Jack B. Weinstein

Judge Wesley Brown will be 104 in June.

When I clerked on the Ninth Circuit years ago, one of the judges on the court at the time was extremely old — and didn’t seem very “with it.” His law clerks seemed to take on a large amount of responsibility. One of his clerks that year, a law school classmate of mine I’ll call “Mary,” would negotiate over the phone with Ninth Circuit judges over how particular cases should come out — a responsibility well beyond the legal research and opinion drafting done by most clerks.

On one occasion, a vote on whether to rehear a case en banc emanated not from the judge’s chambers account, but from Mary’s personal email account. Even more embarrassingly, it was written not on behalf of the judge or the chambers, but in the first person: “I vote YES to rehearing en banc.” A law school classmate of mine who was also clerking for the Ninth that year remarked, “I thought only judges did that. When did Mary get her presidential commission?”

Some of us jokingly referred to that chambers as Weekend at Judgie’s. What appeared to be going on over there reminded us of Justice Thurgood Marshall’s famous quip to his clerks: “If I die, prop me up and keep voting!”

We joked about this delegation of Article III authority to a newly minted law school graduate. But as Joseph Goldstein suggests, in a very interesting article just published by Slate and ProPublica, the issue of superannuated jurists is no laughing matter….

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child learns adult games.jpgFew are going to stand up in support of kiddie porn, even when it’s art. Last year, the Tate Modern proposed displaying a nude portrait of Brooke Shields at age 10. It caved on those plans after objections from the “obscene publications unit” of the London Metropolitan Police, according to Caveat Viator.

Caveat Viator offers a link to the portrait, but we’d advise against checking it out. (Go watch The Blue Lagoon instead.) Cyberlaw professor Eric Goldman calls child porn “toxic,” noting that “there is no easy way to legally cure even a single download of child porn.”

Even if it’s part of your “academic research.” A New York professor considering writing a book on how to define child porn is now serving a prison sentence because of images he downloaded in the course of his research, and images left in his cached folder from Web-browsing kiddie porn sites.

Sentences range. That professor got a one-to-three year sentence, while an Alabama man with an underage porno video discovered on his computer by the Geek Squad got 10 years, as we mentioned last week. That’s for hitting download and play, not for firing up a camera and hitting record. Is that a fair sentence, or are the penalties for kiddie porn possession too exxxtreme?

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