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Hug an Activist Judge

Posted in Judges on Sunday April 15 2012 @ 5:52am

We at court-o-rama are fond of saying Hug an activist judge. The saying even appears on the back of our beautiful (but extremely rare) t-shirts. What does it mean?

Activist judges see a problem and are so moved that they find a solution. They bind law and equity in creative ways. They are responsible for much of the good done by courts.

Activist judges invented drug courts. They carved out a niche for veterans when they created veterans courts. Over a century ago, activist judges realized that children are not merely mini-adults, and should be treated differently.

Activist judges are human, and thus provide human solutions to messy human problems. Their opinions are not written by robots. Sentencing is an art, not a science.

So why don't we embrace them? Because they can be too human. They sometimes sit on the other side of our fence. Sometimes they do more harm than good. They don't fit our ideal of blind justice when they see flaws in the system. They have removed the blindfold and the blinders; they wear the robe but walk in the living world.

Full disclosure:'s PayPal account receives a nickel every time anyone, anywhere utters the phrase activist judge.

Hug and activist judge today!

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In re: Goldstein

Posted in Judges on Tuesday September 14 2010 @ 7:52pm

Of *course* he works for a law firm -- he lives in DC!

Of *course* he thinks everybody is Best Justice Evah! It's fun to watch the SCOTUS. Those who do are hooked. Even (especially?) Justice Scalia can be entertaining. It's hard to watch the nation's highest court day in and day out and not be a little awed by its greatness. If that makes a person lose objectivity, then court-o-rama (and Jur-E Bulletin before it) pleads guilty, too.

So why diss Tom Goldstein? He founded SCOTUSblog, a cutting-edge way for the public to think about the Supreme Court of the United States. Before SCOTUSblog, what was there? And what more do we have now?

In addition to being -- gasp! -- a practicing lawyer in DC and cutting-edge blogger (seriously -- remember, this is the Court cameras will not be permitted to show us for quite some time, yet SCOTUSblog brings daily dispatches to the people), Tom seems like a nice guy.

But, some disagree. See, e.g., Tom Goldstein and the Perils of Conflict-plagued Commentary, Glenn Greenwald, Salon (September 11, 2010). This commentator thinks Salon has Dahlia envy. We know we do.

Listen to another voice discuss the SCOTUS: Stephen Breyer: The Court, The Cases And The Conflicts, Fresh Air (September 14, 2010).

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Toldya So

Posted in Judges on Tuesday August 10 2010 @ 8:30pm

Did we not say, at least a million times, Hug an activist judge?

We did. We even put it on a damn t-shirt.

Now everyone (OK, not EVERYone) else is saying it, too. See In Defense of the New Judicial Activists Emily Bazelon, Slate (August 9, 2010). Mr. Rettenmund of Boy Culture says Recuse This (August 5, 2010).

Hug an activist judge!

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Con Law Fun

Posted in Judges on Tuesday August 10 2010 @ 2:21pm

So we strung three words together, one of which doesn't belong.

Fun? Really?

A barrel of monkeys it's not, but anyone who ever wanted to get inside the mind of Justice Breyer and learn something to boot might check out On Handguns and the Law, Stephen Breyer, New York Review of Books (August 19, 2010).

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The Woman Who Knew Too Much

Posted in Judges on Friday May 14 2010 @ 6:18pm

She's waaaay too smart!

Not enough judicial experience!

Softball player -- bad news!

The truth about Elena Kagan is that being too smart was never a hurdle to a job as SCOTUS Justice. When it becomes one, we're all in trouble.

Experience? Solicitor General is a pretty good start. Keep in mind that the current Chief spent fewer than two years as a judge before being appointed for his good looks and celebrity co-stars.

Being dean of the University of Chicago of the East's law school is an admirable gig. Deans have to get people to work together, raise funds, and maintain academic cred for themselves and for their school. Clerking for the likes of Justice Marshall and Judge Mikva helps, too.

We're sure she can figure out how the robe goes on all by herself.

And softball? Well, half of court-o-rama would probably prefer a Twins player (or perhaps a Doublemint Twin), but we work with what we're given. The other half could not care less! Softball? Really? That's all ya got?

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Random Read-O-Rama

Posted in Judges on Thursday April 22 2010 @ 7:19pm

So much to look at, so little time!

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Random Reads: SCOTUS Edition

Posted in Judges on Saturday April 17 2010 @ 7:44pm

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Berkeley, Shmerkeley, or Yoo Who?

Posted in Judges on Saturday April 17 2010 @ 6:00pm

Oh no! Thw WSJ is afraid of the b-word when it comes to SCOTUS nominees: Berkeley. See Berkeley's Judge: A Liberal Nominee of Illiberal Temperament, WJS (April 17, 2010).

But wait...on the very next page (paper version), see The Supreme Court and National Security, by -- guess who! John Yoo!

Who is Yoo? A Boalt Hall (aka Berkeley Law) professor. Also: former torture apologist.

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The Stevens Pool

Posted in Judges on Wednesday April 07 2010 @ 5:00am

Aren't you glad you're not a Supreme Court justice? The minute you turn 90-ish and whisper thoughts of retirement, the wonks of the world start thinking about your successors. They compile lists, argue about religion, and pull out their extra-special SCOTUS crystal balls. Nobody's making the poor guy a cake or planning a party. With all the fuss, you'd think they went and changed Scrabble or something. Hey, don't let those enormous Supreme Court doors hit you on the way out!

Nevertheless, it is hard to ignore the ramifications of Justice Stevens's impending exit from the bench. NPR's Nina Totenberg ponders the religion of Supreme Court justices. There are now more devout Catholics on the bench than there are in most pews these days. Moreoever, Justice Stevens is a minority -- he's the only white Protestant male on our high court. See Supreme Court May Soon Lack Protestant Justices, Nina Totenberg, NPR (April 7, 2010).

Meanwhile, dahling Dahlia Lithwick goes all Levi-Strauss on the issue. See Short Shrift: The Supreme Court Shortlist as Political Anthropology, Dahlia Lithwick, Slate (April 5, 2010).

And, TV star Jeffrey Toobin explains that Justice Stevens is verrrry old. See After Stevens, Jeffrey Toobin, New Yorker (March 22, 2010).

For our part, we like to remind the world that Justice Stevens was a Ford appointee. Why is that important? Well, it means that Ford did actually do something that had a lasting impression. It also means this: ya never know. Take that, all you Kreskinesque commentators!

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Goodbye Handshake

Posted in Judges on Saturday April 03 2010 @ 2:45pm

Chief Justice Moyer was the kind of person who would attend an event and greet people at the door with a handshake. Not the Vote for me! kind, but the Glad you could stop by! kind. We know the difference.

So we were very sorry to hear that this tireless advocate of ADR (he started one of the first and best foreclosure mediation programs), election reformer (he opposed judicial elections), and all-around nice guy passed away yesterday. He worked to improve state-federal bench relations, supported innovations for court interpreters, enjoyed bipartisan support, worked well with other branches of government (if that doesn't seem important, see: Florida), and championed drug courts well ahead of the fray. In fact, it was at an NADCP conference where he was handing out handshakes -- not as a keynote speaker, not as a candidate, but as a person there to support the work of panelists at a session on state drug courts.

His opinions weren't too bad, either. Sure we will have to agree to disagree at times, but a recent decision requiring a warrant for cell phone searches set the tone for other jurisdictions who might not yet have examined the question.

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