Eugene Volokh

Welcome to the latest edition of Above the Law’s Grammer Pole of the Weak, a column where we turn questions of legal writing and English grammar and usage over to our readers for discussion and debate.

Last week, we found out that 75% of our readers thought using the word “like” to introduce a quotation would like, make the speaker sound like a Valley girl, despite its apparent linguistic usefulness.

This week, thanks to popular demand from our readers, we’ll be turning to a contested issue among lawyers. What is the preferred past tense form for the verb pleadpleaded or pled?

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In last week’s Grammer Pole, 60 percent of you supported forming the singular possessive of a noun ending in “s” by adding an apostrophe followed by an additional “s” — e.g., “Kansas’s statute” rather than “Kansas’ statute.” In this debate, you sided with Justice Souter over Justice Thomas (based on their dueling approaches in Kansas v. Marsh).

Today we call upon you to choose between nationalities instead of Supreme Court justices. When it comes to the placement of punctuation marks in relation to quotation marks, do you favor the British approach or the American approach?

Let’s review the differences….

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Judge Vanessa Gilmore

* Lincoln Caplan writes about Bill Stuntz — “America’s leading thinker on criminal justice, and its hardest to categorize” — in a review of Stuntz’s posthumously published book, The Collapse of American Criminal Justice (affiliate link). [Democracy: A Journal of Ideas]

* Ben Kerschberg identifies eight great law and technology resources — including Above the Law’s tech section, natch. [Forbes]

* Andrew Cohen calls out Judge Vanessa Gilmore for “dubious behavior” in a death penalty case. Judicial diva is as judicial diva does? [The Atlantic]

* Professor Eugene Volokh comes to the defense of “dissental” and “concurral,” two new words coined by his former boss, Chief Judge Alex Kozinski. [Volokh Conspiracy]

Turtle as deadly weapon?

* Don’t let Stephen McDaniel or Bruce Reilly anywhere near a turtle. [Lowering the Bar]

* Check out Orrick’s excellent “It Gets Better” video. Orrick, MoFo and Shearman are the three large law firms we’re aware of that have made such videos; if you know of others, please let us know. [It Gets Better]

* If you are free on November 4th and will be in New York that night, consider attending the Black and White Masquerade Ball of the Dave Nee Foundation, a non-profit committed to fighting depression and preventing suicide. [The Dave Nee Foundation]

* Some thoughts from our colleague Matt Levine on the Justice Department’s opposition to the AT&T/T-Mobile merger. [Dealbreaker]

* Judge Sam Sparks (W.D. Tex.), king of the benchslap — yes, we already covered his latest handiwork, so no need to email the “kindergarten party” order to us again — has blocked key parts of the Texas sonogram-before-abortion law. [How Appealing]

* Meanwhile, Allen E. Parker Jr., the lawyer on the receiving end of a recent Sam Sparks special in the abortion case, had this to say about His Honor’s saucy order. [Tex Parte Blog]

* Nice work if you can get it: a pair of incoming DLA Piper associates will get paid $145,000 to $160,000 to do pro bono work for a year. [Am Law Daily]

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA)

* Think you’re tough, NYC lawyers? “A D.C. attorney attacked a man with a live power line — downed by Hurricane Irene — during an altercation in which the lawyer used his car as a battering ram against his alleged victim, police said.” [Georgetown DC Patch]

* The ABA and Senator Chuck Grassley continue to be pen pals. Here is law librarian Mark Giangrande’s take on the ABA’s latest response. [Law Librarian Blog]

* Interesting analysis: “How the Media Treated Mexico’s Mass Murder.” [The Awl]

* I agree with Professor Eugene Volokh: “people are constitutionally entitled to speak the truth about others, even with the goal of trying to get them fired.” [Volokh Conspiracy via Instapundit]

* I found a special friend on OkCupid, but the site wasn’t as helpful to Alyssa Bereznak, who had an unfortunate experience dating a world champion of Magic: The Gathering. [Gizmodo]

* If you’d like to check out Billable Hours: The Movie, here’s your chance (until September 10). [NexTV]

* And if you prefer live entertainment, tomorrow night check out the September 1 showcase of Comedians-at-Law (bios here; maybe you know some of these guys). [Comedians-at-Law]

Judge Terence Evans

* Professor Eugene Volokh poses this question to his readers (we considered a similar query before): “I Got Awful Grades My First Year in Law School. Should I Quit?” [Volokh Conspiracy]

* I’m not that familiar with canon law, but I don’t think it looks favorably upon alleged groping of teenage girls. [La Crosse Tribune]

* Professor Douglas Berman wonders if there should be a social networking website designed for use by prisoners. (Commenter challenge: come up with a name for this “Facebook for jailbirds” social network.) [Sentencing Law and Policy]

* Stroock stricken with lawsuit by former partner. [Am Law Daily]

* Professor Paul Horwitz’s (thoughtful and measured) response to the law prof turned scamblogger. [Prawfsblawg]

* Seventh Circuit Judge Terence Evans, RIP. [Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel]

I love to talk about truck nuts, probably for the same reason that racists love to talk about crime rates in the ghetto. Regardless of why, I just can’t get enough of the phenomenon of people affixing plastic testicles to their motor vehicles.

Obviously, I think people should be free to do pretty much whatever they want when it comes to decorating their vehicles. So I find the truck nuts story circulating around the blogosphere very disturbing. Apparently, a South Carolina woman was given a $445 ticket for her truck’s nuts. Her story is making news, because she’s secured a jury trial to protest the ticket.

So, for those playing along at home, South Carolina will defend to the death your right to display the Confederate Flag, the symbol of a regime committed to slavery and racial oppression, but plastic testicles is a bridge too far.

Yes, like most obscenity cases, this one is turgid with hypocrisy….

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Burka in the court?

* The three defendants in the civil wrongful-death action brought by Robert Wone’s widow are keeping their mouths shut. [National Law Journal]

* But their former house is open — and once again on the market, for the tidy sum of $1.6 million. [Who Murdered Robert Wone?]

* Professor Eugene Volokh wants to know, with respect to wearing religious head coverings to court, can’t we all just get along? [Volokh Conspiracy]

Lavi Soloway

* Congratulations to Lavi Soloway and his client, Henry Velandia, whose deportation proceedings have been adjourned — due in part to a recent decision by Attorney General Eric Holder, vacating a BIA decision in another case involving a same-sex couple. [Poliglot / Metro Weekly]

* Speaking of judges and gay marriage, maybe Justice Kennedy should trade Salzburg for São Paulo this summer. [ABA Journal]

* What is behind the spring bonus phenomenon? One big factor: the boom in the lateral hiring market. [Vault's Law Blog]

* Speaking of the state of the legal economy, we’ve already linked to the big Economist article on the legal profession — but check out this great photo, in case you missed it. [The Economist / Tumblr]

* Are harsh sanctions for discovery violations a good thing? Ben Kerschberg thinks so. [Law & Technology / Forbes]

* Don’t forget to wish your mom a Happy Mother’s Day! (Unless your mom is Vivia Chen.) [The Careerist]

* Litigators: Do you know about the usefulness of Rule 56(f) 56(d)? [What About Clients?]

* When Glenn Reynolds is away, Ann Althouse will play. [Althouse via Instapundit]

* Were your law school classmates this attractive? Probably not. [YouTube]

DNA is pretty, oh so pretty.

* The Supreme Court opens the door, but just a crack, to prisoners seeking access to DNA evidence. [SCOTUSblog]

* The legal job market is getting better, right? Right? [Vault]

* Hall, J., dissenting — from the grave. [How Appealing]

* Harvard Law School is always ready for its close-up: first The Paper Chase, then Legally Blonde, and now The Five Hundred. [Deadline.com]

* Are computers better than attorneys at document review? Maybe — but they’re definitely more attractive. [Constitutional Daily]

* Protip for litigators: “Pull Your Pants Up Before Going to Court.” [Gothamist]

* Elsewhere in fashion news, a Seventh Circuit panel (Posner, J.) holds that it’s constitutionally protected to wear a t-shirt that says “Be Happy Not Gay” to your high school. But it’s still really… gay. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Litigation to advance a worthy cause (although it seems odd, in a “cart before the horse” sort of way, to file the press releases before the actual lawsuit). [The Snitch / SF Weekly]

* Blawg Review #301: it’s all about communication. [Not Guilty via Blawg Review]

* Congratulations to Professor Brian Fitzpatrick of Vanderbilt Law on receiving the 2011 Paul M. Bator Award (won previously by a long list of blawg celebrities, including M. Todd Henderson, Orin Kerr, Jonathan Adler, Eugene Volokh, and Randy Barnett). [Federalist Society]

[N]eedless to say, I have not read the nineteenth edition. I have dipped into it, much as one might dip one’s toes in a pail of freezing water. I am put in mind of Mr. Kurtz’s dying words in Heart of Darkness — ‘The horror! The horror!’ — and am tempted to end there.

— Judge Richard Posner, in a scathing Yale Law Journal review of The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation (19th ed.).

(For additional discussion and funny excerpts, see Paul Horwitz, Ilya Somin, and Eugene Volokh.)

Court clerks in Virginia may be shaking their fists at the Fourth Circuit today. In an interesting ruling on free speech, privacy, and public records, the court ruled that an angry blogger has the right to publish public officials’ and court clerks’ Social Security numbers in order to protest the fact that Virginia puts records online that publish citizens’ social security numbers. We skimmed the opinion, but didn’t see a citation to Hammurabi.

B.J. Ostergren has been writing TheVirginiaWatchdog.com since 2003 to bring attention to the fact that state governments play fast and loose with people’s Social Security numbers when putting land records online. Her advocacy got many of them to actually start attempting to redact SSNs from the documents before putting them online, but the system was still imperfect.

She started posting land records containing unredacted SSNs, which led the state to pass a law in 2008 to make what she was doing illegal. She sued and the courts supports her, though the Fourth Circuit eliminated some conditions imposed by the district court…

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