Federal Courts

We recently asked readers to submit possible captions for this photo of a legally themed bookshelf:

Based on the reader voting, which caption won the contest? Sadly, it wasn’t my favorite….

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On Monday, we asked readers to submit possible captions for this picture of a legally themed bookshelf:

I observed that while this photo wasn’t as funny as the one from our last caption contest, sometimes subtler photos inspire better captions. Check out the finalists for this caption contest and see if you agree….

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Some say that the eyes are the window to the soul. I’d revise that slightly: a person’s books are the window to the soul.

You can tell a lot about a person from his or her bookshelf. Their intellect, their interests, their seriousness, their sense of humor — all can be revealed by bookcase contents. Who among us has not, while visiting the home of a potential love interest, surreptitiously (or openly) ogled the bookshelves?

This brings us to the photo for our latest caption contest:

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Next Friday, barring last-minute action from Congress, the series of crippling automatic budget cuts known affectionately as “sequestration” will go into effect, immediately slicing 8.2 percent off non-defense spending for 2013. It’s the continuation of the so-called “fiscal cliff,” which was supposed to hit January 1st, but Congress moved this component to March because two potentially disastrous political showdowns are more fun than one.

If you haven’t heard about the sequestration, here’s a good primer, and you’re officially working too hard.

If sequestration is implemented next week, the likely negative impacts range from knocking expected GDP growth down 10 percent or so in 2013 GDP, to setting back medical science for a generation.

The legal field will be especially hard hit…

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Obviously a Norton Rose associate.

* Here’s the answer to the question everyone’s been asking since December: the Supreme Court will be hearing the gay-marriage cases on March 26 (Prop 8) and March 27 (Windsor). No extra time for args? [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* Wherein Scott Greenfield responds to Mark Herrmann’s thoughts on bench memos — or, in Greenfield’s words, why our important appellate decisions shouldn’t be left “in the hands of children” (aka law clerks). [Simple Justice]

* Will the latest massive mortgage settlements lead to lawyer layoffs? [Going Concern]

* Cy Vance’s ears must’ve been ringing when this opinion came out, because the judges on this appellate panel said the prosecution’s case was based on “pure conjecture bolstered by empty rhetoric.” [WiseLawNY]

* Apparently a Santa Clara law professor is getting pummeled in the comments on various law blogs because of his thoughts on law school. As Rihanna would say, “Shine bright like Steve Diamond.” [Constitutional Daily]

* Meditation and mindfulness are more mainstream than ever in the practice of law, but given all the tales of stressed out lawyers’ alleged misconduct we hear about, you certainly wouldn’t know it. [Underdog]

* And from our friends at RollOnFriday, you can see what the folks at Norton Rose do in their spare time….

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This post is both a request for information and a cry for reform.

Here’s the backstory: Back when God was young, I clerked for a federal appellate judge. I saw how things operated in my circuit, and my friends clerking elsewhere told me how things worked in other circuits. One operating procedure differed between circuits; the procedure affected litigants (without their knowledge), and one system was plainly better than the other.

My request for information is that recent clerks update my information: Does this operating procedure still vary among circuits today?

My cry for reform is that circuit judges discuss this issue internally to decide whether they’re convinced, as I am, that some circuits are hurting both themselves and litigants in the process by which the courts use bench memos….

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* While Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts made a plea to keep funding for the federal judiciary intact, we learned that student loan default cases have fallen since 2011. You really gotta love that income-based repayment. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* Introducing the Asia 50, a list of the largest firms in the Asia-Pacific region. When it comes to the firms with the biggest footprints, only one American Biglaw shop made the cut. Go ahead and take a wild guess on which one it was. [Asian Lawyer]

* Congratulations are in order, because after almost a year of stalling, Arnold & Porter partner William Baer was finally confirmed by the Senate as the chief of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. [Bloomberg]

* Our elected officials might not have allowed the country to fall off the fiscal cliff, but the American Invents Act was put on hold, so if you’re a patent nerd, you can still be mad about something. [National Law Journal]

* Remember when Rutgers-Camden Law said “many top students” were making bank after graduation? Yeah, about that: Law School Transparency just filed an ABA complaint. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* Here are some law school trends to look out for in 2013. FYI, the applicant pool is smaller because no one wants to foolishly gamble on their careers anymore. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News & World Report]

* In the latest NYC subway shoving death, a woman was charged with second-degree murder as a hate crime, and allegedly bragged about other hate crimes she’s committed to police. Lovely. [New York Times]

* Next time you’re trapped on a plane that’s literally filled with other people’s crap for 11 hours, don’t bother suing over your hellish experience — you’re going to be preempted by federal law. [New York Law Journal]

I don’t know who to believe about the so-called fiscal cliff. I think Steve Kornacki is right and it’s more like a fiscal slope. But if the markets keep acting like petulant children who are easily frightened, then it will really have a deleterious impact on our economy. Then again, Wall Street being happy doesn’t necessarily translate into Main Street being happy, so who knows? The only thing I’m sure of is that conducting politics by holding the nation hostage is freaking stupid. I hope they fix the fiscal thingy and the debt ceiling in the same deal, so America can get back to problems that we haven’t created for ourselves on purpose.

In any event, if we do going tumbling off the cliff or down the slope or around the bend, there will be pain for those who don’t deserve it. While Article I fights it out with Article II, Article III prepares to lay people off, while the fourth estate just wants to see more people fighting.

People who work for federal courts, prepared to be caught in the crossfire….

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