Windsor v. United States

This week, a Louisiana court became the first federal district court to uphold a state ban on same-sex marriage since the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in U.S. v. Windsor. Judge Martin Feldman of the Eastern District of Louisiana granted the state’s motion for summary judgment in Robicheaux v. Caldwell. Finding that the claims of same-sex couples did not implicate a fundamental right triggering heightened scrutiny of the state law, he applied rational basis review to the challenge. Judge Feldman rejected arguments that sexual orientation warrants intermediate or heightened scrutiny based on the Supreme Court’s ruling in Windsor, as well as Equal Protection arguments against the Louisiana ban based on sex discrimination.

“Many states have democratically chosen to recognize same-sex marriage,” he writes. “But until recent years, it had no place at all in this nation’s history and tradition. Public attitude might be becoming more diverse, but any right to same-sex marriage is not yet so entrenched as to be fundamental. There is simply no fundamental right, historically or traditionally, to same-sex marriage.”

American attitudes about LGBT people have changed. The fight for same-sex marriage has come far, fast. African Americans, women, disabled people, and members of other disenfranchised groups should envy the speed with which the LGBT community has achieved so much success. Not only have laws changed, but popular moral sensibilities have changed as well. In 2008, opposing marriage equality would put you in the company of most California voters. In 2014, expressing moral opposition to homosexuality can get you in big trouble. You can even face retroactive stigma — Brendan Eich, the former CEO of Mozilla who was ousted in 2014 because of his support of California’s Prop 8 in 2008, can attest to that.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Fast Progress, Fundamental Rights: How Much Do Changing Attitudes On Same-Sex Marriage Matter?”

On Tuesday evening, I returned to the offices of Wachtell Lipton, the law firm where I toiled as an associate years ago. Luckily, I wasn’t there to bill hours; instead, I attended a reception marking the launch of a delightful new book, The Mother Court: Tales of Cases that Mattered in America’s Greatest Trial Court (affiliate link).

“The Mother Court” is the nickname for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, regarded by many as the preeminent federal trial court in the nation. In the book of the same name, James Zirin, a leading litigator who’s now senior counsel in the New York office of Sidley Austin, shares with readers the fascinating history of this top tribunal.

In a review that ran yesterday in the New York Law Journal, Thomas E.L. Dewey hailed the book as a “richly textured, immensely readable overview of the modern history of the Southern District of New York.” Last month, in the New York Review of Books, Judge Jed Rakoff praised Zirin’s “fluid prose and eye for detail.”

What fun tidbits and interesting opinions did James Zirin share in his remarks on Tuesday night?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Mother Court: Tales Of Cases That Mattered In America’s Greatest Trial Court”

* Remember to enter the Sixth Annual Law Revue competition. The submission deadline is Thursday at 5. [Above the Law]

* Johnny Depp subpoenaed in a murder case. He’ll finally pay for what he did to basic dignity in that Lone Ranger movie. [TMZ]

* Speaking of murder, a court in Pakistan has dropped the attempted murder charges that had been filed against a 9-month-old baby. Maggie Simpson nods in approval. [NBC News]

* The difference between this student note and your student note is that this one is guiding Department of Justice policy. [Wall Street Journal]

* Professor Susannah Pollvogt identifies the key issues raised in the Kitchen v. Herbert oral argument. [Pollvogtarian]

* The Income Tax turns 100. You’re looking fabulous. [TaxProf Blog]

* The fallout from Heartbleed continues. Here are a few legal websites affected by the glitch. [ATL Redline]

* Jon Stewart has some choice words for the Gibson Dunn report that Chris Christie commissioned and that not-so-surprisingly came out in Christie’s favor. Video after the jump…. [Comedy Central]

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Non-Sequiturs: 04.14.14″


Justice Scalia

[Victories for same-sex marriage] will keep happening. And someday soon, Justice Scalia will have the chance to deliver the most vitriolic ‘I told you so’ in recent Supreme Court memory.

Jesse Wegman, a member of the New York Times Editorial Board, discussing how prescient Justice Antonin Scalia has been on the issue of marriage equality.

(Additional notable quotes and links, after the jump.)

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Hell Hath No Fury Like Justice Scalia… Vindicated?”

Our ten nominees for 2013 Lawyer of the Year honors were a distinguished and diverse group. They included a Supreme Court justice, a U.S. Attorney, a governor, a law school dean, and some of Biglaw’s brightest stars. They also included a plaintiffs’ lawyer accused of awful acts, a shameless self-promoter fond of letting it all hang out, and a young attorney with a problematic sideline. We cover it all here at Above the Law.

Our prior winners have come from the savory rather than salacious side of the ledger. Here are ATL’s past Lawyers of the Year:

For 2013, who will join their distinguished ranks? Let’s find out….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Above the Law’s 2013 Lawyer of the Year Competition: The Winner!”

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court issued two eagerly anticipated rulings in major gay marriage cases. In United States v. Windsor, the challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act, the Court struck down Section 3 of DOMA. In Hollingsworth v. Perry, the challenge to California’s Proposition 8 ban on gay marriage, the Court held that the petitioners lacked standing to appeal, vacated the decision of the Ninth Circuit, and remanded with instructions to dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. This left the district court’s ruling intact and had the effect of allowing same-sex marriages to take place in California (although there’s some litigation winding its way through the courts on this matter).

Now that we have the decisions, let’s take a deeper dive into them. What do they reflect about the Court’s role in society? And what can we expect from future SCOTUS rulings in this area?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “After Perry & Windsor: A Conversation About The Supreme Court’s Rulings”

‘Ding Dong, DOMA’s Dead’ (click to enlarge).

How many parades feature successful Supreme Court litigants? Or signs about federal statutes?

But New York City’s Gay Pride March, held every year on the last Sunday in June, is no ordinary parade. Here are some photos I took yesterday that the legal nerds among you might appreciate….

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It’s just been confusing. We’ll just be glad to do our taxes just like any other family.

Andrew Cohen, a lawyer in New York who married his husband last year, discussing one effect of the Supreme Court’s ruling in United States v. Windsor, which struck down section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act.

(Additional DOMA discussion, after the jump.)

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Good News For Divorce Lawyers, Bad News For Tax Lawyers?”

That was tiring, huh?

A dizzying array of legal news delivered almost non-stop for an entire week. Emotional highs when DOMA is struck down, lows when a pillar of the legal landscape for nearly 50 years is swept aside, leaving millions of Americans even more concerned about their constitutional rights than they were before. There was an epic filibuster and failed jokes. This was a hell of a week to be covering the law.

As the frenzied week draws to a close, I decided to look back and compile my personal review of the major events of the week, gathered in one omnibus post.

So let’s take a look at the week that was ranging from Aaron Hernandez to the Supreme Court…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Five Stories That Made This an Exhausting Week of Legal News”

* Edith Windsor’s lawyer said she thought her client’s case was “simple,” but it proved to take a little longer than she thought to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act. [New York Law Journal]

* Conservative pols are up in arms about the SCOTUS decisions, promising to file constitutional amendments, but like Rand Paul said, “As a country, we can agree to disagree.” [Washington Post]

* Nate Silver breaks down gay marriage by the numbers. By August, 30% of Americans will live in states where same-sex marriage has been legalized. [FiveThirtyEight / New York Times]

* Wherein the ancient artifacts of a once storied and prestigious Biglaw firm are touted by a furniture liquidation company as “like new, for less!” Dewey know how embarrassing this is? [Am Law Daily]

* Sorry, Joel Tenenbaum, but the First Circuit affirmed your $675K debt to the RIAA. That’s what happens when you blame illegal downloads on burglars and foster kids. [Law & Disorder / Ars Technica]

* It looks like David Boies claimed two victories yesterday. The Court of Federal Claims gave Maurice Greenberg the green light to sue the U.S. over the terms of AIG’s bailout. [DealBook / New York Times]

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