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….
* Airport security has forbidden joking about bombs and hijacking. Now TSA is cracking down on joking about TSA itself. In the interest of my next flight, “I love you, TSA!” [Daily Mail]
* A detailed analysis of the 14th Amendment’s role in the debt ceiling debate. President Obama should employ this solution now before the Supreme Court realizes there’s another part of the 14th Amendment they can overturn. [Main Street]
* Law school professors do not take kindly to your antics. [Law Prof Blog]
* The rules don’t apply to Yale or Harvard. Or at least the rules don’t apply to their law reviews. [Professor Bainbridge]
* Congress is still trying to decide how to regulate FM radio instead of looking at salient issues in modern copyright law. Given how brilliantly they keep the government open, maybe FM radio is the biggest issue we should give them right about now. [The Daily Caller]
* The lawyer as generalist is fading into obscurity. Let’s commemorate it in poetry, shall we? [Poetic Justice]
* A preview of some upcoming Supreme Court cases this week. Complete with cartoons! [The Spark File]
* Finally, here’s a little gem for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg fans that we got….
Your Above the Law editors are making like Mr. Smith and going to Washington. This week we’re hosting not one but two excellent events in our nation’s capital (both free and open to the public):
On Wednesday night (tomorrow night), we’re hosting a trivia night for our law student readers. To get the details and to RSVP, please click here (and scroll down to the RSVP form). Please note that trivia participation is not required; you can simply come for the food, drink, and company (of your ATL editors and other D.C.-area law students).
On Thursday night, we’re hosting a reception and SCOTUS preview with noted Supreme Court advocate and analyst Tom Goldstein. To get the details and to RSVP, please click here (and scroll down to the RSVP form).
If the government shutdown is still in effect, some of you won’t have to get up early the next day, so it’s a great time for weeknight socializing. We hope to see you at one or both of these events.
* Affirmative action is again being put to the test before the Supreme Court, but this time, we’re not so sure the justices will punt the ball like last time. The countdown to one of Elie’s epic rants on race in America starts in 3, 2, 1… [National Law Journal]
* The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is open for business, but the government shutdown has pretty much brought work at both the International Trade Commission and the Federal Trade Commission to a complete standstill. May they live to fight patent trolls another day. [Corporate Counsel]
* Good news, everyone! Many Biglaw firms have changed the way they make their real estate and office space decisions, primarily because “maintaining profitability has become very challenging.” [GlobeSt.com]
* Here’s another list of the law schools where you can get the most bang for your buck — except it neglects to mention what percentage of the class responded to these salary questions. Oops! [PolicyMic]
Justice Ginsburg overstated her case. If judicial activism is defined as the tendency to strike down laws, the court led by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. is less activist than any court in the last 60 years.
Ed. note: In honor of Columbus Day (and Canadian Thanksgiving), Above the Law will be on a reduced publication schedule today. We will be back in full force tomorrow.
* Justice stops for no one, not even a broken Congress. With the end of days approaching quickly for federal courts in terms of funding (or the lack thereof), many judges are lashing out and declaring all their employees essential. [National Law Journal]
* Legal expenses can be especially “painful,” even for the biggest of banks, but sadist firms like Sullivan & Cromwell, Paul Weiss, and WilmerHale are really getting their rocks off on Jamie Dimon’s suffering. [DealBook / New York Times]
* DLA Piper’s future’s so bright it’s got to wear shades — and appoint a new co-managing partner in New York City, its largest office. Congratulations to Richard Hans, you’ve co-made it! [New York Law Journal]
* “It’s not just about me.” Jim Tanner, a Williams & Connolly partner who represents Jeremy Lin, is leaving the firm to start his own sports management business, and he’s taking people with him. [Bloomberg]
* “I have no apologies to make about anything I did.” Steven Donziger of Chevron/Ecuador infamy will be defending himself in court this week in what’s being called a legal cage match. [Wall Street Journal]
* “Touro is asking a judge to declare the school a diploma mill.” Irony alert: Touro wants Novus University Law School, a school supposedly conferring “worthless law degrees,” to be stopped. [New York Post]
* If you think SCOTUS abused its discretion in the early abortion cases, you’re going to love this book (affiliate link), a “cautionary tale” about consequences of decisions like Roe v. Wade. [Wall Street Journal]
* The shutdown has shuttered the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. I’m not really comfortable living without those regulators. [Breaking Energy]
* Don’t bother Goldman Sachs’s general counsel with your silly little questions. [Dealbreaker]
* The decisions you make in your twenties are rarely life-threatening. So get out there and make some atrocious life-decisions, kids! [Legal Cheek]
* Lawyer sent to prison for plotting to help a client hide jewels. That sounds way dirtier than it is. [ABA Journal]
* In scary news, Adrian Peterson’s 2-year-old son was brutally beaten. [TMZ]
* In case you missed our round-up, here are ten more highlights from a recent interview with Justice Scalia. He’s apparently a big Duck Dynasty fan, which explains a lot. Video embedded after the jump… [Bloomberg Law via YouTube]
* Justice Anthony Kennedy doesn’t think that law school should be shortened to two years, but he does think that the “cost factor has to be addressed.” Somebody really ought to listen to this man and give his words some credence. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]
* Let’s give Lady Justice a big round of applause, because the federal judiciary announced that it’s got enough cash on hand to keep things running until October 17, two whole days more than originally planned. Cherish the small things. [Blog of Legal Times]
* If Biglaw firms don’t adapt to the changing times, they may soon go the way of the dodo — or, to be a little more relevant to large law firms, they may soon go the way of the Dewey. Scary. [American Lawyer]
* Gov. Chris Christie’s administration appealed a judge’s denial of a stay on a ruling allowing gay marriages to be performed within the state. Please try to stay Jersey Strong and fabulous through this. [USA Today]
* Law review? More like flaw review, amirite? Apparently there’s a big problem with law review articles, and it’s not just that they’re incredibly boring and wind up in books that are never read. [National Law Journal]
This week, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in McCutcheon v. FEC. In McCutcheon, the Court will rule on whether certain campaign finance restrictions violate the First Amendment. ATL’s Joe Patrice offered his thoughts on the oral arguments yesterday. Today, I offer an alternative perspective.
Currently, byzantine election laws restrict the total political contributions that a person can make in a two-year period, as well as the number of candidates a person can contribute the maximum amount to. The plaintiff, Shaun McCutcheon, is a suburban Alabama businessman, the owner and founder of an electrical engineering firm. McCutcheon wanted to contribute $1,776 (a very patriotic sum, indeed) to 27 candidates across the country. Each of those individual contributions in isolation was legal, falling below the $2,600 maximum amount allowed for individual contributions. Yet, had McCutcheon done so, his total contributions would have run afoul of the maximum total allowed, currently $48,600.
Supporting political causes and candidates of your choice is an exercise of your First Amendment rights. Like all constitutional rights, though, it is subject to an overriding compelling governmental interest. In the case of campaign finance restrictions, your speech rights are trumped by the government’s interest in preventing political corruption or the appearance of political corruption.
Here, McCutcheon was expressing his political values, innocently — even laudably — participating in the democratic electoral process as he contributed up to 2600 bucks to individual candidates . . . until he supported one candidate too many. Suddenly, the First Amendment no longer safeguards his political expression. Suddenly, the threat of corruption or the appearance of corruption is so great that democracy just cannot stand if Shaun McCutcheon is allowed to give a penny more to support a candidate who shares his values….
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The holiday season is upon us, and yet again, you have no idea what to get for the fickle lawyer in your life. We’re here to help. Even if your bonus check hasn’t arrived yet, any one of the gifts we’ve highlighted here could be a worthy substitute until your employer decides to make it rain.
We’ve got an eclectic selection for you to choose from, so settle in by that stack of documents yet to be reviewed and dig in…
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