Oral Argument

Judge Richard Posner isn’t amused — but we are!

Judge Richard Posner isn’t trying to entertain us. He just does.

When he benchslaps prominent Biglaw partners or government lawyers fighting marriage equality, he’s not trying to be funny. He’s just trying to understand the facts of a case or get to the bottom of the legal arguments — and he’s, well, maybe not as diplomatic as some other judges in going about his business.

Let’s check out the latest argument where Judge Posner snarked on hapless counsel….

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There’s not really much to say here. There are just a few things to remember to avoid an embarrassing oral argument. Basically, don’t condescend to the judges on your appellate panel, and try to show up wearing pants (and maybe some socks). Pretty simple, right?

We’ve seen this kind of confrontational tone out of lawyers before, and it never ends well for the attorney. Like when Jones Day’s Matthew Kairis thought it wise to continuously interrupt Judge Posner in Notre Dame v. Sibelius. What happened next was… entirely predictable: Kairis ended up with an earful from Judge Posner about the proper role of an advocate before an appellate panel.

This poor fellow earns the same basic tongue-lashing, just with a different accent…

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Lawyers have embraced mobile computing at a much faster rate than other types of emerging technologies. In fact, according to the American Bar Association’s 2013 legal technology survey, nearly 91% of lawyers now use smartphones in their law practices, up from 89% in 2012. Tablet use has also increased quickly, with 48% of lawyers reporting that they now use tablets in their law practices, up from 33% in 2012.

Those are impressive numbers considering that the iPhone was first released in 2007 and the iPad became available to the public in just 2010. So in less than a decade, these mobile tools have become commonplace in law offices, and tablet continues to rise.

And it’s not just practicing lawyers who use tablets. Believe it or not, judges do, too. In fact, not only do some of them use tablets — some of them rely on their tablets to get their jobs done. Judge Richard Wesley of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit is one of those judges. In this two-part series, I’m going to share with you how he uses his iPad to increase his efficiency on the bench and what he thinks about the effects of technology on the legal profession.

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Next week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the Conestoga and Hobby Lobby cases, the high-profile challenges to the Obamacare contraception mandate. Many ordinary citizens wish they could tune in to the arguments on TV, or at least catch clips on the Daily Show nightly news. After all, how else can Americans access this valuable information that could change their lives forever? I mean, without an Upworthy piece or a Buzzfeed listicle?

Of course, serious folks make serious arguments championing televised coverage of Supreme Court arguments. UC Irvine School of Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky wrote an opinion piece this week, arguing that “[t]here is no excuse for keeping cameras out of the Supreme Court.” (Apparently, Chemerinsky wants cameras in and Justice Ginsburg out, for those keeping track of Chemerinsky’s wish list.) Earlier this month, the Coalition for Court Transparency, a group of press organizations and pro-transparency NGOs, sent a letter to Chief Justice Roberts, urging the Court to permit the video recording and broadcast of its courtroom.

So, what are opponents of cameras at One First Street so scared of? Do they worry that Chief Justice Roberts will start mugging for the camera? That Justice Scalia will insist on an added laugh track? That Justice Kagan will embark on a dangerous juice fast to slim down like a Hollywood starlet? (Actually, it looks like she already has.)

Those are not my concerns, but here is why I still think video coverage of U.S. Supreme Court arguments is a terrible idea….

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Judge Richard Posner

From the Above the Law mailbag: “Is ATL ever going to call out Judge Posner for being so needlessly nasty to litigants?”

Ummm, no. I’m a big fan of Judge Richard Posner, who is brilliant and hilarious. (Yes, hilarious — if you doubt that, check out the awesome podcast that he and I did together, which you can download and listen to during your commute or at the gym.)

But in the interest of fairness, I will make this reader’s case. This correspondent cited the recent oral argument in Notre Dame v. Sebelius, which we alluded to yesterday, in which Judge Posner dispensed some benchslaps to Matthew Kairis, head of litigation in the Columbus office of Jones Day. The reader also mentioned the argument on remand in the Conrad Black case, alleging that Posner “was particularly nasty to Miguel Estrada, seemingly piqued that Estrada got him reversed by SCOTUS.”

Let’s focus on the Notre Dame v. Sebelius argument, since it just happened. How bad was it?

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Justice Scalia is kind of a troll sometimes. He routinely snarks out his fellow justices and is a total dick to legal luminaries like Judge Posner. His belligerence is drenched in sarcasm and usually arbitrary.

In a sense, Antonin Scalia is ATL’s spirit guide.

But when he went after an attorney appearing before him, he got immediately chastised by a fellow justice and raised the ire of even conservative commentators.

In this instance, I’m going out on a limb and say Justice Scalia was absolutely, positively, 100 percent right….

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* Downton Abbey has inspired a new bill making its way through the House of Lords, who apparently watched the show and figured out for the first time that women get screwed by the law of entail. Now if they can just pass a law that would keep Bates out of prison in the first place. [The Atlantic]

* Ben Adlin reminisces about the era when the Supreme Court actually cared about oral arguments. [Summary Judgments]

* An interesting infographic on where Superlawyers went to school. Finally a ranking where NYU can top Yale. [Online Paralegal Programs]

* Another installment of classic ads ruined by lawyers. [Vice]

* Fifth Circuit judges aren’t the only ones to tell their colleagues to shut up; here’s some fun news from the Philippines. [Manila Times]

* French cities have banned performances of a comedian with a history of racking up hate speech fines. I mean, since when has anti-Semitism been a problem in Europe? [Al Jazeera]

* If you think conservative arguments against the Affordable Care Act are dumb, check out liberal columnists arguing that Obama screwed up by not pushing for single-payer. [Lawyers, Guns & Money]

Oral argument before the Supreme Court is ripe with dramatic possibilities. If you doubt this, check out Arguendo, the new work by Elevator Repair Service that just received a rave review from the New York Times. I saw “Arguendo” last weekend, before I participated in an on-stage conversation with director John Collins, and I was impressed by how well the play captures the drama, comedy, and even athleticism of appellate argument. (Buy tickets here — but act quickly, since they’re going fast.)

If oral argument is a form of theater, then the U.S. Supreme Court is Broadway — the biggest and best venue in all the land. And we’ve just learned about a brilliant understudy who will be making her debut at One First Street next month.

Expectations are running high for this talented protégé of a celebrated SCOTUS litigator. Who is playing Eve Harrington to Paul Clement’s Margo Channing?

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Kamala Harris

* The Poly Prep alumni who settled their sex abuse suit against the school are going after O’Melveny & Myers for allegedly playing a part in prolonging the litigation by doing what lawyers do best: lying. [Am Law Daily]

* If you’ve got a case up on appeal and you’re like a virgin, giving oral (arguments) for the very first time, then you should probably consider taking a look at the top 10 tips that’ll help you to prepare for it. [The Recorder]

* The California Supreme Court denied petitions from Proposition 8 proponents seeking to enforce a ban on same-sex marriage across the state. Kamala Harris, the country’s best looking AG, approves. [BuzzFeed]

* The Chapman School of Law will change its name after receiving the second-largest donation ever made to a law school. N.B. The donor isn’t a law school graduate, which certainly explains why he has cash to spare. [National Law Journal]

* Notebooks from the most famous law school you’ve never heard of are now on digital display thanks to Harvard Law. Unlike today’s students, Litchfield lawyers had lovely handwriting. [Brainiac / Boston Globe]

* Keep ya head up: Legendary lawyer Roger Rosen, whose clients range from O.J. Simpson to Phil Spector, will hang up his shingle to avoid prosecution for leaking info to Tupac’s killers. [New York Post]

* Just think, if the judge in Paula Deen’s case had permitted counsel to stay discovery, perhaps the celebrity chef wouldn’t have been able to serve up a slice of her piping hot racism casserole. [Daily Report]

* Sure, Lamar Odom allegedly cheated on Khloe Kardashian with a lawyer, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to get divorced. If they do, we’ll be there for the train wreck. [Ministry of Gossip / Los Angeles Times]

* Who is the real John Roberts? Will he forever be known as health care reform’s savior, or the man who disregarded precedent to gut minority voting rights? Hell if we know, so we’ll let you be the judge. [Opinionator / New York Times]

* The man may be a mystery, but one thing’s for sure when it comes to Chief Justice Roberts: it’s fair to say that at this point, he’d sincerely appreciate it if his colleagues would kindly STFU during oral argument. [Big Story / Associated Press]

* Elena Kagan, a justice who was never a judge, is now being praised for her ability to put the law into terms that non-lawyers can understand. That’s a score for law professors everywhere. [New York Times]

* In terms of the Voting Rights Act, while the chances of the current Congress enacting a universal voting law are approximately nil, there are other effective avenues that could be taken. [New York Times]

* On Friday, the Ninth Circuit lifted the stay on gay marriages in California, and less than 24 hours later, Prop 8 supporters filed an emergency motion with SCOTUS to stop all of the weddings. Lovely. [NPR]

* Meanwhile, ex-judge Vaughn Walker thinks Justice Scalia’s having joined the high court’s majority on standing telegraphed the fact that he didn’t have votes to uphold Prop 8 as constitutional. [NPR]

* Rubber stamp this: Judges on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court are so upset that they’re being made out as government patsies that they’re talking to the press about it. [Washington Post]

* Whether you think Chevron is “suing [Patton Boggs] lawyers for litigating” or for promoting fraud that “shocks the conscience,” here’s a summary of what’s going on in an epic case. [Washington Post]

* Got a high-profile criminal defense firm? Look out, because you may have captured Biglaw’s eye. Take, for example, Stillman & Friedman, which will be merging with Ballard Spahr. [New York Times]

* Apparently being in your mid-50s is a “good time to [retire]” for law deans who pull in six figures. Ken Randall, outgoing dean of Alabama Law, says he’s “really ready for the next challenge.” [AL.com]

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