Yaakov Roth

Over the last two decades, a dedicated Supreme Court bar has gained prominence, focusing on arguing the increasingly few cases before the justices each term. These lawyers face fierce competition in persuading clients to hire them, participating in a not-so-glamorous competition known in the industry as a “beauty contest.” At these lawyerly pageants, attorneys competing to take the case make their pitch and try to persuade the client that their firm is the best suitor.

In my new book, Unprecedented: The Constitutional Challenge to Obamacare (affiliate link), I go backstage and look at two of the most high-profile beauty contests in Supreme Court history: who would represent (1) the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) and (2) twenty-six states in their respective challenges to the constitutionality of Obamacare.

How did these litigants go about choosing their counsel? Which lawyers and law firms got passed over?

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I had packed up my things and was about to turn off the light. That’s when the phone rang here at the Circumcision Law Desk. The shrill tone of the ring sounded more urgent than usual. I put down my box of Pulitzers and picked up the receiver.

“Hell-” “You’ve gotta write quick, Mister! Gawker ran a story on circumcision and it’s crazy!” I replied that I was too old for this game. Tracking down every circumcision tip had left me a hollow shell of a man. But the kid was insistent. “What about the babies???” Now you listen here, you sniveling punk, I said. I was never in it for the babies. Heck, I never could figure out just what I thought about circumcision. Mutilation, health, hygiene, aesthetics. The whole racket made my head spin. And that’s when the young punk said something that set me on my present course.

“There might be a lawsuit. Some Jews are crazy-mad about a new regulation passed by the City of New York and they’re threatening all kinds of holy hell over it. It’s not that New York is outlawing circumcision. It’s not about that. It’s that… well, it’s that some of these Jewish folks do something.” Out with it! “I can’t… I don’t wanna say… It’s that these Jewish fellas, some of them… Well…”

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