Women’s Issues

“Do you want me to write an opinion and say there’s no free speech right to quietly converse on an issue of public importance?”

– Justice Anthony Kennedy, in oral arguments for McCullen v. Coakley

On Wednesday, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in McCullen v. Coakley, a constitutional challenge to a Massachusetts law creating buffer zones, sometimes called “zones of exclusion,” around abortion clinics. The law at issue, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 266 § 120E ½ (2007), provides in part as follows: “No person shall knowingly enter or remain on a public way or sidewalk adjacent to a reproductive health care facility within a radius of 35 feet of any portion of an entrance, exit or driveway of a reproductive health care facility.” Eleanor McCullen, one of the challengers of the law, is a 76-year-old grandmother who in the past has stood on public sidewalks near abortion clinics in order to initiate one-on-one, non-confrontational conversations with women seeking abortions. The petitioners claim that, over the years, hundreds of women have accepted offers of help from McCullen and the other petitioners. They argue that the new law violates their right to free speech.

The First Circuit opinion below characterizes the plaintiffs’ appeal as advancing “a salmagundi of arguments, old and new, some of which are couched in a creative recalibration of First Amendment principles.” That opinion finds that “[t]he Massachusetts statute at issue here is a content-neutral, narrowly tailored time-place-manner regulation that protects the rights of prospective patients and clinic employees without offending the First Amendment rights of others.”

Unfortunately, the First Circuit is wrong about each of those points. Even more unfortunately, this law does the exact opposite of what most of us would hope . . . .

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Did you know you can do a clinic at Yale Law School if you are a 1L? I’d imagine that a lot of schools offer this kind of experiential learning given the current market conditions, but Yale Law has been doing it for a while. It seems a bit aggressive to allow 1Ls to talk to real people with actual problems, but I spent my first year trying to figure out how to keep my drinking up at college levels, so what do I know?

Apparently Yale Law touts first-year clinical experience as a “thing” that sets Yale apart — as if its top ranking wasn’t enough for students with an embarrassment of good choices. Our own David Lat took part in a clinic as a 1L; it continued into his 2L year, when he conducted a trial and got a published opinion (he won the case, because of course he did).

Lat got to do all that, and he is a man. I’m not saying that those two things are connected, but some people at YLS are questioning whether these clinical placements are equally open to women…

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Ted Olson’s hourly rate.

* While we’re celebrating recently anointed Biglaw partner classes, let’s take a minute to call out the firms that haven’t bestowed the honor upon a single woman this year. Cheers, jerks. [Am Law Daily]

* The results of the NLJ’s Law Firm Billing Survey are out, and lo and behold, one of the top partners in the country is pushing $2,000 an hour for his services. Congrats, Ted! [National Law Journal (sub. req.)]

* Everyone’s buzzing about the federal law clerk who’s been accused of attempted aggravated rape and solicitation of a minor under 13. Don’t let that legendary 4.0 GPA go to waste. [Times-Picayune]

* Congratulations to Gerchen Keller Capital, the litigation finance firm founded by former SCOTUS clerks and hedge-fund alumni, on raising $260 million for its new fund. [DealBook / New York Times]

* Iowa is thinking about allowing law grads to practice ASAP instead of having to pass a bar exam. Paired with its recent tuition cuts, the Hawkeye State is looking better and better. [Des Moines Register]

* If you’re in the unfortunate situation of still having to look for a law job once OCI has ended, then you might want to start considering applying for some of the other law jobs that don’t want you. [Mashable]

* The incarceration of a blogger known for making salacious allegations against federal judges raises First Amendment concerns. [New York Times]


University of Denver law professor Nancy Leong continues her quest to make the internet safe for female law professors who engage in questionable scholarship. When last we heard from Leong, she was getting called out by Paul Campos for “research” that involved putting up white versus Asian profiles on Ashley Madison.

But Leong is better known for her ongoing dispute with online commenter “dybbuk.” Dybbuk made a number of nasty, racist, and sexist comments about Leong. Leong says that the comments have made her fear for her safety. She’s figured out who Dybbuk really is and is now asking his state bar to launch an ethics inquiry into his online behavior.

If you don’t like people trying to make your life awful, you shouldn’t talk on the internet. I think that rule applies equally to Leong and Dybbuk…

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Amy Chua: She’s baaaaaaack!

* “Either access to abortion will be dramatically restricted in the coming year or perhaps the pushback will begin.” We’re moving back in history. Here’s hoping pro-choice advocacy will be born anew in 2014. [New York Times]

* George S. Canellos, the SEC’s co-chief of enforcement, announced his departure on Friday, and people are already wondering whether he’ll return to his old stomping grounds at Milbank Tweed. [DealBook / New York Times]

* We hope legal educators had fun at the Association of American Law Schools annual meeting, but we hope most of all that they learned what needs to change to really make legal education pay. [WSJ Law Blog]

* “I believe women lawyers can contribute a lot to the legal system.” Saudi Arabia now has its first female law firm dedicated to bringing women’s issues to the country’s patriarchal courts. Congratulations! [RT]

* A Starbucks spokeswoman issued a defense to the cease-and-desist response letter that went viral worldwide, and it reads just like how her company’s coffee tastes: bland. [International Business Times]

* Amy “Tiger Mom” Chua is back with a vengeance, co-authoring a controversial new book (affiliate link) with her husband, Jed Rubenfeld. Which ethnic cultural groups are superior? [New York Post]

‘I’ll eat my placenta with some fava beans and a nice chianti.’

We steam it really gently over ginger, a very traditional postpartum herb, and lemon. There’s a tea left over that tastes surprisingly good. We have the mother drink that tea. It’s very nourishing.

Raeben Nolan of Tree of Life Placenta Services, describing just one of the wonderful ways that women can feast upon their placentas now that Oregon has legalized their ability to take their afterbirth home, after birth.

Reema Bajaj

* In his year-end report, Chief Justice Roberts politely asked Congress to make it rain on the federal judiciary in fiscal year 2014, because “[t]he future would be bleak” without additional funding. [Reuters]

* Utah finally asked for Supreme Court intervention in its quest to stop gay couples from marrying, but Justice Sotomayor wants a response from the other side before she weighs in. WWSSD? [BuzzFeed]

* Perhaps Justice Sotomayor saw the humor in this: she just gave a group of nuns a temporary reprieve from having to give out birth control to a bunch of women who have taken vows of chastity. [Bloomberg]

* Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego Steven Davis? Oh boy, Dewey have some news for you! The failed firm’s former chairman is now the chief legal representative for Ras al Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates. [WSJ Law Blog]

* “The Second Amendment does not preclude reasonable regulation.” A judge upheld the majority of New York’s new gun laws as constitutional. Opponents are ready to lock and load on appeal. [New York Times]

* Just because your law school isn’t ranked, it doesn’t mean you can’t dream big. Case in point: one of this year’s Skadden Fellows will graduate from John Marshall (Chicago) this spring. [National Law Journal]

* Reema Bajaj, the attorney who pleaded guilty to a prostitution charge, decided that she wasn’t in the mood to ride this Johnson any longer. Like her panties, the case has been dropped. [Daily Chronicle]

As 2013 draws to a close, let’s look back at the 10 biggest stories in the legal profession over the past year. This is an annual tradition here at Above the Law, which we’ve done in 2012, 2011, 2010, and 2009. We’ll fire up the old Google Analytics machine to get data on our most popular posts, based on pageviews, and share the results with you.

Before turning to specific stories, let’s look at the top general discussion topics here at ATL. For 2013, our most trafficked category page was Biglaw, which bumped Law Schools out of the top spot — a spot that Law Schools held from 2010 through 2012. Now that the word is out about the perils of getting a law degree, leading to plummeting applications, perhaps it’s time to move on from the “don’t go to law school” narrative.

After Biglaw and Law Schools, our third most-popular category page was, as usual, Bonuses. This wasn’t a terribly exciting year for bonuses — there were no spring bonuses, and Cravath and its many followers paid out the same bonuses as last year — but people still want to know the score.

Our fourth most-popular category page was small law firms. Small firms, including boutiques, are an area of increasing focus and readership for us — and also where many of the job opportunities are these days.

Moving on from the topic pages, what were the 10 most popular individual posts at Above the Law in 2013?

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* A federal judge just struck down Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage. [Salt Lake Tribune]

* After striking down Canada’s anti-prostitution laws, our neighbors to the North went ahead and approved a law school that functionally bans gays. What’s going on up there? Play keep away with the Stanley Cup for 20 years and they just lose their damn minds. [TaxProf Blog]

* Chief Judge Alex Kozinski objects, but nobody wants to hear it. [Josh Blackman's Blog]

* Professor Richard Sander won the right to examine law school race, attendance and grade information, in a bid to prove his central theory that affirmative action somehow hurts black folks. I guess the California Supreme Court is on Team Sander. [San Jose Mercury News]

* Amy Schulman, the powerful general counsel at Pfizer, is out — and now there’s some interesting speculation as to why. [Law and More]

* So now everyone’s writing legal opinions over Fantasy Football trades. [BigLaw Rebel]

* Jim Harbaugh gets all his legal acumen from Judge Judy. Next thing you know he’ll be objecting to “What’s your deal?” for lack of foundation. [ESPN]

* Speaking of Jennifer Lawrence, she can probably help with your International Law final. [The Onion]

* There’s a rundown of the top patent law stories of 2013 on the web next month. And there’s CLE to be had! [Patently-O]

So, here’s a statement: “It is not a crime in Canada to sell sex for money.” Guess who said it? Well, that would be Beverley McLachlin, the current Chief Justice of Canada.

Well, you know what they say: you don’t pay a prostitute for sex, you pay her to leave afterwards.

Joking aside, Justice McLachlin struck down a swath of Canadian anti-prostitution laws, and gave the government a year to come up with more tailored restrictions. “Parliament has the power to regulate against nuisances, but not at the cost of the health, safety and lives of prostitutes.”

Are you kidding me? We’re over here arguing over whether inbred, homophobic nutjobs can say they’re inbred, homophobic nutjobs, while Canada is busy de-criminalizing prostitution? The best argument in favor of global warming is that it might make Canada warm enough to be inhabited sometime in the future.

Some women’s groups have a problem with this decision, for reasons honestly passing understanding…

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