Supreme Court

How would you define excessive force? There doesn’t seem to be a precise definition, if only because it’s a matter of legalese. Generally speaking, the police shouldn’t be using force beyond what is called for under the circumstances, which is a somewhat subjective test.

We’ll lob you a softball so you can decide the answers to these important questions. Can you use a Taser on a pregnant woman? How many times can you do it? Once? Twice? Three times?

Now, if your initial reaction was something like, “Holy sh*t! Who does that?,” you must be thinking that the police would be crazy to tase a pregnant woman — especially a pregnant woman who’s two months away from her due date. She’d have to have done something egregious to warrant the use of such force.

But that’s not what happened to a pregnant woman in Washington who received the punishment for a mere traffic violation. And the police officers who inflicted her pain want to take the case to the United States Supreme Court….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “How Many Times Can You Tase a Pregnant Woman Before Your Case Winds Up Before the Supreme Court?”

Ed. note: Please welcome Matt Kaiser, our new Supreme Court columnist at Above the Law. His photo and bio appear after the jump.

This is my first column for Above the Law on the Supreme Court. In an effort to help me generate effective linkbait, the Supreme Court issued an opinion yesterday at the intersection of bankruptcy and tax law for farmers — Hall v. United States.

Basically, Hall means that, if you’re a farmer and you declare bankruptcy on your farm under Chapter 12 (“the one just for farmers”), and, while in bankruptcy, you sell your farm, you will still have to pay capital gains tax on the sale of your farm — any liability to the IRS is not dischargeable.

Perhaps the most exciting part of the opinion is that Ninth Circuit was affirmed. Though, in fairness, the Ninth Circuit opinion was written by Judge O’Scannlain, so it’s not as though the Supreme Court affirmed Judge Reinhardt.

Also, farmers who are in bankruptcy and sell their farms now have to pay tax on the profits from those sales. I’m sure much of the Midwest is rioting in response.

For those who practice tax law, bankruptcy, or farming law, you will definitely want to read the opinion and some of the write-ups on it.

But the most exciting part of the morning involved new members of the Supreme Court bar….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Bankrupt Farmers, Tax Law, and Bar Admissions Ceremonies”

The federal judiciary recently lost two of its most distinguished members. One was a trial judge on the East Coast, and one was an appellate judge on the West Coast (as well as the nation’s longest-serving federal appellate judge).

Both were leading lights of the Article III judiciary. They will be deeply missed by their courts; their clerks, current and former; and their colleagues….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Passing of Two Federal Judicial Giants”

Not the alleged hot-dog hooker.

* While Dewey’s former culture gets roasted on a spit, and the seemingly unending drama gets turned into a montage of living lawyer jokes, we’re still waiting for the final punchline. [New York Times; Wall Street Journal]

* Don Verrilli tried so hard, and got so far (depending on who you ask), but in the end, it doesn’t even matter. When Linkin Park lyrics apply to your oral argument skills, you know you’re kind of screwed. [New York Times]

* The 9/11 arraignments went off without a hitch this weekend. And by that, we mean that it was a 13 hour hearing filled multiple interruptions, and grandstanding about “appropriate” courtroom fashion. [Fox News]

* In a “re-re-reversal,” Judge Jerry Smith, on a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit, reinstated Planned Parenthood’s injunction against Texas without even so much as a homework assignment. [Dallas Observer]

* The It Gets Worse Project: if you thought that the Law School Transparency debt figures were scary before, then take a look at them now. Six figures of debt just got a lot harder to swallow. [National Law Journal]

* Scalia gets busted on a case of hot-dog hooking. No, not that Scalia. A woman from Long Island has been accused, for the second time, of selling swallowing foot-longs in the back of her food truck. [New York Post]

April showers are supposed bring May flowers, but in the law world, April just showered us with a bunch of ridiculous lawyers acting like complete a-holes. One can only hope that May’s crop of nominees for the Lawyer of the Month contest brings us some more worthy competitors.

Drunken hotties? We’ve got ‘em. Nasty note writers? We’ve got those, too.

Let’s check out our nominees for April’s Lawyer of the Month competition….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Lawyer of the Month: April Reader Poll”

Last month, we brought you a story about a victorious party in a Supreme Court case, who just so happened to be an attorney himself. The lawyer in question, Steve Filarsky, earned our Lawyer of the Day title after he sent a letter to the losing litigant, advising him to read the SCOTUS opinion “eternally from hell.”

As it turns out, Filarsky wasn’t quite done with his charming letter-writing campaign. Someone else needed to pay for his apparent transgressions. Someone else needed to feel his dictated wrath.

But who was it this time? None other than the losing litigant’s lawyer in the underlying investigation. And boy, did Filarsky have some choice words for him….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Lawyer of the Day (Part Deux): SCOTUS Victor Has Choice Words for Losing Litigant’s Lawyer”

Our courts are the guarantors of civil justice, social order, and public safety, and we must do everything we can to enable their critical work. The courthouse doors must be open and the necessary services must be in place to allow all litigants, judges, and juries to operate efficiently. Likewise, we must ensure that access to justice is not an abstract theory, but a concrete commitment that delivers the promise of counsel and assistance for all who seek it.

– Barack Obama, in today’s presidential proclamation regarding Law Day.

(The theme for this year’s Law Day is “No Courts, No Justice, No Freedom,” but it’s not clear that people still trust the justice coming from our highest court…)

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Fun Fact of the Day: Happy Law Day, Everybody! (Except for You, SCOTUS)”

Carter Phillips

On Sunday, Sidley Austin announced a regime change at the firm. Over the next year, veteran Supreme Court litigator Carter Phillips will become co-chair and eventually chair of the firm’s executive committee. In 2013 he will replace the current chair, Thomas Cole.

Currently, Phillips is managing partner of Sidley’s Washington D.C. office. He recently argued his 76th case in front of the Supreme Court. I had the opportunity to ask him about the Obamacare arguments last month.

Keep reading to learn more about the transition and to find out what it takes for an accomplished practicing attorney to take on a crucial business role…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Carter Phillips To Take the Reins at Sidley Austin”

I lift my lamp beside the golden door. Except in Arizona, where I slam your head into the golden door till you beg for mercy.

If you either listened to or read a good recap of yesterday’s SCOTUS arguments about the Arizona immigration law, and saw a mainstream media report about it, you are probably pulling your hair out. What seems to me as the most likely and reasonable compromise to the issue is being treated like a victory for the state’s radical immigration approach.

It seems there was consensus on the Court to allow Arizona officials to check the immigration status of people they’ve already arrested as a matter of state enforcement of already established federal law. I can live with that.

But here’s what’s not happening: the Court doesn’t seem to be endorsing the aggressive “show me your papers” approach that would lead to somebody writing the diary of Anita Franco. And the Court isn’t even taking up the racial profiling question, leaving that argument open for future debate. That’s a big, huge “technicality” that means we likely haven’t seen the last of the Arizona immigration debate.

I guess “SCOTUS Stakes Out Reasonable Compromise While Dodging Racial Issue” doesn’t make for a good mainstream headline. Instead, we’ve got: “Arizona Beats Obama While Verrilli Gets Punched In The Crotch By A Latina.”

Which begs the question: Does Don Verrilli still want this job?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Immigration Arguments: A Compromise, A Technicality, And A Guy Who Probably Doesn’t Need This Junk Anymore”

* With the Supreme Court talking about immigration today, let’s take a look at how all the SCOTUS justices got to America. [Reuters]

* In any event, except for Scalia, the Court looks like it’s going to find a reasonable way through the Arizona immigration mess. If you’re detained for something, cops can check your status, but they can’t just go out and ask people to show them their papers on the street. Scalia thinks, I don’t know, he sounds like he thinks we’re still living under the Articles of Confederation or something. [SCOTUSblog]

* You know, I think that in the end I don’t have a problem with LSAC raising fees to take the LSAT. I mean, the cost of law school is completely out of control, prospective law students have proven that they’ll pay any price for any thing. Remember I said this when I start charging $500,000 for “Elie’s Pre-Law Seminars,” which is just a DVD of me screaming at a ten-year-old for 30 minutes. [Balkinization]

* I don’t ever want to piss Alec Baldwin off. I’m serious. [Dealbreaker]

* I’m not sure these ways to stay sane in a “toxic” office would work in a toxic law office. Unless you add liquor. Alcohol lets you go toxic on them! [Forbes]

* I love that Rob Portman, the man who inspired a walk-out at Michigan Law’s Commencement, is thought to be a “safe” pick for Romney. But hey, this is the same party that thinks nominating a wealthier Bob Dole against a charismatic president who can keep it in his pants is going to work out for them. [Recess Appointments]

Page 58 of 891...545556575859606162...89