Massachusetts

“Do you want me to write an opinion and say there’s no free speech right to quietly converse on an issue of public importance?”

– Justice Anthony Kennedy, in oral arguments for McCullen v. Coakley

On Wednesday, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in McCullen v. Coakley, a constitutional challenge to a Massachusetts law creating buffer zones, sometimes called “zones of exclusion,” around abortion clinics. The law at issue, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 266 § 120E ½ (2007), provides in part as follows: “No person shall knowingly enter or remain on a public way or sidewalk adjacent to a reproductive health care facility within a radius of 35 feet of any portion of an entrance, exit or driveway of a reproductive health care facility.” Eleanor McCullen, one of the challengers of the law, is a 76-year-old grandmother who in the past has stood on public sidewalks near abortion clinics in order to initiate one-on-one, non-confrontational conversations with women seeking abortions. The petitioners claim that, over the years, hundreds of women have accepted offers of help from McCullen and the other petitioners. They argue that the new law violates their right to free speech.

The First Circuit opinion below characterizes the plaintiffs’ appeal as advancing “a salmagundi of arguments, old and new, some of which are couched in a creative recalibration of First Amendment principles.” That opinion finds that “[t]he Massachusetts statute at issue here is a content-neutral, narrowly tailored time-place-manner regulation that protects the rights of prospective patients and clinic employees without offending the First Amendment rights of others.”

Unfortunately, the First Circuit is wrong about each of those points. Even more unfortunately, this law does the exact opposite of what most of us would hope . . . .

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A person expects that the area under their clothing is private and protected against hostile intrusion … but if a clothed person is out in public and reveals areas under their clothing, whether inadvertently or otherwise, to plain view, she or he no longer has an expectation of privacy.

– Attorney Michelle Menken, arguing that the Massachusetts Peeping Tom law does not apply to her client, a man who was arrested for exercising his right to free speech — by taking “upskirt” pictures of women on the Boston subway.

The day after the July 2013 bar exam concluded nationwide, we broke the news about a young woman of Muslim faith who was taken to task by a proctor over her religious headwear, a hijab. The proctor didn’t approach the examinee before testing on the Massachusetts exam started, or even during the lunch break — instead, the proctor passed her a note during the morning session of the exam, instructing her to remove her headscarf (even though the examinee had already received approval to wear it).

To interrupt someone during the bar exam and break their concentration over something that could’ve been taken care of when testing was not in session is not only incredibly rude, but also incredibly stupid. This is a professional exam that will determine if and when a person will be able to start their legal career. Why do something that could put their chances of passing in jeopardy? On top of that, why do something that could make it look like this was religiously motivated? This was a bad move on many levels.

From the Council on American-Islamic Relations to legal academics to the internet at large, people were upset about the way that the incident unfolded. Now the state is doing something about it…

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From earthquakes to power outages to going into labor, we’ve written about almost every kind of bar exam horror story that exists on this earth. But we’ve never seen or heard of one that has been motivated by alleged religious bias — until today.

Everyone knows that things like hats, hoods, scarves, and visors are not allowed to be worn during the bar exam. But religious headgear, like Sikh dastars and Jewish yarmulkes, is permitted, as long as special written approval has been obtained before the test from a state’s board of bar examiners.

When there’s a miscommunication somewhere along the line, things don’t always go as planned. Yesterday, a proctor in Massachusetts passed a distasteful note to a Michigan Law graduate of Muslim faith during the morning essay session. We have a copy of that note…

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Ed. note: This post was written before this morning’s arrest warrant was issued for Aaron Hernandez on charges of obstruction of justice. If he ends up in an SUV being tailed by helicopters, again, we’ll have more Patriots jokes.

“The first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.”

– Karl Marx

What was I doing on June 17, 1994? I don’t really know. I was fifteen years old and I can assure you that a great deal of my day revolved around sex and the fact that I wasn’t having it. At fifteen, the mere thought of a breast could send great paroxysms of excitement through me. You have to understand, dear reader, that a boy of fifteen is less a human being than a walking, talking priapic trainwreck. Add to this lovely vision the fact that the Internet did not arrive in my small Kansas town until years later and I can guarantee you that I was probably staring at a catalog of some sort. Future generations will know neither our pain nor our ingenuity, will they? Anyway, I had not meant to go all Alexander Portnoy on you in this opening paragraph, but honesty’s cost in this case is a foul peek into a hormone-addled mind. Oh, I’m sure I went outside for at least a little bit on that fateful day. Being summer and all, I might have gone to the pool. Maybe played some basketball. Perhaps hatched a scheme to score alcohol. It’s possibly I did any number of things. The only thing I can guarantee is that for most of that day, I thought about sex. And the fact that I wasn’t having it.

On June 20, 2013, a television news copter hovered high above Boston, chasing a white SUV that didn’t appear to be in much of a hurry. Inside that SUV was a man who is currently famous for playing professional football. It is unclear whether yesterday marked a sort of tipping point like it did back in 1994. When a man famous for playing professional football instead became famous for murder.

Either way, let’s talk Aaron Hernandez….

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Law schools, properly understood, ought to be viewed as regional vocational schools. You will have to pass the bar exam for the state in which you want to practice, and a law school in that state, in theory at least, is more likely to prepare you for the specific content on the state bar. Typically, the majority of alumni don’t stray too far, so the strongest network will be local, for local jobs. It’s to your advantage to go to school where you want to practice, sometimes even more so than going to a higher-ranked school.

With this in mind, last week we looked at our ATL Insider Survey results pertaining to New York City-area law schools. We examined how current law students rate their schools in terms of academics, career counseling, financial aid advising, practical/clinical training, and social life.

Today we turn to Boston. The results of our survey might surprise you….

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Will review documents for a sense of dignity?

* “Do you know which state has the worst ratio of white voter turnout to African American voter turnout? Massachusetts.” Sorry, Chief Justice Roberts, but the Bay State’s top elections official begs to differ with your assessment. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* This retired SCOTUS justice — the first woman to ever serve on the nation’s highest court — now refers to herself as “an unemployed cowgirl.” We wonder what Justice Scalia will refer to himself as in interviews after he retires. [Sacramento Bee]

* Mayer Brown wasn’t the only Biglaw firm that had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year. Dorsey & Whitney’s 2012 revenue was also at a six-year low, but firm leaders think they can turn it around. [Star Tribune]

* Billion-dollar patent verdicts, so hot right now: 2012 was a “banner year” for for Biglaw firms representing winning clients, with K&L Gates leading the pack for the highest monetary award. [National Law Journal]

* “I wouldn’t want to be coming out of law school now.” Oh my God, you guys, the legal job market is still really tough for brand-spanking new law grads. This is new information that no one’s heard before. [Buffalo News]

This is a lot safer when Mom and Dad are holding you up.

I get pretty annoyed when the state tries to act like everybody’s mother. But the worst application of the “nanny state” is when the state actually supersedes the judgment of a caring parent. It just makes it worse when the government tries to ruin a family’s holiday season.

This summer, we had a report about a partner who was accused of providing alcohol for his daughter and a bunch of her friends during a party for her graduation. The charge has since been dismissed. Today, a tipster sent us a link about another Biglaw partner who has been charged with providing alcohol to her teenage daughter and some of her daughter’s friends, this time at a New Year’s Eve party.

Can we take a step back and ask why the government is running around charging people for letting teenagers drink at family parties?

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Springfield, Massachusetts, is a city that’s home to the Basketball Hall of Fame, and my alma mater, Western New England University School of Law. I had the (dis)pleasure of living in Springfield for five years, and from earthquakes to tornadoes to purse snatchings, I thought that I had seen it all. Boy, was I wrong!

Apparently I escaped the slums of downtown Springfield just in time to avoid a stripper explosion (not an actual stripper explosion; that would be glittery and fabulous). No, as you may have heard over the holiday weekend, there was a massive natural gas explosion in Springfield that leveled a strip club, damaging numerous other buildings in the city’s entertainment district, about two blocks over from my old apartment.

At first, no one knew what could have caused the gas leak that triggered the blast, but now fingers are being pointed every which way. This may sound like a 1L Torts hypothetical, but who’s liable for the explosion?

Did the strippers grind so hard on the pole that they ignited a spark that set the blaze? Did the babies shrieking in the daycare center next door to the strip club (yes, seriously) inspire a childcare worker to light a match and burn that mother down?

Let’s get some insights from our readers on who will be held ultimately responsible for this calamity….

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Paula Broadwell

* Deep in the heart of Texas, plans are in the works for the state’s secession from the nation via online petition. The most likely White House response? Probably something like this: “HAHAHAHAHAHA!” [Hillicon Valley / The Hill]

* Paula Broadwell, better known as ex-CIA director David Petraeus’s side piece, has officially lawyered up. This guy had better watch out, because he kind of looks a little bit like her former flame. [Washington Post]

* And then they came for the Steves, but there was no one left to speak for them. The day of reckoning has finally come for the men who are being blamed for cooking Dewey’s LeBoeuf. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* Law firms in Manhattan are still recovering from Hurricane Sandy. Not for nothing, but all of the staff members at WilmerHale who were tasked with getting rid of all of the rotten food in the firm’s cafeteria should get a double bonus. Just saying. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Good news, underemployed law school graduates baristas! The First Circuit just affirmed your $14.1M tip-sharing judgment. Maybe now they’ll be able to afford the Starbucks diet. [National Law Journal]

* “This lawsuit is a massive fraud on the federal courts and defendants. It has now descended into farce.” Facebook is yet again seeking dismissal of Paul Ceglia’s ownership claims. [Threat Level / Wired]

* There may be five deciding factors when it comes to law school admissions, but serious candidates should focus on the two most important ones: LSAT and GPA. [Law School Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News]

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