Greetings from Washington, D.C., the site of the 2013 American Constitution Society National Convention! The mood at the annual meeting of the Anti-Federalist Society is heavy on the gloom and doom so far. I mean, they’ve won five of six national popular elections, you’d think liberals could take a second or two to be happy, no?
But the looming disasters of Fisher and Shelby County permeate the discussion. Had Fisher come down yesterday as a lot of us had expected, I’m not sure the Capital Hilton would have had enough booze in stock.
It’s not just the continuing battering ram the courts have taken to the progressive agenda that’s getting folks down. At least four times, I’ve been asked the whereabouts of one Elie Mystal, who participated in the kick-off “career alternatives” panel last year and was promptly not asked back. Something about taking off his pants to demonstrate how blogging differs from law.
Here are my early takeaways, including nuggets from Senator Elizabeth Warren and Senator Jeff Merkley…
* Well, if you don’t like what the Supreme Court is doing, you can still sit outside First Street and protest. I doubt it’ll have any effect whatsoever, but knock yourselves out. [National Law Journal]
* Speaking of the Supreme Court, things are still harder for minority law students. Not that such pesky things like facts should stop Chief Justice Roberts from feeling confident about telling us how to end racial discrimination in our time. [National Law Journal]
The appellate court facing the most complex workload in the country is also tiny and overworked. Only the First Circuit has fewer active slots, and with three vacancies, the D.C. Circuit has fewer judges than its sibling courts with 11 active judges.
So it should come as no surprise that some senators are actively trying to shrink the D.C. Circuit.
The crux of their beef is that actually filling the three vacancies on the court would constitute court packing, because no one on the Hill has bothered to pick up an AP U.S. History textbook and figure out what “court packing” means.
But when you strip away the partisan stupidity and actually look at the numbers, there’s a really good argument in favor of “court packing” because this Circuit could use an extra judge or two…
A minor scandal is brewing in Las Vegas. In a city known for its impeccable ethics and strictly above-board dealings, the legal community is astir over suggestions that a nominee to the federal bench earned her nomination by engineering a windfall for her political sponsor, Senator Harry Reid, with conveniently-timed donations from her law partners.
At what point does sucking up to politicians cross into the appearance of impropriety for prospective federal judges, and how much should the rest of us care?
* The triple-dog dare: a technique employed to show off how just efficient American democracy is, or something that’s just so ridiculous it might work in the Senate when it comes to judicial filibusters for appeals court nominees. [New York Times]
* If the Supreme Court were to strike down Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, the Obama administration has a plan in the works from the last time they thought the Supreme Court was going to strike down the very same section. [Huffington Post]
* It takes more than one legal memo to justify the killing of an American overseas — just ask the guys from the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel who rationalized the drone strike against Anwar al-Awlaki. [New York Times]
* Remember the Winston & Strawn stealth associate layoffs of 2012? Those weren’t layoffs, silly. They just left “because of reduced demand for junior lawyers.” Also, we have a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn. [Am Law Daily]
* If you’re not satisfied with your law degree after failing the bar exam, don’t worry, we’ve got a money-back guarantee. We’ll give you back 8.9% of your three-year tuition. It’s better than nothing! [National Law Journal]
* Meanwhile, if law school were only two years long instead of three, then perhaps a money-back guarantee would actually mean something. For now, it’s just one big public relations stunt. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]
* Joseph Kelner, plaintiffs’ attorney in the Kent State suit and lawyer for Bernie Goetz, RIP. [New York Times]
* President Barack Obama recently nominated two attorneys for the Federal Circuit who are being referred to as “noteworthy” because of their ethnicity (Asian American) and sexual orientation (openly gay). Let’s hear three cheers for diversity! [Blog of Legal Times]
* Dewey & LeBoeuf and Howrey have something in common aside from going down in a gigantic ball of flames that rocked Biglaw as we know it. Both firms’ fine art collections will soon be auctioned off by Adam A. Weschler & Son Inc. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]
* There’s nothing like acting like the product you’re selling: MGA, the maker of Bratz dolls, would like to have Orrick’s $23 million arbitration award vacated because paying your legal bills is so passé. [The Recorder]
* We briefly noted California’s new bar passage mandate for state-accredited schools here, but now a law school is suing over it, claiming the bar examiners are “waging a vendetta” against it. [National Law Journal]
* The NCAA wants to get Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett’s suit over PSU’s Sandusky-related penalties tossed, with a harsh reminder that hurt feelings have absolutely nothing to do with antitrust law. [Bloomberg]
[UPDATE: Hm...well it looks like everyone in D.C. (including Feinstein herself yesterday) was wrong. So she's sticking with her Intelligence chair. This assignment now becomes something of a "what might have been" exercise) Query: what changed? Why would Leahy not take Appropriations? Was he worried about turning Judiciary over to the more conservative Feinstein?]
Daniel Inouye, the second longest serving Senator in history, died on Monday. Inouye had represented the state of Hawaii in Congress as either a Representative or Senator since… well, forever. Inouye took office the day Hawaii became a state and never stopped. He was also an undisputed badass who wasted a German machine gun nest by prying a grenade from his own partially severed arm and throwing it at a guy trying to kill him! This was a more impressive response to having your arm severed that I would have.
But with the loss of Inouye, the Senate has to find a new chair for the powerful Appropriations Committee. Since the Democrats run on strict seniority, noted Batman enthusiast Patrick Leahy of Vermont jumped at that plum assignment.
And here’s where this all comes back to the law. By taking the Appropriations gig, Leahy had to forfeit his role as chair of the Judiciary Committee. Enter Dianne Feinstein, who will take over as the shepherd of the country’s legal policy making for the next Congress.
* In a move to “end the vacancy crisis,” one week after being reelected, and one day after the Senate returned to session, Barack Obama nominated seven people for open seats on federal district courts, including two S.D.N.Y. slots. [Blog of Legal Times]
* Dewey know how much the Los Angeles Dodgers will have to pay the now defunct firm for its work on the team’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy case? About $13M — the equivalent of their pitcher’s salary, or 62% of their first baseman’s pay. [WSJ Law Blog]
* Which Biglaw firms in the Am Law 200 are the most LGBT friendly? Overall, of the 145 firms that participated in the Human Rights Campaign’s survey, 71 received perfect scores. Absolutely fabulous! [Am Law Daily]
* The American Bar Association’s Task Force on the Future of Legal Education wants to know what should be done about law schools. This is a time to keep it simple, stupid: change EVERYTHING! [National Law Journal]
* The New York Court of Appeals invoked the Major Disaster Rule for the first time ever, allowing out-of-state attorneys to perform pro bono services for Hurricane Sandy victims. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]
* William Adams, the Texas family court judge who got caught beating his daughter, returned to the bench yesterday after a year-long suspension. At least he won’t get physical abuse cases, anymore. [Fox News]
* John Coffey, Senior Status Judge of the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, RIP. [Journal Sentinel]
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