Patrick Leahy

Give this man a federal judgeship.’ That sounded as if I were desperate, which I was . . . .

– Judge Leslie Southwick, in response to a Washington Post headline during his confirmation struggle.

In The Nominee: A Political and Spiritual Journey, Judge Leslie H. Southwick chronicles the long path to his current seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Southwick is a former Mississippi Court of Appeals judge, former deputy assistant attorney general in the first Bush Administration, and Iraq war veteran. He was recommended by Mississippi senators for a Fifth Circuit vacancy in 1991 and 2004, for a district judgeship in 2004 and 2006, before his final nomination in 2007. He initially appeared to be an uncontroversial nominee. However, a fierce partisan battle in the Senate threatened his eventual success. The Nominee follows Southwick’s tortuous path, relying on the judge’s day-by-day personal notes.

Southwick’s account is fascinating on its face. He drops names on every page, and it’s exciting to trace the earlier steps of those who would become legal luminaries in later years. For those only generally familiar with the way that federal judges get made — a process resembling in unsettling ways how sausage gets made, Southwick notes — the book provides an education in both the official and the unofficial processes. The book will certainly satisfy in excruciating detail the curiosity of anyone who wonders exactly how stubbornly political the judicial confirmation process has become.

Notably, the book shows just how long the process can be. Before he clears the Senate Judiciary Committee vote, before his nomination even reaches the Senate floor, Southwick writes that the day “was a double anniversary of my seeking a position on the Fifth Circuit. In my diary, I wrote, ‘Tuesday, 10 July. Sixteen years today since this started,’ meaning that I learned on July 10, 1991, that Judge Charles Clark was retiring. In addition, the 1991 date was exactly sixteen years after I wrote my July 10, 1975, letter applying to clerk for Judge Clark.” Judges, whether made the right way or not, are not made overnight.

None of this is what makes the book most worth reading, though — and it certainly is worth reading . . . .

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Bradley Cooper: a very handsome man, but sadly not a lawyer.

Seemingly random small-firm lawyers from Alabama weren’t the only legal types in attendance at the White House State Dinner on Tuesday evening. Indeed, as we’ve previously noted, numerous legal celebrities attended the festivities as well.

Sure, there were some “celebrity celebrities” at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue that night. The guest list included such boldface names as J.J. Abrams, Stephen Colbert, Bradley Cooper, Mindy Kaling, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

But who cares about Hollywood? Above the Law readers are more interested in the government lawyers, federal judges, Biglaw partners and law professors who attended this major social event….

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Fear not, Republicans!

The terror you experienced when Senator Harry Reid crafted his clumsily constructed nuclear solution to the logjam over judicial nominations can marginally subside. Brave Americans like Senator Marco *pauses… takes sip of water* Rubio have managed to single-handedly stand up for your right to not allow a qualified black, gay guy to preside over federal trials.

Huzzah! Just what the Framers never intended. Well, actually keeping blacks and gays off the bench is probably exactly what the Framers intended, but I mean they never intended a Senator to be unilaterally blocking judicial nominees. Enjoy one more arcane senatorial rule that has no basis in the Constitution, but nonetheless hamstrings our nation….

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I took Crim Law my first semester in law school. My professor, now the school’s dean, was an imposing fellow to 1L eyes. He looked approximately seven feet tall, with a deep, booming voice, a propensity for cold-calling, and a demanding, often impenetrable teaching style. I loved the class, even though I went into fight-or-flight mode in the minutes before he would stroll down the aisle of the auditorium.

We read the Apprendi line of cases, where the Supreme Court ruled that the Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial prevented judges from enhancing criminal sentences beyond statutory maximums based on facts other than those decided by a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. I thought I grasped the gist, with my nervous 1L brain. Then we got to Harris v. United States. In Harris, the majority held that Apprendi did not apply to facts that would increase a defendant’s mandatory minimum sentence. Judges could apply mandatory minimums on the basis of facts not proved to a jury, without violating the Sixth Amendment. These fact were sentencing factors, the majority held, not offense elements.

Terrified that I had misunderstood something crucial, I visited my crim prof’s office before the class when we would discuss Harris. I recited the cases up to that point, if for no other reason than to show that I had, in fact, been reading and that my ultimate confusion was not because I was totally mentally challenged. (Even if just a little.) I summarized my understanding of the Court’s holding in Harris, why it just didn’t square, how I knew that I must be missing something, because I just didn’t see how Harris properly followed. After way too long, I finally sputtered, “Sir, I’m . . . I’m just . . . confused.”

My prof leaned back in his chair, paused dramatically, sighed, then replied, “Ms. Tabo, of course you are confused. The Supreme Court is confused.”

As of this week, the Court is no longer so confused….

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Sen. Patrick Leahy

We should probably give you the award for saying the highest level of sarcasm we’ve heard before this committee in a long time.

– Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, in remarks made to Jones Day partner Michael Carvin following the latter’s testimony at a hearing entitled “The Citizens United Court and the Continuing Importance of the Voting Rights Act.”

* It’s not just media groups that are urging the Supreme Court to allow live coverage of the announcement of the ACA decision. Senators Patrick Leahy and Chuck Grassley of the Senate Judiciary Committee have joined the club. [Blog of Legal Times]

* Dewey know whether this failed firm’s former partners will be settling their claims any time soon? Team Togut hopes to reach a deal in the next six weeks, and claims that cooperation will absolve D&L’s deserters of all future liability. [Am Law Daily (sub. req.)]

* From Biglaw to the big house: former Sullivan & Cromwell partner John O’Brien, who is serving time for tax evasion charges, has been suspended from practicing law in New York. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* A Stradling Yocca partner and his wife, a Boalt Hall graduate, stand accused of planting drugs on a school volunteer who supervised their son. Looks like the only thing they’re straddling now is jail time. [OC Register]

* Dharun Ravi was released early from jail yesterday after completing a little more than half of his 30-day sentence. Funny how bad behavior got him into the slammer, but good behavior got him out of it. [CNN]

* “Why would somebody so smart do something so stupid?” Kenneth Kratz, the sexting DA from Wisconsin, claims that the answer to that question is an addiction to sex and prescription drugs. [Herald Times Reporter]

* Jay-Z’s got 99 problems and this bitch is one. He’s been accused by Patrick White of plagiarizing parts of his own best-selling memoir, “Decoded,” and slapped with a copyright infringement suit. [New York Daily News]

Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), come on down! Okay, I’m sure Senator Coburn wouldn’t put it this way, but you can count him as the latest Senate member who has joined the fight for something that the Occupy Wall Street people should really care about. He wants there to be more transparency when it comes to American law schools.

First, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) led the charge to try to get law schools to engage in some basic honesty when telling prospective students about the value of a law degree. Then Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) added his voice. That was important, as Grassley is the Republican leader on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

And now Coburn, another Republican on the Judiciary Committee, is joining in.

Democrats, Republicans, men, women, when will the ABA figure out that there will be broad support for law schools that are required to tell the truth about their graduate outcomes?

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We’ve been talking a lot recently about the secretly authorized stuff our government does to us — like killing us, or molesting us at airports.

Here’s another one for the list: digging through our emails or Twitter feeds or cell phone data, without probable cause, our permission, or our knowledge. This isn’t necessarily shocking in and of itself; back in April, Kashmir Hill wrote about how often the government requests information about private individuals from tech companies.

What’s shocking is the ease with which the government gets that information and the secrecy with which it does so. Somehow it’s all based on a law that is older than the Internet. The policy recently came to light when authorities ordered a small Internet provider, as well as Twitter and Google, to turn over information about Jacob Appelbaum, an American who volunteers with WikiLeaks.

How does the U.S. government circumvent basic probable cause and search warrant requirements when it wants electronic information? Let’s see….

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