Politics

It’s time for the State of the Union again, which means it’s time to gather around the TV and thoughtfully discuss the future of the country play a sophomoric game based on the events that we expect to unfold over the course of the evening.

Remember to follow your Above the Law editors covering the speech via Twitter. See @ATLblog@DavidLat@ElieNYC@StaciZaretsky, and @JosephPatrice.

Now, on to the game….

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Rep. Mike Turner

[My constituents are] willing to have that discussion about whether marriage needs to be regulated by the state at all.

– Oklahoma State Rep. Mike Turner, in defense of his recently filed shell bill, the Preservation of Marriage Act, that could be rewritten to ban ALL marriages in Oklahoma, not just the same-sex ones, in response to further court rulings on the state’s gay marriage ban.

Is there no end to the hidden musical talents of legal luminaries? With all their left-brained success, we forget that legal smarties can also have a well-developed creative side. For example, Judge Learned Hand cut a single back in the day. And Judge Richard Owen wrote an opera about Abigail Adams.

Now a giant of the legal academy has entered the music biz. The composer not only performs the short ditty for us all, but also fully annotates the lyrics to provide background to the song….

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Last week, we mentioned that Winston & Strawn partner Gene Schaerr is leaving the firm to represent Utah in its gay marriage squabble against equal rights. By all accounts, Schaerr is a terrific lawyer. The BYU and Yale Law School grad served as head of Winston & Strawn’s Appellate and Critical Motions Practice.

It’s a little bit surprising that Schaerr took the extraordinary step of leaving the firm to take this case. The move caused some online commentators to speculate that Schaerr left W&S because of the firm’s work with LGBT groups… or even because W&S has an LGBT affinity group at the firm.

Well, we now have Schaerr’s actual departure memo, the one that he sent out firm-wide. Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes suggested that Schaerr left the firm simply so he could “focus” on this important case. You can read the departure memo and judge Gene Schaerr’s motivations for yourselves…

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A law professor says he’s ‘Ready For Hillary’ – to be his running mate in 2016.

A prominent law professor has announced that he wants to run for vice president in 2016. A cynic about legal academia might say, “Perfect — being a law prof is great practice for collecting $230,000 to do nothing.”

On a more serious note, though, it makes a certain amount of sense. Our current vice president, Joe Biden, taught law for many years at Widener Law. Our current president, Barack Obama, taught law at the University of Chicago while serving as an Illinois state legislator. And many others, such as both Bill and Hillary Clinton, have gone from teaching the law to executing it.

So speaking of Hillary…. Who is the legal academic who has publicly nominated himself to serve as Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential pick in 2016?

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Chris Christie during his U.S. Attorney days.

I almost got fired by Chris Christie. Almost, but not quite.

From June 2004 until November 2005, while working for then-U.S. Attorney Christie in my home state of New Jersey, I maintained a deliciously dishy blog about federal judges called Underneath Their Robes, offering “news, gossip, and colorful commentary about the federal judiciary.” Because I realized that appearing before judges by day and gossiping about them by night could be problematic, I wrote under a pseudonym, pretending to be a woman and calling myself Article III Groupie aka A3G.

In November 2005 — for reasons that I won’t go into here, but that I’m happy to explain at speaking engagements — I revealed myself as A3G in a New Yorker interview with Jeffrey Toobin. The news that one of his prosecutors was writing an irreverent blog about federal judges, including some judges his office appeared before, caused much aggravation for Chris Christie.

The New Yorker piece appeared on a Monday. A few days later, on Friday — after the scandal had made the pages of the New York Times, the Washington Post, and even the Drudge Report — I got called up to the big man’s office on the seventh floor of 970 Broad Street….

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Unless you’re living under a rock or stuck in traffic on the George Washington Bridge,[1] you know that N.J. Governor Chris Christie spent yesterday digging himself out of the Fort Lee traffic scandal in the most Jersey of manner — by placing a proverbial bullet in the back of the neck of one of his most trusted allies Tony Soprano-style. He even invited the media over to the Bada-Bing for a couple of hours after he did it.

Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Kelly took the rap for closing lanes on the GWB and creating a traffic snarl for Fort Lee residents after a smoking gun email emerged where the staffer seemingly ordered David Wildstein, himself a once highly-paid Christie staffer who resigned last month, to stop up the bridge to make life miserable for Fort Lee. The mayor of the town — a Democrat — had failed to fall in line and endorse the Republican Christie in his re-election campaign,[2] and Kelly’s email outlined the chosen means of retaliation. It seems dumb, but people may have died over this issue.

Liberal columnists are calling Christie basically an overfed Pol Pot and conservatives are comparing this — because they cherish beating their dead one-trick pony — to Benghazi.

But whether Christie was directly involved in this scandal or not — and so far the digital paper trail seems to begin with his mild-mannered aide showing uncharacteristic initiative and ends with a high school crony whom Christie put in charge of the bridge — this scandal falls somewhere between unsurprising and utterly inevitable.

Christie is a former prosecutor, serving as a U.S. Attorney from 2002 until 2008. The modern prosecutor is armed with the luxury to exact petty, brutal revenge on any and all who cross him or her, and this is the mentality that Christie brought into the Governor’s Mansion. Indeed, he made this mentality his political calling card.

Oh, and will this matter in 2016?

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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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* 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]

Jeh Johnson

Last year was a pretty great one for partners of Paul Weiss. And we’re not talking just about profits per partner, although we expect they’ll be robust once again.

In June, Roberta Kaplan scored a big win in the Supreme Court in United States v. Windsor. Representing Edie Windsor, a widow who got hit with hefty taxes when her wife passed away, Kaplan got section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act struck down. Just yesterday, we declared Robbie Kaplan our 2013 Lawyer of the Year.

But she wasn’t the only PW partner who had an exciting 2013. In December, Jeh Johnson left the firm to become our nation’s fourth Secretary of Homeland Security.

On the morning of December 19, Johnson sent around a wonderful departure memo, which we’d like to share with you now….

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