Avast, ye maties! Today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day, and what better time to look in on that hornet’s nest of screaming crazy that is the pro se community? Not that all pro se litigants are crazy, but there is a subculture of citizens who love representing themselves. And representing themselves badly. Usually while airing their personal grievances with the government the whole time.
This peek at the pro se world focuses on a hot theory among pro se crazies: the outright denial of court jurisdiction over anything because courts can only exercise admiralty jurisdiction. Apparently the entire legal system — down to and including the maritime architecture of the courtroom and the fringe on the flags in the courtroom — is an elaborate ruse by the Gubment, in association with lawyers, to hoodwink people into consenting to admiralty jurisdiction.
They got us, guys.
Here’s some more color on the nature of this encroachment of maritime jurisdiction onto our soil. Land ho!
Suing a school for giving you bad grades seems ludicrous. On the other hand, there’s something respectable about filing a 60-paragraph complaint in response to a law school telling you that you’ve failed Legal Writing and Civil Procedure. It’s kind of meta when you think about it.
The crux of the story is that a the law school demanded that a 3L retake CivPro II: Electric Boogaloo because he got a D the first time around. This interfered with his plans for his 3L year, so he decided to take them to court. In the process, every complaint he has about the school worked its way into the filing.
Jackson County Court Clerk Sharon Snyder, 70, was a mere nine months from retirement when she was unceremoniously fired for insubordination. Her rebellious act consisted of pointing someone to a publicly available document.
An inmate who was trying, and failing, to file a simple motion was given a successful motion to use as a model. His motion was granted, he was exonerated, and like the aging cop archetype of film — dramatically killed just before his scheduled retirement — Snyder got canned after 34 years of working in the courthouse.
Now the justice system is once more desperately trying to spin why it punishes people for being right…
Or at least R.I.P. for non-lawyer pro se litigants. Just when you thought the Supreme Court season had finally come to a close, the Court released a new rule book this morning. It’s 80 pages long and mostly a rehash, but the addition of Rule 28.8 garnered some attention for finally closing a door on the practice of non-lawyers arguing before the Court.
Not that it happened very often.
It’s unknown why the Court decided to take this step now, but if you’ve ever had to deal with a pro se litigant, you have to think one motivating factor is saving Justice Alito’s eyes from rolling completely back into his head.
So now let’s reminisce about the triumphs and defeats of past pro se litigants before the Court…
* It’s amazing that sports betting is not legal in New Jersey. What possible moral wackadoodle says that it’s okay to have something like the Jersey Shore (the place, not just the TV show), but you can’t take Michigan to out-shoot the Syracuse zone and then break Louisville’s legs. [Legal Blitz]
* Cloud tools for lawyers. Or as partners understand them: “Newfangled virtual file cabinets.” [Smart File Blog]
* Pro se prisoner wins! He probably wouldn’t have had he consulted a lawyer. [Simple Justice]
* Court rules that overlapping elements between romance novels do not amount to infringement. I mean, there’s only so many ways to phrase “throbbing member.” [Courthouse News Service]
* Pinellas County, Florida (Tampa Bay area) returns to using fluoridated water after a governmental sea change brought on by the issue. Don’t they understand the Communist plot to sap and impurify our precious bodily fluids? [Tampa Bay Times]
* In fairness, I think pro se litigants generally have a pretty good ineffective assistance claim. [Lowering the Bar]
* The D.C. Circuit managed to irritate both environmentalists and industry by affirming Fish and Wildlife’s designation of polar bears as “threatened.” It’s a nice middle ground. You know who else would appreciate some middle ground? A polar bear clinging to a shrinking ice floe. [Volokh Conspiracy]
* Former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor thinks kids need a healthier respect for the American democratic process. It would be unfortunate if the will of a democratic majority could get hijacked by five partisan hacks. [Courthouse News Service]
* Following up on yesterday’s profile of Lindsay Lohan’s attorney Mark Heller, the judge declared him “incompetent.” Fair enough. [TMZ]
* Maker’s Mark will not get diluted after all — likely causing a shortage. Start hoarding mediocre bourbon, folks! [Wonkblog]
* If you’ve ever wondered what the Supreme Court feels like to a pro se petitioner, here’s your answer. “Simply put, the Supreme Court uses its desktop publishing and printing guidelines as a weapon against the American public.” So much for “the least dangerous branch.” [Aaron Greenspan]
* “Nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Russia’s taking that phrase to a whole new level by pushing forward with a criminal tax evasion trial against a dead man. This is the first case of its kind since United States v. Bernie Lomax. [Reuters]
* Computer science students realize that taking collective action to intentionally fail the test was better than trying to pass it. It’s like The Producers of education. And if this grading policy applied to 1Ls, there’d be at least one jerk who defected to ruin everyone else’s curve. [Volokh Conspiracy]
* Ten points to Gryffindor if you know what “tumid” means. Because you’re going to have to know before you pass through Ohio again. [Legal Juice]
It’s been almost a year since we’ve mentioned the name Gregory Berry here at Above the Law, but it wasn’t easy to forget him, what with his “superior legal mind” and all. In case you’ve somehow forgotten about him, Berry was a former first-year associate at Kasowitz Benson who decided to sue the firm in a pro se suit for more than $77 million after working there for less than a year. In his monstrous 50-page complaint, he asserted 14 causes of action, including wrongful termination, fraud, and breach of contract.
This guy thought he was God’s gift to the legal profession, but Justice Eileen Bransten of the New York Supreme Court wasn’t impressed — come on, the guy tapes his glasses together, for God’s sake. She failed to see the merit in his arguments, and dismissed his case outright, with prejudice. But Gregory Berry being the remarkable man that he is, the dismissal didn’t sit well with him, so he opted to file an appeal.
Berry was in court earlier this week for a hearing on the matter. How did he fare this time around?
* In case you’ve been sleeping under a rock, Mitt Romney picked Rep. Paul Ryan as his Vice Presidential running mate. Putting politics aside, this is a great pick, if only because Ryan is so handsome. Seriously, he’s a total stud. [Wall Street Journal]
* “How can I be the one guy with a good degree who is going to be chronically unemployed?” Sadly, many lawyers are still looking for jobs after (multiple) layoffs, but thanks to a lack of positions, employment is just “not in the cards” for them. [New York Times]
* Deadliest clerkship? The Washington, D.C. judge who presided over one of the most violent mass shooting cases in the nation’s capital was reportedly held up at gunpoint last week, with her law clerk in tow. [Fox DC]
* Something is rotten in the state of Denmark Texas. Judge Sam Sparks “know[s] the smell of bad fish,” and now wants to know why the USADA waited so long to bring charges against Lance Armstrong. [Bloomberg]
* After reversing a bankruptcy court’s decision that loan repayment would be an “undue hardship” for a law school debtor, a judge took the time to rip law schools a new one over escalating tuition. [Oregonian]
* Match.com class-action plaintiffs found no love in court after a federal judge ruled that the dating website hadn’t breached its user agreement. Much like their love lives, their claims aren’t getting any action. [Reuters]
* A man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client: 23% of all cases filed in the federal court for the S.D.N.Y. are brought by pro se litigants, and the vast majority of them seem to have lost their minds. [New York Post]
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past six years. You can reach them by email: [email protected].
Since late last year, things have been booming in Hong Kong / China in cap markets, especially Hong Kong IPOs. M&A deal flow has recently been getting a bit stronger as well. Although one can’t predict such things with any certainty, all signs are pointing to a banner entire 2014 for the top end US corporate and cap markets practices in Hong Kong / China. This is not really new news, as its been the feeling most in the market have had for a few months now and things continue to look good.
The head of our Asia practice, Evan Jowers, has been in Hong Kong for about 10 days a month (with trips every other month to both Shanghai and Bejing) for the past 7 months (Robert Kinney and Evan Jowers will be in Hong Kong again March 15 to 23), and spending most of his time there meeting with senior US hiring partners at just about all the major US and UK firms there, as well as prospective candidates at all associate levels and partner levels, and when in the US, Evan works Asia hours and is regularly on the phone with such persons, as our the other members of our Asia team. Our Yuliya Vinokurova is in Hong Kong every other month and Robert is there about 5 times a year as well. While we have a solid Asia team of recruiters, Evan Jowers will spend at least some time with all of our candidates for Asia position. We have had long standing relationships, and good friendships in some cases, with hiring partners and other senior US partners in Asia for 8 years now.
Are you challenged by the costs and logistics of maintaining your office, distracting you from the practice of law?
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Everyone is talking about the importance of Social Media in Corporate America. But it is relatively safe to say that most law firms and lawyers are slightly behind the social curve. Most lawyers, at minimum, use LinkedIn, for networking. Some even use Twitter for pushing out short, pithy content, while many have Blogs, where they write their little hearts out. The adage “it is better to give than to receive” is not always true though in the world of Social. In the Social World – it is best to listen, give back and engage.
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