The Supreme Court of the United States (photo by Drew Havens).
Yesterday, the New York Times ran an article by Adam Liptak on the increasingly suspect “facts” that the Supreme Court cites in some of its opinions. Whether penned by the justices themselves or the little twits who actually do the heavy lifting on the opinion-writing, opinions from the Court have become a veritable wasteland of dubious figures, outlandish claims, and hardcore pornography. Or, rather, just the first two.
Sex-crazed Stephen Breyer, for instance, is said to have relied on a discontinued blog for a statistic related to public libraries. The blog, wackyliberryfacts.blogspot.com, has two posts since 2008 and both have to do with Michael Hutchence’s death. A good read, if maybe a bit too reliant on incorrect lyrics from Suicide Blonde.
On the right side of the Court (and history…?), coozehound Samuel Alito is said to have cited an unreliable fact about background checks done by employers in a 2011 opinion. The fact? That 47 percent of Americans can’t come up with Joe Biden’s name when asked who our Vice President is. Which, as far as I can tell, is a totally true fact! But its connection to background checks is tenuous, if not downright nonexistent.
Given the fact that our nation’s entire legal edifice threatens to crumble under the weight of a thousand erroneous internet “facts,” we’ve decided to help the Court out. Here are five ways the court can get around the shoddy fact-checking in judicial opinions.
Court reporters put up with a lot. Not only are they largely condescended to by the often middling attorneys they deal with every day, but they have to listen intently to everything lawyers say all the time. And when they’ve managed to turn around two days worth of testimony into a transcript by mid-morning the next day, they get a courteous nod and a “what took you so long?”
The job really is its own circle of hell. The sort of thing that might make somebody type “I hate my job” over and over and over again instead of keeping up with the proceedings.
But not every court reporter is a martyr deserving of veneration. If, for example, a court reporting service just didn’t prepare transcripts in criminal cases for months on end, they may earn themselves a hearty benchslapping…
I’ve never met you, but I assume that you’re incompetent.
I realize that sounds a bit harsh, but it’s time someone told you the truth.
Some people assume that strangers are competent. One of my colleagues in our Law Department said to me recently: “Outside counsel says we won’t have much liability in that case.”
I naturally asked, “Is he right?”
She was shocked: “He’s a partner at a well-respected firm. We hired him. I assume he’s competent.”
That got us to talking. My colleague gives strangers the benefit of the doubt; she assumes that people are competent until they prove otherwise. I’m exactly the opposite: When I meet you, my working assumption is that you’re inept. Over time, there’s a chance you’ll convince me that I’m wrong. (But probably not.)
Why do I assume that all new people I meet are incompetent?
No, that’s too easy. Here’s the better question: Why am I right to assume that everyone’s incompetent, and why is that a helpful way to go through life?
One of the great, unspoken realities of being a new lawyer that is never mentioned in law school is that you are going to screw up – badly. And then you’re going to have to explain it to your client or supervising attorney.
You’re going to miss a deadline, not file an objection, miss some case law, or not contact an attorney involved in the case on a hearing. A mistake is going to be made and it will be your fault.
You may be tempted to try and shift the blame. Come up with excuses as to why something outside of your control caused the problem. That you were swamped with work and had too much on your plate. He said, she said. But if it was a task assigned to you, it is your personal responsibility to make sure it was completed on time and specification.
As the task, and subsequent mistake, are your responsibility – you must own it….
Over the course of the past few years, law school personnel have found it especially difficult to keep their students’ personal information private. In April 2012, someone at Baylor Law School sent out an email containing a trove of admissions data — from names, to grades, to LSAT scores — to every student admitted to the Class of 2015. In March 2014, Loyola Law School in Los Angeles sent out an email with a heap of financial information for the entire graduating class — up to and including Social Security numbers and loan amounts — to some members of the Class of 2014.
Today, we’ve got another email screw-up for you, and this is one of the juiciest and most prestigious accidental data dumps we’ve seen yet. Someone at a T14 law school “inadvertently” sent out every piece of vital information possible about its clerkship applicants — from GPA, to class rank, to work experience, to recommenders, right down to where their girlfriends live — to everyone on its clerkship listserv.
If you’d like to see how you stack up against elite law students, now you can. We’ve got all the data…
Justice Scalia made what’s being called “a hugely embarrassing mistake” and an “epic blunder” after he wrote one of his characteristically dismissive and belittling dissents. Unfortunately it seems Justice Scalia (or his clerks) failed to do proper research and based an entire section of his dissent on a past decision that he completely mischaracterized.
A past decision that he wrote himself. Cue effect.
Maybe if he spent more time focusing on the law instead of fomenting revolution he could have avoided this….
In the wake of the Heartbleed incident, everyone is understandably concerned about their online privacy.
If you’ve applied to law school with the assistance of the good folks at LSAC, you probably appreciated the opportunity to have your law school application process entirely automated. But you also placed your personal information at risk, up to and including your Social Security number, due to some serious (but easily remedied) security flaws.
Thankfully, they know about the problem and are working on it.
Maybe. Eventually. It’s not really clear.
Which, considering the gravity of the risk, is just as discomforting an answer as blowing it off completely….
Congratulations to everyone who passed the February bar exam. As we recently learned from several late-night texts from readers, results just came out in New York (which tends to be one of the last states to post). Private look-up for New Yorkers is available here, and results should be posted publicly soon.
Judging from the timing of the texts we received, New York results were available sometime after midnight today (Thursday). But one candidate found out his results on Wednesday afternoon. How?
Yesterday, Florida released the results of the February 2014 Bar Exam. At least they thought they did. Many people were disappointed when they learned that they failed.
Then, a few hours later, Florida told people to “double-check” their exam results. Some of the people who thought they failed actually passed. Isn’t that a dream of every failed test taker? “Oh, the graders must have made a mistake, I’m sure I passed.”
See, Florida really is a place where dreams come true. It’s the Incompetent Kingdom…
Most days, I’m proud of owning my own small law firm. And while technically, I’m not a solo — I’ve had an assistant for over eight years now as well as a revolving crew of of counsel, part-time associates and independent contractors — many of my colleagues lump me and most very small law firms into that category nonetheless. So when other solos act foolishly or unprofessionally, it reflects poorly on the rest of us.
Understand, I’m not picking on solos. Let’s face it — large law firms are hardly paragons of upstanding conduct; one needn’t look further than the recent Dewey & LeBoeuf scandal as proof. But for whatever reason, when Biglaw behaves badly, that conduct doesn’t diminish the reputation of Biglaw in the eyes of judges and other lawyers as it does for solos.
So that’s why it bugs me when solos do stupid — and often avoidable — things. Here are my top three peeves:
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 seven years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Things have changed recently in Korea – a few of our US and UK client firms are looking, very selectively, for a lateral US associate hire. Until just recently, there was not much hiring like this going on in Korea, since US and UK firms started opening offices there. We have already placed two US associates in Korea in the past month at top firms. Most of the hiring partners we work with in Korea do not actively work with other recruiters.
If you are a Korean fluent US associate in London, New York or another major US market, 2nd to 6th year, at a top 20 firm, with cap markets or M&A focus (or mix), or project finance background, and you are interested in lateraling to Korea to a top US or UK firm, please feel free to reach out to us at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Our head of Asia, Evan Jowers, was just in Korea recently, and Evan and Robert Kinney will be in Korea in a few weeks. We are in the process of helping several firms open new offices in Korea (a number of which are interviewing our partner level candidates) and also helping existing offices there fill openings.
Professor Joel P. Trachtman has developed a unique, practical guide to help lawyers analyze, argue, and write effectively.
The Tools of Argument: How the Best Lawyers Think, Argue, and Win is a highly readable 200-page book, available for about $10 in paperback or e-book. Chapters focus on foundational principles in legal argument: procedure, interpretation of contracts and statutes, use of evidence, and more. The material covered is taught only implicitly in law school. Yet, when up-and-coming attorneys master these straightforward tools, they will think and argue like the best lawyers.
For most attorneys, time spent managing the books is a necessary evil at best. Yet it is undeniably a crucial aspect of running a successful practice. With that in mind, we invite you to view or download a free webinar by Above the Law and our friends at Clio to learn how to better manage your finances.
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