Judicial Divas

* Chief Judge Edith Jones of the Fifth Circuit, the judicial diva herself, will be stepping down from her role at the head of the bench earlier than expected, due to “family issues.” Perhaps she told someone to “shut up” too many times? [Tex Parte Blog]

* Apple asked U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh to deny Samsung’s request that she bar all further communication with trial jurors, because the company claims it wants “equal access to information” (aka jury foreman Velvin Hogan). [Bloomberg]

* “[T]here’s no way to preserve the definition of marriage [as one man and one woman] other than by preserving the definition. It becomes somewhat circular.” That, and you rely on law from 1885. Argh! [BuzzFeed]

* ASU Law wants to move from Tempe to Phoenix, and to make it financially feasible, the school may increase enrollment and raise tuition. Sound like a good idea, prospective law students cash cows? [Arizona Republic]

* Now compare/contrast: Stanford Law had to dip into its coffers to come up with the cash to cover its financial aid promises this year, but the school isn’t cutting out a dime that’s owed to students. [National Law Journal]

* Massachusetts appealed the Michelle Kosilek sex-change ruling. The state claims it provided “adequate medical care,” but it’s questionable whether that was the case if the prisoner tried to castrate herself. [CNN]

* Tully Rinckey, a midsize firm, is planning to open an office in Buffalo, New York, so it sent out recruitment letters to 5,469 attorneys in the region. Unemployed law grads: open the letter, it’s not a bill! [Buffalo News]

Every day it seems the Apple v. Samsung trial couldn’t get any more exciting, but somehow every day, the court proceedings seem to ratchet up the ridiculousness. Samsung has rested its case, and commentators expect closing arguments to happen on Tuesday.

But the trial won’t close out quietly. The vitriol from all sides shows no signs of slowing down — least of all from Judge Lucy Koh, who has quite simply had it up to here with the tech giants’ bickering.

Yesterday she again tried to convince the parties to settle, without much success. Today, the judicial badass inquired as to whether or not counsel was on drugs. Good times!

Can you guess which side received the verbal beating?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Benchslap of the Day: Are You On Crack?”

As the Apple v. Samsung trial continues speeding along at the speed of, well, a first generation iPhone with low battery, we finally had some real developments in court yesterday, breaking up the recent monotony of expert witnesses and attorney v. attorney quibbling.

Apple rested its case, and Samsung managed to score a minor victory by getting a few of its phones dropped from the case. Seeing as there are more than a dozen phones at issue, it’s definitely a minor victory, but it’s better than nothing — especially since Samsung’s Quinn Emmanuel lawyers haven’t exactly been the popular kids in court so far…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Apple Rests Its Case, Samsung Claims Small Victory, and Judge Koh Continues Awesomely Busting Heads”

This may sound like advice coming from a broken record, but in case you are somehow still unaware of this very important fact, you generally cannot discharge your law school loan debt in bankruptcy. Sure, there’s an “undue hardship” exception to this steadfast rule, but it’s a difficult standard to meet.

The government will go to the ends of the earth to prove that you are capable of paying back what you owe and just unwilling to do so. To be frank, you’d probably be better off becoming totally and permanently disabled or dying, because then you or your estate would only have the ensuing tax nightmare to deal with.

Judges know that the burden of “undue hardship” is a difficult one to prove, and most of them probably think that it’s a load of crap. Unfortunately, most of them are unwilling to say so. But not this Oregon judge — she launched into a pointed, four-page critique of legal education, while ruling on a law school debtor’s attempt to discharge his student loans in bankruptcy.

No, she won’t grant you a discharge, but that doesn’t mean she has to like it. You know it’s going to be good when a judge cites to Above the Law while discussing student loans….

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Most of the time, the orders coming from certain judicial divas seem slightly, if not overtly, ridiculous and unnecessary. Like, I’m pretty sure Eric Holder knows that he is supposed to respect the Constitution. And sometimes when people sneeze in court, it’s just allergies, not disrespect.

But occasionally, judicial homework assignments seem to make more than a little bit of sense. Take this recent ruling regarding a defendant from Richmond, California. For a 23-year-old accused of trying to sell a grenade launcher to undercover ATF agents in a deal that went wrong and led to a bunch of shooting, the condition of his bond release is quite simple.

In the words of LeVar Burton: take a look, it’s in a book…

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Judge William Alsup

With proceedings in the “World Series” of high-tech law cases underway (aka Oracle v. Google), lawyers have discovered that the judge overseeing the matter is, well… kind of a hard ass.

His idea of work/life balance? Seemingly nonexistent. He arrives at work no later than 5:30 a.m. This judicial drill sergeant reportedly gets his workouts in by running up and down the stairs of the 20-floor federal building where he works. And most of all, he’s a stickler for the rules — he likes a quiet courtroom.

Got a cough? Need to sneeze? You’d be better off calling in sick than entering this man’s courtroom….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Judge of the Day: Don’t Even Think About ‘Hacking and Coughing’ in His Courtroom”

Remember the homework assignment issued by Judge Jerry Smith of the Fifth Circuit to the U.S. Department of Justice? Earlier this week, Judge Smith ordered the DOJ to file a three-page, single-spaced letter discussing the principles of judicial review, in light of prior comments by President Barack Obama that could be construed as questioning the doctrine.

The response was due today at noon (Houston time) — about 20 minutes ago. It was filed on behalf of the Department by Attorney General Eric Holder.

Let’s take a look, shall we?

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'I'm so glad the Justice Department respects judicial review!'

The nation recently received a lesson in constitutional law from President Barack Obama (who famously taught Con Law at the University of Chicago). As we mentioned yesterday, President Obama said on Monday that striking down the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, would constitute an “unprecedented, extraordinary step,” amounting to “judicial activism or a lack of judicial restraint — that an unelected group of people would somehow overturn a duly constituted and passed law.”

The problem with this lesson: it wasn’t exactly accurate. Those “unelected” federal judges “overturn … duly constituted and passed law[s]” all the time — well, maybe not all the time, but on occasion, when said laws are inconsistent with the U.S. Constitution. It’s neither “unprecedented” nor “extraordinary,” and it doesn’t amount to judicial activism; rather, it’s called judicial review.

One prominent conservative jurist, Judge Jerry E. Smith of the Fifth Circuit, took it upon himself to set the record straight on this matter….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Benchslap of the Day: Fifth Circuit Orders DOJ To Write ‘We Respect Judicial Review’ in Three-Page Letter”

When we last checked in with the justices of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, one justice stood accused of allegedly choking a bitch in chambers (no, not the “total bitch” that he had previously threatened to “destroy” — another one). Although the kerfuffle did not result in any criminal charges, it seems that Justice David Prosser isn’t as charismatic as Wayne Brady, because now he’s facing possible ethics sanctions over the two incidents.

What did the outspoken justice have to say about the request for sanctions?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Possible Ethics Sanctions for Wisconsin Judge Who Allegedly Choked a Bitch”

Judge Maryesther Merlo. Who will play her in the movie? Suggestions welcome.

Earlier this year, we brought you the story of Judge Rae Lee Chabot, a state court judge in Michigan. Judge Chabot was accused of taking three-hour lunch breaks and long shopping trips to the Gap, in the middle of the workday.

I wrote in defense of Judge Chabot, whose judicial work was well-regarded despite her, ummm, flexible work schedule. I opined that “[a]s long as a judge is reasonably current with his docket, he should be left alone. There is no face-time requirement for judges.”

But even I would have a hard time defending the latest judicial diva under fire, Judge Maryesther Merlo of Allentown District Court in Pennsylvania. Judge Merlo — or make that ex-judge Merlo, since she just got removed from the bench — allegedly missed 116 days of work, from September 2007 to December 2009. That amounts to over 23 weeks, in a period of about two years.

And that’s not all Maryesther Merlo stands accused of. Her treatment of defendants appearing before her may have strayed beyond the merely tough into the downright rude….

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(Not that she spent much time on it anyway.)

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