Abraham Lincoln told a story about a lawyer who tried to establish that a calf had five legs by calling its tail a leg. But the calf had only four legs, Lincoln observed, because calling a tail a leg does not make it so…. Heeding Lincoln’s wisdom, and the requirements of the Copyright Act, we conclude that merely calling someone a copyright owner does not make it so.
The title is phrased like a joke, because this whole story plays like a joke: full of misunderstandings and dumb decisions. Hm. Typing that out made me realize that also describes most of the weekends of my adult life if you just add the phrase, “I’ll have another Manhattan.”
We set the stage for this joke in my home town of Portland, Oregon, and the campus of the Northwestern School of Law at Lewis & Clark College. Last week, Chief Justice John Roberts visited the school to judge a moot court competition.
But the real controversy began after the Chief skipped town and the Dean started monkeying with the press coverage of the event — and blaming his actions on the Supreme Court…
In her bestselling memoir, My Beloved World (affiliate link), Justice Sonia Sotomayor recounts her journey from the projects of the South Bronx to the bench of the United States Supreme Court. Given that background, one would expect Justice Sotomayor to have a weak spot for young women who make it to One First Street from improbable places.
So it makes perfect sense that Justice Sotomayor has hired the first-ever Brooklyn Law School graduate to serve as a Supreme Court law clerk: Sparkle Sooknanan, a 2010 graduate of BLS who is currently an appellate attorney at the Justice Department. We’ve heard Sooknanan described as “an awesome human being” and “brilliant” — and with a name like “Sparkle,” the brilliance must be literal.
Sparkle isn’t the only bright young lawyer to claim a shiny new credential for the résumé. Read on for additional news of Supreme Court clerk hiring….
Left to right: Alex Kozinski and Diarmuid O’Scannlain.
This week is an exciting one for conservative and libertarian legal nerds: the National Lawyers Convention of the Federalist Society starts tomorrow. I’ll be attending and covering the proceedings; if you see me, please say hello. (If you haven’t registered for the conference in advance, you can still register at the door.)
As always, the conference will overflow with legal luminaries. This year, two of the Ninth Circuit’s most notable names — Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, and Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain (for whom I clerked) — will be making presentations. Chief Judge Kozinski will debate Professor Hadley Arkes about natural law and constitutional law, while Judge O’Scannlain will moderate a panel about religious liberty.
To whet your appetite, let’s read more about both of these judges and some recent First Amendment fun at the Ninth Circuit….
It’s surprising that Watford’s nomination was so contentious, given that he has a number of backers from the right side of the aisle. As noted by the San Francisco Chronicle, “[h]is supporters included conservative UCLA law Professor Eugene Volokh, who has described Watford as brilliant and ideologically moderate, and attorney Jeremy Rosen, former president of the Los Angeles chapter of the conservative Federalist Society” (and a noted appellate lawyer, who has appeared before in these pages).
That’s not all. Watford clerked for Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, one of a handful of prominent conservative or libertarian judges on the (generally liberal) Ninth Circuit. If you look at the ranks of former Kozinski clerks, you’ll see many members in good standing of the vast right-wing conspiracy (and some who are not, like Paul Watford — who went on to clerk for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and was nominated to the Ninth Circuit by a Democratic president).
Now that the handsome Watford has joined his superhottie boss on the bench, we have a trivia question: Who is the circuit judge with the most former law clerks to join him on the Court of Appeals during his lifetime?
This is my first column for Above the Law on the Supreme Court. In an effort to help me generate effective linkbait, the Supreme Court issued an opinion yesterday at the intersection of bankruptcy and tax law for farmers — Hall v. United States.
Basically, Hall means that, if you’re a farmer and you declare bankruptcy on your farm under Chapter 12 (“the one just for farmers”), and, while in bankruptcy, you sell your farm, you will still have to pay capital gains tax on the sale of your farm — any liability to the IRS is not dischargeable.
Perhaps the most exciting part of the opinion is that Ninth Circuit was affirmed. Though, in fairness, the Ninth Circuit opinion was written by Judge O’Scannlain, so it’s not as though the Supreme Court affirmed Judge Reinhardt.
Also, farmers who are in bankruptcy and sell their farms now have to pay tax on the profits from those sales. I’m sure much of the Midwest is rioting in response.
For those who practice tax law, bankruptcy, or farming law, you will definitely want to read the opinion and some of the write-ups on it.
But the most exciting part of the morning involved new members of the Supreme Court bar….
Many months have passed since our last report on the hiring of Supreme Court law clerks. We are getting ready to do a new report. If you have SCOTUS clerk hiring news for October Term 2012 or October Term 2013 that we have not yet reported, please email us (subject line: “SCOTUS Clerk Hiring”). In order to check whether or not we’ve already reported a particular clerk hire for OT 2012 or OT 2013, please go back and review our last hiring report before contacting us.
In the meantime, we have a special gift for you. Last July, we shared with you the Supreme Court’s official list of law clerks for the October Term 2011 (i.e., the clerks currently toiling at One First Street). We noted at the time that “this list does not include law school and prior clerkship information, which the [Public Information Office] will release later this year.”
We now have that updated list of OT 2011 Supreme Court law clerks, featuring law school and prior clerkship data, courtesy of the Public Information Office. Let’s look at the list, and count up which law schools and feeder judges sent the most folks over to One First Street….
Let’s play a quick game (which we might return to later if there’s interest). If we were to give out awards to the different federal judicial circuits, in the manner of a high school yearbook, which awards would go to the different circuits? Here are some of my nominations:
As for the other awards, well, they’d all go to the Ninth Circuit. It’s the nation’s most famous (or infamous) federal appeals court, so it would win “Most Likely To Become A Celebrity.” It’s the biggest, so it would win “Most Popular” (especially among the ACS and ACLU crowd). It would win “Most Athletic,” since it includes California. And it would win “Biggest Flirt,” thanks to its numerous superhottie judges. (Don’t you wish they all could be California jurists?)
The Ninth Circuit would also run away with “Most Likely To Be Made Fun of on YouTube” — since it already has been. How many circuit courts can claim that distinction?
Law clerks aren't jumping for joy these days, especially when it comes to pay.
I spent last weekend in Portland, Oregon, where I attended the 25th judicial anniversary celebration and law clerk reunion of my former boss, Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain of the Ninth Circuit. It was a warm and wonderful occasion, a chance to reconnect with old friends and to catch up with the O’Scannlains (Judge and Mrs. O’Scannlain were joined by all eight of their children for the festivities). Former clerks shared happy memories from their time in PDX clerking for DFO.
Most former law clerks I meet — mainly law clerks to federal judges, whether Article III or magistrate or bankruptcy — recall their clerkships fondly. They praise the excellent experience, the clerkly camaraderie, and the training and mentoring they received from their judges (for the most part; a few describe judicial clerkships from hell).
It struck me as strange, then, that “law clerk” recently came in at #7 on CNBC’s list of 10 Most Hated Jobs. I can’t help wondering whether courthouse administrative personnel with the title of “clerk” were somehow mixed in with federal judicial law clerks. The median salary of $39,780 a year suggests that this might be the case, since federal law clerks (and many state law clerks) make more than $40K these days.
Then again, people don’t clerk for the money. Sure, clerkship bonuses, especially Supreme Court clerkship bonuses, can be considerable — but in most cases, a graduate who goes straight into a law firm will do better financially than her classmate who clerks after graduation.
If you’re planning to clerk or interested in clerking for a federal judge, you should be aware of the latest news about law clerk compensation….
In our most recent Grammer Pole of the Weak, over two-thirds of you voted against the use of gender-neutral language, opting instead for the historic use of “he,” “him,” and “his” to cover both sexes. In the poll before that one, over 80 percent of you voted in favor of the serial comma. These results suggest that Above the Law readers are traditionalists in matters of grammar, usage, and writing style.
But back in August, 60 percent of you said that you are all right with “alright.” So perhaps ATL readers are open to the evolution of the English language and the creation of new words.
How do y’all feel about neologisms? Let’s look at two new words, coined by none other than the newly svelteAlex Kozinski, Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit….
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Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past six years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deal flow has clearly picked recently up for most US associates, counsels and partners in Hong Kong/China and Singapore. We are on the phone with a lot of these folks on a daily basis, many of whom we have known for years. Further, the head of our Asia team, Evan Jowers, and Kinney’s founder and president, Robert Kinney, frequently meet in person with leading US partners in Asia to assess their needs and keep on top of the inside scoop at as many firms as possible. The need for legal recruiting help in Asia from experienced recruiters appears to be live and well. In March, Evan and Robert were in Beijing at such meetings, in April, Evan was in Hong Kong, and for half of June Evan will be in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Thus its pretty easy for us to tell when there has been an across-the-market pick up in capital markets and corporate work.
On an average day in Asia when Evan and Robert visit firms, they typically have 5 to 9 meetings a day, mostly with US partners in the market. The reason they have these meetings is not simply because Kinney makes a lot of US attorney placements in Asia and that a particular firm may have openings; instead these are just visits with friends. After years of working together as business partners, the folks at Kinney are actually these peoples’ friends. The firms Kinney work closely with in Asia (which is just about every law firm – call us if you want to know the one firm in the world we will never place anyone with again, ever, and why) look forward to the visits, or at least act like they do. After seven years in the market, many of the client partners are former associate candidates. Also, these US partners see Kinney as a very good source of market information as well, because they know how deep their contacts are in the market and how frequently they are speaking to counterparts at peer firms.
In a land that is right here and in a time that is right now, a technology has arisen so powerful that it can replace basic human document review. Is it time to bow down before our new robot overlords?
First, here’s a little story about me: my life in the legal world began as a paralegal. My first case was a GIANT patent infringement case that was already six years old and had involved as many as five companies, multiple US courts, the ITC and an international standards committee. I knew nothing about any of this.
On my first day, my supervisor (a paralegal with at least eight other cases driving her crazy) sat me down in front of a Concordance database with a 100,000+ patents and patent file histories. “Code these,” she said. I learned that “coding”, for the purposes of this exercise, meant manually typing the inventor’s name, the title of the patent, the assignee, the file date, and other objective data for each document. I worked on that project – and only that project – for at least the first six months of my job. After a week or so, time began to blur.
What I know, in retrospect and with absolutely certainty, is that as time began to blur, so did my judgment. So did my attention to detail. If you could tell me that I did not make at least one mistake a day – one inconsistent spelling, one reversed day and month, one incorrectly spaced title – I frankly would need to see your evidence. I would not believe it. The human mind is trainable but it is not a machine.
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