New Yorker

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though most other products of the eighteenth century, like horse-borne travel and leech-based medical treatment, have been replaced by improved models.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.)

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Dewey & LeBoeuf: gone but not forgotten.

We recently learned that Justice Antonin Scalia is not a fan of women cursing. What would he make of partners at a leading law firm cursing?

And not just garden-variety cursing, but rather colorful deployment of highly profane language. As Hamilton Nolan of Gawker puts it, “The biggest law firm collapse in history began with ‘f**kwad’ emails.”

Which former Dewey & LeBoeuf partner referred to various former partners as “pathetic,” “little prick,” and “f**kwad”? Let’s take a look at James Stewart’s New Yorker magazine article on what caused Dewey’s demise….

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325 West 52nd Street: modest on the outside, fabulous on the inside.

These are challenging times for print journalism. The Boston Globe, which the New York Times acquired in 1993 for $1.1 billion, recently sold for $70 million (or perhaps negative $40 million, as Matt Yglesias suggests). Jeff Bezos just bought the Washington Post for $250 million, a fraction of its former worth (and he may have paid four times its true value).

But print journalism was good to many people for many years. In the glory days of magazine writing, publications would pay several dollars a word for features that were thousands of words long. These generous fees might explain how a prominent magazine journalist amassed enough cash to buy a four-bedroom apartment Manhattan, which he recently sold to a law firm associate for just under $2 million.

That’s a sizable chunk of change for a young lawyer. How many sixth-year associates can afford $2 million apartments? Let’s learn more of the facts….

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If he’s having trouble judging homosexuals, well, then I’m his man. I have over a quarter century of professional experience.

– Justice Antonin Scalia, in comments supposedly made to reporters after offering to assist Pope Francis in his judgment of gays and lesbians. Scalia, referring to himself as “the master,” also noted that he “wasn’t great at judging homosexuals [in his] first year in the job, either.”

(N.B. Actually, this comes to us via The Borowitz Report, a satirical column published in the New Yorker that is written by comedian Andy Borowitz.)

Let’s talk about two of our favorite topics: money and politics. And the combination of the two, which creates both problems and opportunities for our democracy.

On Saturday I attended an excellent New Yorker Festival panel about politics and money, featuring some impressive speakers:

What did these distinguished and high-powered panelists have to say about the influence of money on our political system?

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It’s like Formula One. You want to see the car crash. We like to go to Rockefeller Center to watch the ice-skaters fall.

Carol Barbeiro, a lawyer, on why she went to see Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, the ill-fated, accident-prone Broadway musical. (Her boyfriend added: “She wants to see blood.”)

stephen breyer contemplative.jpgIt’s another amazingly beautiful day here in New York, and we’re blogging from Bryant Park. The temperature is in the low 70′s, there’s not a cloud in the sky, and a slight breeze is blowing. Life is good.

We don’t have much time — we’re about to run off to another New Yorker Festival event — but after sleeping on it, and reviewing our notes (’cause that’s what they’re for), we’d like to revise our earlier assessment of Justice Breyer’s interview with Jeffrey Toobin yesterday.

Although it could have been more fun, if Justice Breyer had been more forthcoming, there were actually quite a number of interesting stories and humorous moments — more than we remembered. Yesterday’s take may have been influenced by the fact that the interview’s highlights were clustered toward the beginning of the talk, and more of the bland civics-lecture material was near the end. So immediately after leaving the talk, it was the dry stuff that stuck in our mind. We’ll have more to say later about the best parts of the interview.

In the meantime, check out Ann Althouse’s great question:

David Lat gets antsy when an interview with Justice Breyer is insufficiently confessional. Why can’t he be more like Justice Scalia (or Judge Posner or Judge Kozinski)? Is there some reason the conservative judicial stars are more fun? Do liberals always have to demonstrate their circumspection?

It’s a fascinating inquiry, and one that we’ve entertained often ourselves. Do you have thoughts on why today’s leading judicial “rock stars” tend to be conservative? If so, please place them in the comments. (We’d like to see more robust debates in the comments here at ATL, like at other blogs.)

Three thoughts that we’d like to offer, before you accuse us (and Professor Althouse) of being biased in favor of conservatives:

1. There are a number of charismatic, colorful, outspoken federal judges who are quite liberal. Four examples, off the top of our head: Judge Stephen Reinhardt (9th Cir.), Judge Guido Calabresi (2d Cir.), Judge Jack Weinstein (E.D.N.Y.), and Judge Nancy Gertner (D. Mass.). So, in fairness to the left wing, let’s admit that they too have their icons.

2. Today the top judicial celebrities tend to be conservative. Is this just because the Republicans have been in power for quite some time — and because the most recent Supreme Court nominees, as well as any SCOTUS nominees in the near future, will probably be conservatives?

(Or maybe not. Judge Kozinski or Judge Posner are both brilliant, but they are unlikely Supreme Court nominees, perhaps because they are so outspoken and larger-than-life.)

3. It wasn’t always like this. Two of the most enjoyable and entertaining Supreme Court justices of the twentieth century were Justice Douglas and Justice Brennan — and they don’t come more liberal than that. (So don’t accuse us of refusing to recognize fascinating figures of the judicial left. We just feel that the best ones aren’t around today.)

Okay, gotta run. Apologies for typos or sloppy (or sloppier than usual) writing; we haven’t proofread this. Hasta luego.

“If you’ve sat through one of Justice Breyer’s civics lectures on C-SPAN… you’ve heard this all before.” [Althouse]