Filibuster

Back in November 2013, the U.S. Senate passed the so-called “nuclear option,” eliminating the threat of squelching the president’s executive branch and judicial nominations by filibuster. Under the new rules, a nominee only needs 51 votes to break a potential filibuster, instead of the 60 votes previously needed. Democratic senators lubricated nominees’ paths to confirmation. Finally, we were told, a cantankerous Republican minority could no longer block all the well-qualified, uncontroversial nominees that the president had waiting in the queue.

Nevertheless, yesterday the Senate voted to reject President Obama’s nomination of Debo Adegbile to head the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. The 47 – 52 vote failed to reach the 51 votes necessary to achieve cloture and advance the nomination. Seven Democratic senators — Senators Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, John Walsh of Montana and Chris Coons of Delaware — opposed the nominee. Adegbile is perhaps best known for his work leading litigation for the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, often known simply as LDF.

No Republicans voted against their party line. Perhaps some of them opposed his nomination on principle; perhaps some reflexively opposed an Obama nominee. The Democrats who voted against Adegbile, however, took a clear and conscious against him. Effectively, Democrats killed Adegbile’s nomination.

Why? Despite his other professional accomplishments, Adegbile’s problems in the Senate can be summed up in a word: Mumia. In six words: convicted and controversial cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal . . . .

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Welcome To The Post-Filibuster Senate: The Bipartisan Rejection Of Debo Adegbile”

Only you can prevent lateral fires.

* There will be filibusters: Victoria Nourse, a Georgetown Law professor whose nomination to the Seventh Circuit was blocked, thinks the political move will remain intact for SCOTUS nominees. [Legal Times]

* The Tenth Circuit politely pwned Roberta Kaplan. Her bid to intervene in the Utah same-sex marriage case before the court was rejected. Guess she’ll have settle for writing an amicus brief. [Salt Lake Tribune]

* Are laterals killing your firm? It happened to Dewey, and it could happen to you. Only you can prevent lateral fires. Take the pledge and show your commitment to lateral fire prevention. [American Lawyer]

* Lawyers are worried about what’s been going down at the storied Canadian firm of Heenan Blaikie. A third of its partners did the dip over the weekend amid financial troubles. Sounds familiar… [Ottawa Citizen]

* Women are slowly but surely working to close the gender gap in the law — well, at least they are in South Florida. It seems to be working, though, so feel free to follow their lead. [Daily Business Review]

* “Just because you can’t make the world a perfectly fair place doesn’t mean you can’t make it fairer.” If you really liked socialized health care, then you’re going to absolutely love socialized law. [New Republic]

* If your LSAT score is in the 160 range and you’re writing to an advice columnist to figure out what to do next, then you are the most special of all the little snowflakes. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News]

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.)

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “We The People… Can Do Better?”

Madam Justice A. Lori Douglas

* What led the Senate Democrats to go nuclear? [New York Times]

* Should Justice Lori Douglas, she of the infamous porn pictures, step down from the bench? Well, she has 324,100 reasons to stay. [Toronto Star]

* And what about Justice Breyer and Justice Ginsburg — should they leave while the Democrats still control the White House and the Senate? [Washington Post via How Appealing]

* A legal challenge to gun control stumbles — on standing grounds. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* Moral of the story: if you want to threaten opposing counsel, don’t do it over voicemail — unless you want to get censured. [ABA Journal]

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara

* Dewey want more details about the lucrative contracts given to Stephen DiCarmine and Joel Sanders? Most definitely! [Am Law Daily (sub. req.)]

* An interesting peek inside the office of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. The S.D.N.Y.’s boss is a big fan of the Boss. [New York Times]

* Now that the merger between US Airways and American Airlines has been approved, US Airways CEO Doug Parker offers a behind-the-scenes look at his company’s response to the government’s antitrust lawsuit. [Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)]

Justice Ginsburg: a full-service wedding provider.

Ed. note: We’ll return to our normal publication schedule on Monday, December 2. We hope to see you at our holiday happy hour on Thursday, December 5 — for details and to RSVP (to this free event with an open bar), click here.

* Even in a post-nuclear world, Republicans can still block certain judicial nominees. [New York Times]

* A prominent Toronto lawyer has gone missing — and so, allegedly, has $3 million in client trust funds. [Toronto Star]

* Dewey see legal fees in the future for Stephen DiCarmine and Joel Sanders? Well, multimillion-dollar lawsuits won’t dismiss themselves. [Wall Street Journal (sub. req.); Law360 (sub. req.)]

* Congratulations to Matthew Layton, the new managing partner of Clifford Chance. [The Lawyer]

* And congratulations to Ralph Pellecchio and Jim Wernz, who were married by none other than Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — who even helped them write their vows. [Talking Points Memo]

Harry Potter: guilty!

* Sure, let’s have the whole “is now a good time to go to law school?” debate again. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Especially if you’re a minority, since white people are losing interest in law school. [Am Law Daily]

* Congress can’t even get its act together about real guns, so perhaps it’s no surprise that limits on fake guns are set to expire soon. [New York Times]

* Harry Potter was convicted of obstruction of justice. Just because you’re a wizard doesn’t mean you’re above the law. [Daily Utah Chronicle]

I remember riding home one evening with Justice Lewis Powell, whom I was serving as a law clerk. I was pumped over a vote he had cast that day, and I expected him to share my excitement. He responded that he considered himself fortunate if only 48 percent of the legitimate points to be made were on the other side.

– Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson, writing in a Washington Post op-ed piece about the virtues required of judges — and how the elimination of the filibuster on many presidential nominees could lead to a less balanced judiciary.

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”

This week, the Senate blocked the nomination of Robert Wilkins to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. President Obama nominated Wilkins to fill Judge David Sentelle’s seat. Failing to get the 60 votes needed to overcome a Republican filibuster, Wilkins won’t move forward to an up-or-down, simple-majority vote by the Senate.

Senate Republicans insist that the D.C. Circuit does not need any more judges in order to properly carry its current caseload. While Wilkins might be well-qualified to be a circuit judge, the Senate just isn’t hiring. President Obama said in a written statement, “When it comes to judicial nominations, I am fulfilling my constitutional responsibility, but Congress is not. Instead, Senate Republicans are standing in the way of a fully-functioning judiciary that serves the American people.” Democrats in the Senate, led by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), threaten to alter the rules governing judicial nominations to prevent filibustering.

Democrats’ and Republicans’ reasons for fixating on the D.C. vacancies are political and obvious. It’s an unusually influential court, issuing rulings on administrative and regulatory matters with nationwide implications. What about the rest of the country, though? While politicians in Washington fuss over the D.C. Circuit, what is being neglected elsewhere?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The D.C. Distraction: Judicial Vacancies Beyond The D.C. Circuit”

* Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is leaving the cabinet to head the University of California system. That’s a natural transition because UC already treats its students like threats to national security. [The Faculty Lounge]

* Texas banning tampons from the Texas Capitol building in advance of abortion vote. Guns are still fine though. In the words of the inimitable Spencer Hall, “But what about a gun that FIRES tampons, Texas?” [Huffington Post]

* A lot of folks are anticipating Noel Canning, but if Harry Reid invokes the so-called “nuclear option” (fifth item), does that render the whole case moot? [The Volokh Conspiracy]

* Three years for stealing an iPhone from a child. I guess it’s like taking Candy (Crush) from a baby. [Law and More]

* If you stop to think about it, someone should totally have sued the camp from The Parent Trap (affiliate link). If for no other reason than the likelihood Lohan was dealing to all the other campers. [Crushable]

* An iOS app for creating semi-bespoke contracts. That’s cool, but I’ll stick to Temple Run, thanks. [Associate's Mind]

Another week has come and gone. We’re post Independence Day, so strap in for the long grind to Labor Day before you get any rest. If you need a break, I suppose you can take some summers for a 3-hour lunch, assuming anyone still does that.

But the real importance of the week’s end is that it’s time again to compile my look at some notable stories from the week in legal news. Bring on “5 Thing Friday” or “Working for the Weekend” or something like that.

This week, we had Justice Ginsburg’s declaration that she’s not retiring, the Zimmerman trial continued on its tragically absurd course, Vault released its annual law firm rankings, the NFL got burned in court — twice — and Harry Reid figured out that there’s this thing called a filibuster and the Republicans are really good at it…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “5 Stories of the Week: Ginsburg, Football, and More”

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