Thomas Goldstein

Public opinion is polarized regarding the mega-leakers Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden. One common view holds them to be heroic patriots. To others, they’re simply traitors. Prominent whistleblower attorney John Howley asks us to consider the possibility that they can be both at once.

Last week, ATL—along with our friends at Lawline—hosted a fascinating (seriously) and timely CLE course, Whistleblowers, Traitors and the Rule of Law. Howley walked the attendees through the various laws governing whistleblowers, treason, and espionage. He also gave an overview of the most important whistleblower and treason cases, as well as explored the thorny legal and ethical implications for lawyers involved in such cases.

The course was as much a history lesson as a legal one. The role of whistleblower plays an integral part of our national history. In fact, the first American whistleblower law predates the country’s founding. In 1777, sailors accused the commander of the Continental Navy, Commodore Esek Hopkins, of torturing captured British sailors, and petitioned the Continental Congress to remove him. Hopkins sued for criminal libel, and Congress — by unanimous vote — agreed to defend the sailors in the suit. Congress also passed a law requiring all military members to inform Congress of “misconduct, frauds or misdemeanors committed by any officers in the service of these states.”

Many of the most important heroes in American history were, technically, traitors, including the Founding Fathers. And knowingly so. As Benjamin Franklin quipped, “We must hang together or we will hang separately.”

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* A lawyer fresh out of law school botched a domestic violence case by gushing all over Tom Hanks… who was serving as a juror. Which, in fairness, was awfully Big of him. [TMZ]

* Federal prosecutors are seeking at least 27 years in prison for a Massachusetts man who authorities say plotted to kill and eat his children based on a search of his home and car, which is presumably a Saturn. As one law professor observed, “Perhaps the lawyer will make a free exercise argument and claim that eating children is a requirement of his religion.” [CNN]

* If you’re going to drink and drive, be sure to toss a few back with the judge first. [KVUE]

* A criminal defense lawyer who begins every cross by making the cop look more humane and respectable. I thought the public defender from My Cousin Vinny was the lowest criminal defense could go in the comical incompetence department. [Katz Justice]

* Putin crony claims 100 percent of profits in a “public” oil company by flat ignoring minority shareholders. Shhhh! Stop giving Exxon ideas. [Breaking Energy]

* Elizabeth Wurtzel knows music (a subject she covered for the New Yorker for New York Magazine). In this article, she writes about The Replacements (something Wurtzel has made her past employers, including Boies Schiller, become familiar with). [The Daily Beast]

* On Monday, the American Constitution Society will host a preview of the upcoming Supreme Court session. Panelists include Pamela Harris, Randy Barnett, Joshua Civin, Andrew Pincus, and David Strauss. [American Constitution Society]

* Then next Tuesday, The Cato Institute’s Center for Constitutional Studies will host a symposium titled “The Supreme Court: Past and Prologue: A Look at the October 2012 and 2013 Terms.” Panelists include Tom Goldstein, Marcia Coyle, and Howard Bashman. [How Appealing]

[T]here’s been a very significant retrenchment of resources journalistically at the Supreme Court, and we’re going in the opposite direction. We’re putting more work into covering the Supreme Court than anyone in history.

Tom Goldstein, publisher of SCOTUSblog, remarking on current trends among the journalists who cover Supreme Court cases. He went on to note that he believes that members of the mainstream media now regard the blog as an “extreme threat.” SCOTUSblog recently became the first blog to win a Peabody Award.


Today, the National Law Journal released its list of the 100 most influential lawyers in America. The NLJ releases a similar list once every few years, and each time, the nation’s top lawyers — some from Biglaw, some from legal academia, some from the in-house world, and some from the trial and appellate bars — celebrate their success in creating real change in the industry. That said, the people named to this list are relatively well-known to the general Above the Law readership, but they won’t exactly be household names to laypeople.

Which legal eagles soared into the NLJ’s list this time around? Well, the NLJ selected their influential lawyers based on their political clout, legal results, media penetration, business credibility, and thought leadership. We’ve whittled the impressive list of 100 down to our own top 10.

So who made our cut?

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The Defense of Marriage Act. California’s Proposition 8 ban on gay marriage. These were two of the big issues that the U.S. Supreme Court was deciding whether to hear this Term.

The Court just issued its certiorari orders. What happened?

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Tom Goldstein

Still, who am I to say these cases are a mistake? I am straight and married. And I am white and well off. I got mine.

SCOTUSblog founder Tom Goldstein, commenting on the many gay marriage “test cases” that might get heard this Term by the Supreme Court. SCOTUSblog has a liveblog up right now, waiting for possible certiorari grants and denials in these cases.

Is there anything more American than an argument at the Supreme Court about affirmative action?

It combines so many things unique to our country: an obsession with elite institutions (including both the Supreme Court and the University of Texas, one of our best public schools); passionate arguments about our nation’s long and complicated relationship with race; the relentless striving for success and attainment familiar to so many of us who want to be a named plaintiff in a Supreme Court case (or get into college, depending); and, of course, protests outside a government building.

My fellow lawyers, Alexis de Tocqueville was right — “[s]carcely any political question arises in the United States that is not resolved, sooner or later, into a judicial question.” Surely this form of American exceptionalism should be the most celebrated by the noble readers of Above the Law.

If there is any advantage to the way some in our nation attempt to affect the presence of minorities in elite colleges — through litigation rather than, say, appropriations — it’s that it leads to an awesome spectacle at One First Street NE.

And to that spectacle we now turn….

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As the Chief Justice announced at the start of today’s session of the Supreme Court, October Term 2011 is concluded; October Term 2012 has commenced.

And what a commencement it was. Stars of the Supreme Court bar flooded into One First Street N.E. to welcome the start of the term — and also because of the massive amount of corporate amicus work brought on by Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum.

Tom Goldstein, celebrating the ten-year anniversary of the invaluable SCOTUSblog, parked himself at the front of the lawyer’s lounge, resplendent in a pink shirt and pink tie — like Regis Philbin’s wardrobe, but in a way that worked for a lawyer.

There were two cases up for argument today. One involved whether you can sue a company with a U.S. subsidiary for very bad things it does in cahoots with the Nigerian government. The other was over the scope of federal admiralty jurisdiction….

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Right now is a great time to be a Supreme Court aficionado. There’s a big new book out about the Court, Jeffrey Toobin’s The Oath (affiliate link). And the new SCOTUS Term starts in just a few days, on Monday, October 1.

Given the time of the year, it’s not surprising that SCOTUS preview events are as common as Ninth Circuit reversals pro se cert petitions. I attended one sponsored by the Federalist Society earlier this month, where Kannon Shanmugam of Williams & Connolly offered excellent insights into October Term 2012. Our Supreme Court correspondent here at Above the Law, Matt Kaiser, went to a preview talk sponsored by the American Constitution Society (which he turned into Kaiser’s Guide To Bluffing Your Way Through Knowledge About The Supreme Court’s New Term).

That sounds like more than enough SCOTUS previews. But I couldn’t help myself from attending one more, due to the starpower of the panelists: Paul Clement, the former solicitor general who’s now a partner at Bancroft, and Tom Goldstein, the noted Supreme Court advocate and founder of the invaluable SCOTUSblog.

What did Messrs. Clement and Goldstein have to say about OT 2012?

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This morning saw significant activity at the U.S. Supreme Court. Although we did not get a ruling in the health care reform case (aka Obamacare), SCOTUS did hand down a number of important opinions. Check back later today, when we expect to have color commentary from our Supreme Court correspondent, Matt Kaiser, who attended the proceedings in person.

In the meantime, here’s a quick and dirty summary of what transpired at One First Street this morning, including links to the underlying opinions. The most high-profile case was the Court’s decision on the controversial Arizona immigration law, but there were other major cases that were resolved today as well….

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