent survey conducted by Randstad, about 60 percent of lawyers are proud to be members of the legal profession, which is impressive(!) considering how unhappy they are. [The Lawyer]
* Birds of a feather really do flock together. Philip Alito, son of Justice Samuel Alito, will join Eugene Scalia, son of Justice Antonin Scalia, at Gibson Dunn’s Washington, D.C. office. [Blog of Legal Times]
* Even though the vast majority of his race-based claims were dismissed on summary judgment, this “token black associate” still has a respected Biglaw firm up against the Ropes. [National Law Journal]
* Law school applications are plummeting, but top law schools haven’t started scraping the bottom of the barrel — their applicants’ LSAT scores have remained relatively competitive. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]
* I am Chelsea Manning, I am a female.” Considering (s)he was just sentenced to 35 years in prison, Bradley Chelsea Manning picked a great time to make this announcement to the world. [Chicago Tribune]
* You dare call the Duchess of Dumplins racist and sexist? When it comes to Paula Deen’s new legal team from Morgan Lewis, five are women, and four are black. Take that, Lisa Jackson. [Am Law Daily]
* Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is definitely one of our favorite judicial divas. When asked if she thought the Supreme Court’s work was art or theater, she mused, “It’s both, with a healthy dose of real life mixed in.” [New York Times]
* According to the Citi Private Bank’s Law Firm Group report on the first half of the year, the legal industry should count itself lucky if it manages to meet last year’s single-digit profit growth. This “new normal” thing sucks. [Am Law Daily]
* Howrey going to celebrate these “monumental” settlements with Baker & Hostetler and Citibank? The failed firm’s trustee might throw a party when he’s finally able to file a liquidation plan. [Am Law Daily]
* Uncommon law marriage? A man stuck in an inheritance battle who lived with his late partner since 1995 now asks the District of Columbia to declare him common-law husband. [Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)]
* The ABA’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar proposed a major overhaul to its accreditation standards. Action, of course, likely won’t be taken until next year. [National Law Journal]
* Despite the fact that these measures could help struggling graduates, law deans are at odds over the ABA’s proposed changes to tenure requirements for professors. [Capital Business / Washington Post]
* “Sooner or later you’ve got to make a choice, because you need enough revenue to cover what your expenses are.” Cooley will weather the storm by introducing a massive tuition hike. [Lansing State Journal]
* “How would you feel if you spent well over $100,000 on law school, only to have to spend an extra couple of thousand dollars on a course to get you to pass the bar?” You’d probably feel like everyone else. [CNBC]
* Requiring porn stars to wear condoms might not be sexy, but a federal judge says it’s constitutional. Don’t worry, unlike its actresses, the adult film industry won’t go down without a fight. [Los Angeles Times]
I was on a fast-moving segment on HuffPost Live this afternoon called “Legalese It,” where host Mike Sacks runs through a bunch of overlooked legal items from the past week. Since I was on vacation for half of the week, I learned a lot! For instance, did you know that Michigan had an anti-begging statute on the books from the 1920s that was just struck down so they can put a big “Spare Some Change” sign in Detroit?
Okay, that’s not why it was struck down, but still. Also it seems that North Carolina is trying to restrict voting to five white guys chosen at random by Reince Priebus and Obama is now in favor of legislative prayer, as if nobody told him he can’t run for a third term.
Looks like I missed a lot, but that didn’t stop me from talking about it on the web. Specifically, I got to talk about how Eric Holder and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott are now friends when it comes to stopping USAIR and American Airlines from combining to own all the railroads on the Monopoly board…
[T]he city’s highest officials have turned a blind eye to the evidence that officers are conducting stops in a racially discriminatory manner. In their zeal to defend a policy that they believe to be effective, they have willfully ignored overwhelming proof that the policy of targeting “the right people” is racially discriminatory and therefore violates the United States Constitution.
* Everything’s bigger in Texas, including the legal wrangling: Eric Holder’s use of the VRA’s “bail in” provision to circumvent the SCOTUS ruling in Shelby may prove to be trouble. [National Law Journal]
* The Fifth Circuit upheld warrantless cellphone tracking yesterday, noting that it was “not per se unconstitutional.” We suppose that a per se victory for law enforcement is better than nothing. [New York Times]
* The pretty people at Davis Polk are fighting a $1.4 million suit over a headhunter’s fee with some pretty ugly words, alleging that the filing “fails both as a matter of law and common sense.” [Am Law Daily]
* Howard Dean is rather annoyed that he’s had to go on the defensive about his work for McKenna Long & Aldridge after railing against Obamacare. Ideally, he’d just like to scream and shout about it. [TIME]
* The ABA is concerned about Florida A&M, and sent a second warning about the school’s imminent failure to meet accreditation standards. Well, I’ll be damned, the ABA actually cares. [Orlando Sentinel]
* Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett is suing to prevent a clerk from issuing marriage licenses to gay couples. A silly little lawsuit won’t stop this guy from doing what he thinks is right. [Legal Intelligencer]
Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court issued two eagerly anticipated rulings in major gay marriage cases. In United States v. Windsor, the challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act, the Court struck down Section 3 of DOMA. In Hollingsworth v. Perry, the challenge to California’s Proposition 8 ban on gay marriage, the Court held that the petitioners lacked standing to appeal, vacated the decision of the Ninth Circuit, and remanded with instructions to dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. This left the district court’s ruling intact and had the effect of allowing same-sex marriages to take place in California (although there’s some litigation winding its way through the courts on this matter).
Now that we have the decisions, let’s take a deeper dive into them. What do they reflect about the Court’s role in society? And what can we expect from future SCOTUS rulings in this area?
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