Supreme Court

That’s not the way we do business. We’re not Republicans or Democrats.

– Chief Justice John Roberts, speaking at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Law. The Chief Justice has made dispelling the impression of partisanship the cornerstone of his public relations efforts, pointing to a steady stream of 9-0 decisions. It’s a talking point that Dahlia Lithwick has termed faux-nanimity. Still, the Chief Justice soldiers on, hoping that no one looks into what Virginia Thomas is up to or where Justice Scalia goes hunting.

Appellate practices are great.

For lawyers who enjoy thinking and writing, but don’t have much taste for the hand-to-hand combat of discovery, appellate practices are pure joy. Appellate advocates bask in the intelligence and majesty of the law, without having to do daily battle with psychopaths.

For big firms, appellate practices are the crown jewels of the litigation side of the shop: “We’ve argued cases in the Supreme Court!” “We participated (either on the merits or as amici) in ten percent of the Supreme Court’s docket last year!” Shout it to the heavens! What’s the implicit message?

“We’re doing these cases for free!”

Oh, Herrmann, you’re such a cynic. Surely the implicit message is: “We’re God’s gift to advocacy!”

It’s a marketer’s dream.

But one leading appellate lawyer recently told me that the Great Recession has hurt his practice in ways you wouldn’t expect. And I’m here to tell you that, although appellate practices done right can help a firm, appellate practices done wrong are dangerous things . . . .

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It’s Constitution Day, or technically Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, because it’s a holiday so nice Congress named it twice. And Congress doesn’t mess around with this event: by law, all publicly funded educational institutions and all federal agencies must provide educational programming on the history of the American Constitution today. So if you see someone dressed up as a Founder today, they’re probably a teacher. Or an incompetent lawyer.

In the spirit of teaching constitutional law, and generally making learning fun, I wanted to focus on the professorial stylings of Professor Josh Blackman. A couple weeks ago, I noticed Professor Josh Blackman tweeting out memes he’d created to describe Youngstown v. Sawyer. If you can inspire a chuckle (or frankly anything) over seizing steel mills, then you’ve accomplished something. He told me that he often employs memes to hammer home his lessons. And when you think about it, memes are the perfect medium for teaching constitutional jurisprudence: you take something established and scribble new stuff all over it.

Let’s look at some of his work. Maybe readers can come up with some other clever entries….

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Jodi Arias says, ‘You could own these!’

* If you want to know why Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s summer was “really not fun,” it’s because she spent it reading a book about Justice Antonin Scalia and a book written by Justice John Paul Stevens. [Washington Whispers / U.S. News & World Report]

* “There is less money to pay everybody.” Corporations are shifting more and more of their legal work to their in-house lawyers, and some law firms — especially smaller ones — are feeling the financial squeeze. [WSJ Law Blog]

* If you’ve wanted to know what federal judges discuss during their bathroom breaks, stop wondering, because it’s not that exciting. All they talk about is their “stupid little trials,” and get overheard by jurors and forced into disclosures. [New York Daily News]

* Dewey know why the former leaders of this failed firm want their criminal indictment dismissed? It’s because the case is allegedly based on a “flagrant misunderstanding of the law.” [New York Law Journal]

* If you want to own a “piece of history,” Jodi Arias is auctioning off the glasses she wore during the first phase of her murder trial. She intends to donate the proceeds of the sale to (her own?) charity. [Daily Mail]

Two hundred years ago yesterday, on September 14, 1814, a Washington, D.C. lawyer penned the words to what would become the United States’ national anthem. Today that man, Francis Scott Key, is better known as a lyricist than a lawyer. But at the time, the judge’s son, born to a wealthy slave-owning family in Maryland, was well respected in Washington’s legal and political circles. This week, On Remand looks back at Francis Scott Key’s legal career and some laws and lawsuits featuring Key’s composition, The Star-Spangled Banner.

By 1814, the thirty-five-year-old Key had already argued several cases in front of the Supreme Court. The most famous case, Mills v. Duryee, was the first time the Supreme Court construed the Constitution’s Full Faith and Credit Clause. Key argued that a judgment from one state, when presented in another state, was merely one piece of evidence to be weighed with all other evidence. Justice Story, delivering the majority opinion, thought little of Key’s argument, writing that it would render the Full Faith and Credit Clause “utterly unimportant and illusory.”

Key’s power of persuasion didn’t lead to victory at the Supreme Court. But, a year later, Key’s advocacy for a prisoner of war brought him near the frontline of the War of 1812. What he watched “o’er the ramparts,” then observed afterwards at “dawn’s early light” from a ship in Baltimore Harbor, became the inspiration for our national anthem….

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She doesn’t needed to be educated about rap music.

* “Operas can get pretty gory. I should have put that in my brief.” In the upcoming Supreme Court term, it looks like law clerks will have to educate their justices about the intricacies of rap music’s sometimes violent lyrics. [National Law Journal]

* The pay gap between equity and non-equity Biglaw partners is growing wider and wider. According to recent survey, on average, equity partners are bringing home $633K more than non-equity partners each year. [Am Law Daily]

* Hackers are targeting Biglaw firms to acquire their clients’ important secrets. Unfortunately, no one is brave enough to step up to the plate and say their firm’s been hit — admitting that “could be an extinction-level event.” [Tribune-Review]

* Which Biglaw firms had the most satisfied summer associates this year? There was a big rankings shake-up at the top of the list this time around, and we’ll have more on this later today. [Am Law Daily]

* In the wake of the Ray Rice scandal, Adrian Peterson screwed up many of your fantasy football teams after he was indicted for hurting his child “with criminal negligence.” He’s now out on $15,000 bail. [CNN]

Justice Sonia Sotomayor

[A friend] called me and said, “Sonia, come to Princeton. You have to go to an Ivy League school.”

And I said, “What’s an Ivy League school?”

I was a good student. But I wouldn’t even have known to apply, because I came from a world where that wasn’t part of the expectations. And that’s true of a lot of kids in a lot of neighborhoods.

– Justice Sonia Sotomayor, in comments made about her decision to apply to Princeton University and later Yale Law School, during an appearance earlier this week at the University of Tulsa College of Law. Sotomayor went on to say that she wouldn’t be where she is now if it weren’t for affirmative action.

Oscar Pistorius

* Following the divisive decision in Shelby County v. Holder, voting rights cases may be heading back to the SCOTUS sooner than we thought. Thanks, Texas and Wisconsin. [USA Today]

* Bienvenidos a Miami? Cities compete to be designated as sites where global arbitration matters are heard. Miami is an up-and-comer, but New York is king. [DealBook / New York Times]

* Thanks to anonymous donors, the reward for info related to FSU Law Professor Dan Markel’s murder has been raised to $25,000. Not a single suspect has been named since his death. [Tallahassee Democrat]

* After losing the Democratic primary to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Professor Zephyr Teachout drank some gin and tonics like a boss before returning to her class at Fordham Law to teach property. [New York Times]

* Try as he might, the Blade Runner just can’t outrun the law: Oscar Pistorius might have been cleared on the murder charge he was facing, but now he’s been found guilty on a culpable homicide charge. [CNN]

Kent W. Easter

* The justices of Supreme Court of the United States will discuss gay marriage cases from five states during their “long conference” at the end of the month. Which ones will they decide to take? Help us, Justice AMK! [National Law Journal]

* This law school is having some troubles adjusting to the “new normal.” Not only is its administration planning back-to-back tuition hikes, but it’s asking the state for help with its deficits. Yikes, that’s not good. [The Republic]

* This Gonzaga Law professor thinks that playing poker is part of having a balanced life. He might not come home with much after his games, but “it’s better than a kick in the head.” [Spokesman-Review]

* Remember Kent W. Easter, the Biglaw partner who was accused of planting drugs in a school volunteer’s car? During his recent retrial, he was convicted of false imprisonment by fraud and deceit. [OC Weekly]

* Following a “marathon trial marked by screams, tears, vomit, anger,” Oscar Pistorius has been found negligent, but not guilty of premeditated murder. Expect a final verdict tomorrow, perhaps. [USA Today]

The start of the new Term of the Supreme Court of the United States is about a month away. So now is a good time to do a new round-up for Supreme Court clerk hiring. As it turns out, there are more than enough unreported hires for a fresh story.

And there’s other SCOTUS clerk news to share as well. Remember last year, when law firm signing bonuses for SCOTUS clerks hit a new high of $300,000? Well, try to stop yourself from turning green with envy, but some firms are now offering even more than that.

How much are these kids — and yes, many of them are kids, in their mid-twenties — taking home in signing bonuses? Yes, signing bonuses, on top of their usual six-figure associate salaries….

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