Prisons

Polar Bear Son: Dad, are you sure I’m a polar bear?
Polar Bear Dad: Yes, son. Definitely.
Polar Bear Son: You’re sure I’m not a duck or a cat but a full bred polar bear?
Polar Bear Dad: Yes, of course. I’m a polar bear and your mom is a polar bear so you are a polar bear. Why are you asking?
Polar Bear Son: Because I’m f**king freezing.

It’s cold outside. No seriously, it’s unreasonable out there, don’t ya know. I hope most of you are working from the warmth of your own homes. I hope most of you are skipping class today. Seriously, there’s nothing that you are going to learn in class on January 7th that you can’t make up in non-frostbite conditions before the end of the semester.

Let me put it like this, prisoners would rather be in prison than be outside in this cold weather. I’m not making that up. A prison escapee just turned himself in because it was too freaking cold…

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Lawyers are willing to live with a realm of pure law. We are human. What I am beginning to realize is that there are a lot more flaws in the system… The fact is prosecutors and defense lawyers make mistakes. Prosecutors and defense lawyers are human.

Gerard H. Donley, a lawyer currently serving a six-year sentence after attempting to bribe a witness not to testify against his client, reflecting on his life in the law during a jailhouse interview.

This week the Supreme Court, via a one-line order by Justice Anthony Kennedy, dismissed an appeal in Brown v. Plata for want of jurisdiction. Thousands of law students enrolled in Fed Jur and Fed Courts classes this semester may argue that there’s nothing sexy about jurisdiction, even by law’s substantially reduced standards for “sexiness.” The dismissal of Plata, though, has some significant effects for millions of people.

In 2011, the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 opinion authored by Justice Kennedy that overcrowding in California prisons caused continuing violations of prisoners’ Eighth Amendment rights to adequate health care and that the overcrowding problem required a population limit. (Justice Scalia dissented, joined by Justice Thomas. Justice Alito also dissented, joined by the Chief.) As a result, California Governor Jerry Brown needed to drastically improve prison conditions or drastically reduce the state’s prison population by releasing inmates.

A flurry of state appeals and motions to change the original order ensued. Then, on September 24 of this year, a three-judge panel gave Brown until the end of January to meet its original order to remove more than 9,600 inmates from California prisons by the end of the year, absent successful negotiations with the plaintiffs. In an attempt to sufficiently improve prison conditions, Governor Brown negotiated a deal with legislators to spend $400 million on improvement of health care services to California prisoners, but he believed he needed more time in order to fully comply by the panel’s deadline. He filed an an appeal for a stay with SCOTUS….

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Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

* “We’re in uncharted territory right now.” The federal courts made it through the first week of the shutdown, but they’re approaching “here be dragons” land in terms of funding. [National Law Journal]

* “It would be the most interesting case in decades.” Legal experts debate whether President Obama can ignore the debt ceiling for much longer. [New York Times]

* People are getting out of Biglaw while the getting’s good. Reed Smith’s global managing partner is leaving the firm for a general counsel gig after 13 years at the helm. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* Law firm leaders met to discuss how to empower women attorneys, and agreed it’s wise to parade them around in front of clients. Getting to work on those clients’ cases is another question. [Blog of Legal Times]

* No debacles here, contrary to past precedent: Kasowitz Benson poached two superior legal minds from NBCUniversal and welcomed them to the firm to open an entertainment litigation practice. [Bloomberg]

* Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s lawyers want their client’s prison restrictions to be lifted and are raising a slew of constitutional claims. We think the members of his fan club are the only ones feeling sorry for him. [CNN]

Sorry, SCOTUS.

* A study revealed that almost half of all links in online Supreme Court opinions are dead, but at least internet pranksters like this guy have been given a chance in the spotlight. [New York Times]

* CHECK YOU [BLACKBERRIES] OFTEN, because firms like Shearman & Sterling, McCarthy Tétrault, Skadden Arps, and Torys will advise on the ancient technology’s private sale. [Am Law Daily]

* We hope this IPO isn’t imported from Detroit. Chrysler filed a prospectus with the SEC yesterday with the help of attorneys from Sullivan & Cromwell and Cravath. [DealBook / New York Times]

* Paul Bergrin, more commonly known as the “Baddest Lawyer in the History of Jersey,” was handed a life sentence yesterday. At least he’ll have street cred with his gen pop friends. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* If you’re still thinking of applying to law school now, you must be the kind of person who needs advice on how to go to college and fill out applications, all at the same time. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News]

* Overrated: Government surveillance is out of control. Underrated: Government spending massive amounts of money making the Army’s Intelligence and Security Command look like the set of Star Trek: The Next Generation is out of control. [Lowering the Bar]

* Helen Wan explains “The 5 Rules Every New Associate Must Know.” Not included: learning all the technical details required to convincingly say your smartphone failed to get that 1 a.m. message. [The Careerist]

* Another post in the fascinating series about creating visual maps of Supreme Court doctrine. It’s like a nerdier version of the The Atlas of Middle-Earth (affiliate link). [PrawfsBlawg]

* Ilya Somin reviews the Supreme Court’s most recent Takings Clause jurisprudence. It’s a lot harder for the government to take your property away. But don’t worry, it’s still really easy to lose all your property to unregulated markets. [The Volokh Conspiracy]

* The Office of the Solicitor General may have inadvertently helped out Frederick Oberlander and Richard Lerner, the two lawyers charged with criminal contempt for talking about a cooperator’s sentence (if you can call a $25,000 fine for admitting to a $40 million fraud a “sentence”) that the feds claim was sealed. [Wise Law NY]

* A somewhat sad art show based on requests from prisoners in solitary. Some beautiful stuff here. Though I’d have expected more “Rita Hayworth” photo requests. [Gawker]

* The Daily Show takes on biotech patents. Video after the jump…

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* Former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. is heading to prison in Alabama for 30 months. Among the items he improperly purchased with campaign funds was a cape. How awesome is that? [Reuters via Yahoo! News]

* The Bureau of Prisons is planning to move its female inmates out of Danbury to convert it to a men’s prison. The author behind Orange Is the New Black has a different plan. [Jezebel]

* Reminiscent of the gun post a while back, more proof that women have all kinds of room to store contraband. [Legal Juice]

* Simpson Thacher lawyers reached some “unsettling conclusions” about the Clinton Foundation. Probably spending too much time with that Lewinsky Foundation. [New York Times]

* You thought there was animosity toward lawyers in the U.S.? Check out how much they hate them across the pond. [Legal Cheek]

* What do you get if you combine a lawyer with a paramedic? [The Ambulance Chaser]

* The saddest thing about prisons getting rated on Yelp is owning the bar down the street with fewer stars. [Simple Justice]

* Sending “LOL totes glty” is a bad idea. [IT-Lex]

* The chief of the Brooklyn DA’s gang bureau probably should have spent more time with the civil rights bureau. [NY Post]

* People don’t really pay attention to the U.S. News Best Intellectual Property Program rankings — though it’d help if they did. [Science to Law]

* UNLV’s Nancy Rapoport thinks law schools are no better than Enron. That sounds about right. [TaxProf Blog]

* When it comes to the Boston bombings, Logan Beirne answers, “What would George Washington do?” [Reuters]

* Tenure has put a crimp in the ability of law schools to excel in the ranking system that considers publication. [Ramblings on Appeal]

* Kickstarter plug: A progressive Yale student took a year off to make a documentary about a conservative activist group, the Tennessee 9-12 Project, to show civility and respect. [Kickstarter]

* Nepal had actual regulations regarding Yeti killing. When will America join the international community and enact strict protections for Sasquatch? [Lowering the Bar]

* A state bar association is actively discouraging students from going to law school. Which is odd, since the state in question has a top five law school… according to National Jurist. [Associate's Mind]

* A clever Civ Pro class used the system against Howard Wasserman to get an extension on their assignment. I respect Wasserman for crediting the students’ ingenuity, but it would have been a better life lesson if he’d impleaded the Dean for forcing him to have grades in early. Or at least ding the students with a Rule 11 claim. [PrawfsBlawg]

* Inmate forgotten for 22 months in solitary confinement wins $15.5 million reward. Hopefully he’ll be ready in time to protect us from that bioweapon attack from Alcatraz. [CNN]

* In honor of International Women’s Day, enjoy an interview of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. [The New Yorker]

* To follow up on an old story, law grad/convicted sex criminal Chris Dumler is reporting to jail today. [WVIR]

* The Conclave is now set for Tuesday. Place your bets on the new pontiff now! [CNN]

Next Friday, barring last-minute action from Congress, the series of crippling automatic budget cuts known affectionately as “sequestration” will go into effect, immediately slicing 8.2 percent off non-defense spending for 2013. It’s the continuation of the so-called “fiscal cliff,” which was supposed to hit January 1st, but Congress moved this component to March because two potentially disastrous political showdowns are more fun than one.

If you haven’t heard about the sequestration, here’s a good primer, and you’re officially working too hard.

If sequestration is implemented next week, the likely negative impacts range from knocking expected GDP growth down 10 percent or so in 2013 GDP, to setting back medical science for a generation.

The legal field will be especially hard hit…

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