Saturday, April 22, 2023
Comments Against Angel Reese Call Us to Check for Bias in Our Writing
As I’ve mentioned before, I was lucky enough to teach a seminar on bias in legal analysis and writing this semester. Much of the class focused on implicit bias and the way we can use words as lawyers to help find and remove bias. Occasionally, we encountered bias in court opinions, legal scholarship, and the like that was almost express. While easier to spot and remove than subtle implicit bias, overt bias also reminds us, as lawyers and legal writers, to scrutinize our own writing.
One example of clear bias in the media that could help us as legal writers came at the end of the NCAA basketball tournament this year. Students and I were struck by social media and sportscaster disparate discussion of a strong, powerful player for the University of Iowa and a strong, powerful player for Louisiana State University. These women, Angel Reese of LSU and Caitlin Clark of Iowa, are incredible competitors who each led their teams to the NCAA championship game. Along the way to the final game against each other, which LSU won, both played beautifully and both sported almost identical ponytails. Both also made the same “you can’t see me” taunt to opponents during the tournament by waving their outstretched hands in front of their faces, to show they were too quick for opponents to see and stop. In response to these taunts, Clark faced praise, including from ESPN and pro wrestler John Cena, who invented the “you can’t see me” taunt, but Reese faced profanities and statements she was “classless.”
The difference: Clark is white, while Reese is Black. Our class had a robust discussion of what the different language used to describe these similar athletes using identical taunts in the same tournament meant to us as legal writers, and the students inspired me to share this incident here.
As Mike Freeman of USA Today explained, “Clark is a skilled trash talker and used the John Cena "you can't see me" taunt multiple times throughout the tournament.” Mike Freeman, Reaction to Angel Reese taunting Caitlin Clark shows the double standard for Black Athletes, https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/columnist/mike-freeman/2023/04/03/angel-reeses-taunt-iowas-caitlin-clark-shows-double-standard/11591498002/ (Apr. 3, 2023). Freeman continued, “[i]n the closing moment of the championship game, Reese did the same taunt and also pointed to her hand, signaling she was getting a championship ring.” Id.
Aisha Sultan of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch noted Clark often taunted opponents. Sultan explained: the “you can’t see me,” gesture “had been used by Clark toward a Louisville opponent in the Elite Eight” round of the NCAA tournament, and “ESPN even produced a segment hailing Clark as the “Queen of Clapbacks” featuring these moments of taunting by her.” Aisha Sultan, Backlash to Angel Reese raises question: Which athletes get called 'classless'?, https://www.stltoday.com/lifestyles/parenting/aisha-sultan/sultan-backlash-to-angel-reese-raises-question-which-athletes-get-called-classless/article_fa75a30d-67d7-56c1-aac6-ea09c00b638f.html (Apr. 3, 2023). “The reaction to Reese [using the taunt in the final game], however, included Dave Portnoy, founder of the site Barstool Sports, tweeting that she was a ‘classless piece of (expletive)’ and Keith Olbermann calling her an ‘(expletive) idiot’ on Twitter.” Id.
Freeman honed in on the use of language here, and his notes are especially helpful to appellate writers as we edit our work. For example, he described what he called stereotypes of sports as:
When Black players are aggressive, and talk trash, they are thugs and animals.
When white players are aggressive, and talk trash, they are passionate and fiery.
This stereotype goes back decades. Larry Bird was the greatest trash talker of all time but was celebrated for his passion. Tom Brady screamed at teammates and coaches and was viewed as scrappy. John Thompson's Georgetown Hoyas, who played defense with spirit and ferocity, were called thugs. Fight[ing] in hockey is seen as tradition. Fight[ing] in NASCAR is seen as cool and spirited. Fights in NBA games lead to white commentators asking: "Where are the fathers?"
What can we learn from this incident to catch less obvious bias in our own writing? The long answer: my class spent fourteen weeks looking at scholarship on writing and bias to help us start to answer this question, and removing bias takes work and careful attention. One shorter answer: many of the rules of good writing, like using active voice and direct sentence structure, help us avoid bias. Being attentive to our own underlying privilege and bias and asking a trusted colleague to proofread helps too. There are many thoughtful ideas on addressing bias in our legal publications. For just a few, consider recent articles, like I Think He’s Nice But He Might Be Mad About Something, 25 U.C. Davis Soc. J. L. Rev. 73, 99 (2021), and older scholarship, like Prof. Lucinda Finley’s Breaking Women’s Silence in Law: The Dilemma of the Gendered Nature of Legal Reasoning, 64 Notre Dame L. Rev. 886, 886-97, 909 (1989).
I give this example of overt bias in sports discussions not as a suggestion appellate lawyers often show such bias, but as a reminder we all must be as thoughtful as possible in the words we choose. My students helped me see we should all take the time to edit for bias when we check for clarity and punctuation, and we should mentor new appellate writers to do the same.
April 22, 2023 in Appellate Advocacy, Appellate Court Reform, Appellate Justice, Appellate Practice, Current Affairs, Legal Ethics, Legal Profession, Legal Writing | Permalink | Comments (0)
Saturday, April 15, 2023
Why Paul Clement Is So Good
Attorney Paul Clement is among the best attorneys – and oral advocates – in the United States. And for good reason. His oral advocacy skills are second to none. In fact, listening to even one of Paul Clement’s arguments before the United States Supreme Court provides law students and young lawyers with invaluable tips on what it takes to be an outstanding advocate. Below are a few reasons why Paul Clement is among the country’s best lawyers.
As Woody Allen said, 90% of life is just showing up. And when you do show up, it’s critical to have confidence. Paul Clement has the confidence (or ‘swagger’) that reflects self-assuredness and conviction in his arguments. Put simply, he owns the courtroom and commands respect.
No attorney can outwork Paul Clement. He is so prepared that he never uses notes and can cite the page and line number of, for example, a deposition. In short, Clement knows every detail of his case, including the law that governs its disposition.
3. Conversational tone
Many lawyers who argue before the United Supreme Court will understandably be nervous and, perhaps, overly formalistic when making their arguments.
Not Paul Clement. When Clement argues before the Supreme Court, he has a conversation with the Court, much like you would have a conversation with one of your friends. As Professor Richard Lazarus of Harvard Law School states, “[h]e’s very smooth. He’s engaging. Formal but not too much so. Extremely credible and straight with the justices. You don’t have the sense that anyone is trying to sell you anything.”
It almost seems that Clement enjoys engaging with the justices, which reflects his confidence and personability.
4. Integrity and credibility
Paul Clement has integrity. He never misrepresents the law or the facts. He never acts in an arrogant, disrespectful, or dismissive manner. Rather, he presents the law and facts honestly and thoroughly, and explains with persuasiveness why he should win. Doing so reflects his integrity and enhances his credibility with the Court.
As one Supreme Court advocate stated, “[h]e just doesn’t do things that upset people … [t]here’s no edge to him.”
Paul Clement is extremely persuasive. Whether it is, for example, his tone, word choice, ability to distinguish precedent, skill at addressing unfavorable facts and crafting a compelling narrative, or using non-verbal techniques, Paul Clement is among the most talented at telling a persuasive story that maximizes his likelihood of success.
6. Answering judges’ questions directly and effectively
One of the most important aspects of effective appellate advocacy is answering a judge’s questions directly and persuasively, and adjusting your argument based on the concerns that a judge expresses about the merits of your case. Paul Clement is among the best, if not the best, at doing so. An excellent example is Clement’s argument in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District (21-418_3dq3.pdf (supremecourt.gov)).
Ultimately, Paul Clement’s oral advocacy skills exemplify what it means to be a great lawyer and advocate. Both law students and young law lawyers would benefit from listening to his oral arguments.
 Natalie Singer, ‘Defending Unpopular Positions is What Lawyers Do,’ says Paul Clement, ’92 (January 31, 2012), available at: 'Defending unpopular positions is what lawyers do' says Paul Clement '92 - Harvard Law School | Harvard Law School
 Jason Zengerle, The Paul Clement Court (March 16, 2012), available at: Why Paul Clement Is the GOP’s Great Hope for This Supreme Court Season -- New York Magazine - Nymag
April 15, 2023 in Appellate Advocacy, Appellate Justice, Appellate Practice, Current Affairs, Legal Profession, Moot Court, Oral Argument, United States Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0)
Sunday, April 9, 2023
When an Ethics Code is Not Enough
Revelations that Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife received more than two decades of luxury trips and gifts from a billionaire friend, who has donated significant amounts to conservative political causes, have raised the volume on calls for a set of ethics rules for Supreme Court justices. The largesse that took place over two decades to the Thomases largely went unreported on financial disclosure forms the justice filed because he understood that the rules exempted personal hospitality. While others have interpreted the rules to require disclosure, new rules that went into effect in March have removed any ambiguity – and Justice Thomas has indicated that he would report the trips and gifts in the future.
The new information, the product of a ProPublica investigative report, piles onto other developments that have raised the temperature on the absence of a binding ethics code for Supreme Court justices. These include allegations that Justice Samuel Alito or his wife may have leaked the result in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. in 2014 several weeks before it was announced, the leak of the draft opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Org. last year, and Justice Thomas’s refusal to recuse himself from cases arising from the 2020 presidential election even as his wife was involved in activities to overturn its result.
Federal law already mandates that “[a]ny justice, judge, or magistrate judge of the United States shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.” That seemingly comprehensive standard also has a largely amorphous quality to it. Still, it is supplemented by a number of specific examples of circumstances that warrant recusal: instances where the justice harbors a “personal bias or prejudice concerning a party” or “personal knowledge of disputed evidentiary facts,” where the justice previously served as a lawyer or practiced with one concerning the matter or was a material witness in the case; where the justice had participated, even to the point of expressing an opinion, in the matter as a government employee; where the justice, a spouse, or child living in the household has a financial or other interest that could be “substantially affected” by the outcome of the of the proceeding.
New rules promulgated by the Judicial Conference and that went into effect in mid-March require federal judges, including Supreme Court justices, to report all travel by private jet and paid-for stays at commercial properties, such as hotels, resorts or hunting lodges.
Still, some members of Congress have pledged to investigate the facts behind the latest revelations and consider imposing an ethics code on the Supreme Court. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) has noted that, out of all federal officials, only Supreme Court justices lack a binding ethics code.
In the absence of a mandatory code, and perhaps to stave off a conflict between branches of government, Chief Justice Roberts has said that the justices voluntarily consult the law applicable to other federal judges in making ethical determinations. From time to time, justices have suggested that the Court might adopt a code of its own, yet mounting pressure has not resulted in a Supreme Court-specific set of rules.
The current financial disclosure requirements applicable to federal judges are subject to review and potential punishment by the chief judge of the respective circuits yet does imbue the Chief Justice with the same authority over the justices. Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist considered that type of discipline or oversight outside of his authority, noticing that recusal was a question that that “each justice must decide” individually under settled practices. In fact, it is often said that the chief justice is merely the first among equals. The chief justice’s dilemma recalls an incident involving Justice James McReynolds, a Woodrow Wilson appointee remembered for racist, misogynistic, and anti-Jewish outbursts and actions. To assure Justice McReynolds’s on-time arrival on the bench for Court, Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes sent a messenger with a polite request. The acerbic response from the associate justice: “Tell the Chief Justice that I do not work for him.”
And that highlights the dilemma that any Supreme Court ethics code faces: how can it be enforced? Transparency through disclosure has its benefits, but lifetime tenure provides a significant buffer to any condemnatory reaction from the public, even when the public gives more than fleeting attention to the transgression. However, flaunting disclosure rules or refusing to recuse under the guise of necessity can be harmful to the fair administration of justice. In Caperton v. A. T. Massey Coal Co., the Court recognized that there are situations, such as one where the financial interest of a political supporter is at stake, that creates a danger of actual bias is so great that the Constitution itself requires recusal.
In Caperton, the failure to recuse required the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals to rehear the dispute without the justice who should have recused. If the same situation arose in the U.S. Supreme Court, it would undoubtedly be messier. It would require a decision of the other justices that found a constitutional violation in a colleague’s decision not to recuse. Unless the consequent due-process violation was utterly crystalline, it seems unlikely that the justices would act. That leaves but one other enforcement mechanism: impeachment. And in today’s political environment, the possibility seems theoretical at best. That leaves a new ethics code as largely hortatory, which would still have some value but allow a rogue justice to resist compliance.
 28 U.S.C. § 455(a).
 Id. at § 455(b).
 William Rehnquist, “Let Individual Justice Make Call on Recusal,” Atlanta J.-Const., Jan. 29, 2004, at 15A.
 556 U.S. 868 (2009).
 In the new controversy, Justice Thomas’s benefactor, real estate developer Harlan Crow, denied that he had any cases before the Supreme Court or discussed or attempted to influence any case where the justice might have been involved. Still, reports indicate that Crow provided financial support to at least two groups that filed amicus briefs whose views were, unsurprisingly, consistent with the way Justice Thomas voted.
April 9, 2023 in Appellate Advocacy, Appellate Court Reform, Current Affairs, United States Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0)
Saturday, April 1, 2023
The Trump Indictment
Donald Trump has been indicted. Although this is not a surprising development, it is not a good day for the rule of law or for public confidence in our institutions.
To begin with, a grand jury indictment is not nearly as significant as some in the media would have you believe. As the saying goes, grand juries would indict a “ham sandwich” because the threshold for securing an indictment is not high, and the defense’s ability to test the prosecution’s case is limited. Furthermore, the investigation occurred in New York City, where liberals substantially outnumber conservatives, and where Trump is, to put it mildly, not admired. When you combine these factors with a district attorney – Alvin Bragg – who seems hellbent on indicting Trump (as evidenced by his public statements and legal theory) you have the perfect storm for an indictment that appears more political than principled.
Indeed, Bragg appears to care more about convicting Trump than addressing the approximately 22% increase in various crimes in New York City. As Harvard Law Professor Dershowitz, who did not vote for Trump, explains:
When a district attorney who ran as a Democrat and promised to “get” Donald Trump indicts the candidate running for president against the incumbent head of his party, he had better have a slam dunk case. Although we don't know exactly what the Manhattan grand jury indicted Trump for, it seems likely, based on what we know, that this is a very weak case which would never have been brought against anyone else.
Put simply, the case against Trump is not strong. In fact, if media reports are correct about the charge Trump is facing, it is incredibly weak. As George Washington law professor Jonathan Turley states, Bragg “is attempting to bootstrap [a] federal crime into a state case,” and “if that is the basis for the indictment … it’s illegally pathetic.” Likewise, former Whitewater deputy counsel Sol Wisenberg characterized the legal case against Trump as “preposterous.” Even some liberal commentators agree that the case against Trump is not strong. For example, Elie Mystal asserts that “the odds that the path to real justice, let alone prison time, runs through the Manhattan DA’s office still seem very, very long.”
Specifically (and again, if media reports are correct), the charge against Trump is falsifying business records, which requires, among other things, an intent to defraud. The legal theory, apparently, is that Trump falsified business records (characterizing them as legal expenses) when reimbursing Michael Cohen for paying Stormy Daniels $130,000 to conceal Daniels’ affair with Trump (to be clear, paying “hush money” to another is not, in itself, a crime). In New York, this is a misdemeanor, and it only becomes a felony “if it was in service of another crime,” which Bragg allegedly “posits is a [federal] campaign finance violation.”
Importantly, the Southern District of New York, which investigated this matter, declined to prosecute the case. Also, former Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, did not pursue an indictment. And for good reason. Why would a prosecutor try to convict a former president for a misdemeanor, particularly where the Southern District of New York declined to prosecute, the case is so weak, and where doing so would appear politically motivated?
None of these factors seem to matter to Bragg, a Democrat who in his campaign for Manhattan District Attorney promised to focus on investigating Trump, stating that it “merits the attention of the DA personally.” Apparently, Bragg is attempting to connect Trump’s alleged misdemeanor-level misconduct to a federal campaign finance violation, which is a felony, by alleging that the payments to Cohen constituted an illegal contribution to the Trump campaign.
Such a creative and novel legal approach suggests that Bragg is searching for some way, however untenable, to bring a felony charge against Trump. But it is unlikely to succeed. As Mark Pomerantz, a former district attorney, stated, Bragg will “have to argue that the intent to commit or conceal a federal crime had converted the falsification of the records into a felony. No appellate court in New York had ever upheld (or rejected) this interpretation of the law.” In other words, the “intent to defraud” must include “an intent to commit another crime or to aid or conceal the commission thereof.” That alone will be difficult to prove, as Trump may argue that the payments were intended to prevent his wife Melania from discovering the affair, not to cover up another crime (an illegal campaign contribution).
Furthermore, if reports from the media are accurate, the primary witness for the prosecution will be Michael Cohen, a disbarred lawyer who pled guilty to, among other things, tax fraud, who served time in prison, and who has lied countless times, including before Congress. If you doubt this, listen to the statements by Robert Costello, who testified recently before the grand jury. Also, one must wonder how Trump can be prosecuted for a federal campaign violation in New York state court, why such a prosecution should be pursued when the Southern District of New York declined to do so, and where the optics of such a prosecution suggest a political motive.
Such creative lawyering (tying a state law misdemeanor to a federal felony), rather than being a legitimate purpose of the criminal justice system, suggests that the Bragg wants to weaponize the legal system to “get” Trump. As Dershowitz explains:
This is a case of targeting an individual and then rummaging through the statute books in search of a crime. Prosecutors seem to have come up with nothing under established law, then made up a misdemeanor and then piggybacked it on another alleged crime to create a felony. But one plus one does not equal 11, and zero plus zero equals zero. That is what we seem to have here.
Simply put, this is a weak case that appears as politically motivated as it gets. Indeed, it is quite concerning that, as Bragg has reduced 52% of felony charges in New York to misdemeanors, he now seeks to raise Trump’s alleged crime from a misdemeanor to a felony. Perhaps Bragg’s personal attention should be devoted elsewhere, particularly given the 22% rise in certain crimes in New York City.
Ultimately, no matter what you think of Trump, everyone should, hopefully, believe that the law should be applied in an equal and even-handed fashion. Think about it: if the defendant were anyone other than Donald Trump, would Bragg be pursuing this?
Of course not.
Well, maybe if it were Richard Nixon.
In essence, Bragg is going after the person (Trump), not the crime. That, in a nutshell, is the point – and the problem.
After all, let’s be honest about what is happening here.
Bragg probably despises Trump. Furthermore, when (and before) Donald Trump was elected in 2016 as an anti-establishment candidate, the mainstream media hated him. Indeed, the mainstream media, which has as much, if not less, credibility than Michael Cohen, did nearly everything in its power to discredit and, quite frankly, destroy Trump, as evidenced by, among other things, the now-debunked allegations of Russian collusion.
Additionally, the establishment, including individuals such as James Comey and Peter Strzok, hated him. Furthermore, universities, which are overwhelmingly liberal and who employ professors who believe that diversity of thought is more deleterious than the coronavirus, have almost uniformly condemned Trump and unapologetically rejected a free marketplace of ideas. If you doubt this, look at what happened to Fifth Circuit Judge Stuart Kyle Duncan at Stanford Law School, where students and Tirian Steinbach, the Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, shouted down Duncan for views that they did not share. Or observe the circus-like shenanigans of students at Yale Law School, where they ridiculed Kristen Waggoner, an attorney and Supreme Court litigator. The commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (and free speech) obviously exists only in the abstract at these schools.
The consequences that Trump’s prosecution will have to our institutions – and the rule of law – will be substantial. The legitimacy of our institutions depends in substantial part on the perception that our elected officials apply the law equally, fairly, and even-handedly, without regard to political affiliation or personal animus. If the rule of law is perceived as a political weapon (see, e.g., North Korea, Russia), the law itself will be reduced to nothing more than a tool for politicians to use against those who threaten their power. And there is no bigger threat to liberty and equality than a rule of law that is administered based on politics rather than principle, and opportunism rather than objectivity. The rule of law – and the American people – demand much more and should accept no less.
Put differently, people need to believe that you will never be prosecuted or targeted based on what you believe, what your political affiliation is, or who you are. It should be based on what you did, and whether those actions would result in a prosecution for most, if not all, individuals, regardless of status, who engaged in similar conduct. That is simply not the case here. If the defendant were Joe Biden rather than Donald Trump, there would be no prosecution.
It's no wonder why the American people have lost faith in our institutions, academics, and elected leaders. Years ago, individuals such as Walter Cronkite, Robert C. Maynard, and Peter Jennings exemplified the standards to which journalism – and our institutions – should aspire. Now, the American people are treated to the folks at CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC, few of whom can even remotely compare to the journalistic integrity that the former individuals embodied. Even a few seconds of listening to Bryan Stelter or Joy Reid, or Glenn Beck underscores this point.
Indeed, Bragg’s conduct – and the conduct of many political leaders, prosecutors, and pundits – leads to one ineluctable conclusion.
They are political actors.
Their goal is to advance a political agenda.
And they don’t even hide it anymore.
As Professor Dershowitz stated, “[w]hat matters greatly is that DA Alvin Bragg has weaponized the justice system to target a political opponent based on a nonexistent or, at best, an extremely weak crime.”
Unfortunately, this nonsense is not without precedent.
In 1998, the Republicans spent millions of taxpayer dollars to impeach Bill Clinton (in the House of Representatives) over a consensual affair (and alleged perjury and obstruction of justice) that, while not, to put it nicely, the best exercise of judgment, could not reasonably have been construed as a high crime and misdemeanor. And Ken Starr did everything in his power to degrade and humiliate Clinton with a report laden with salacious details that no sensible person would have included. Well, here we are again: a criminal indictment against a former president and leading candidate for the Republican Party’s nomination based on an affair with a porn star. Not to mention, the United States Supreme Court manufactured out of thin air a right to abortion in Roe v. Wade, and approximately fifty years later, overturned Roe for no other reason than that the political persuasions of the Court had changed.
What’s more, it is nearly impossible to have a civil conversation with those with whom you disagree or to debate issues with others in an atmosphere of civility and respect. Alvin Bragg’s decision makes this situation worse, not better and makes the country more divided, not united. Put simply, Trump’s indictment is an unsurprising, quite unoriginal, and obviously predictable continuation of this unfortunate chapter in American history.
Ultimately, almost anyone can respect the rule of law, promote diversity of thought, and remain committed to fairness when they are surrounded by people who agree with them. But true leaders – and people with character and integrity – have the courage to be fair to every citizen, particularly the ones that they despise, just like the First Amendment depends on tolerating speech that you find offensive.
That is what the rule of law – and a society dedicated to liberty, fairness, and equality – demands, and what every citizen deserves.
That includes Donald Trump.
 Toni Messina, Criminally Yours: Indicting a Ham Sandwich (Feb. 8, 2016), available at: Criminally Yours: Indicting A Ham Sandwich - Above the Law
 Of course, this is based on the media reports regarding the legal charges that Trump will face. The indictment may contain facts and charges that make the case stronger.
 Alan Dershowitz, Trump Indictment Case Looks Like a Weak Exercise in Creative Prosecution (March 31, 2023), available at: Trump Indictment Case Looks Like a Weak Exercise in Creative Prosecution | Opinion (newsweek.com) (emphasis added).
 Steven Nelson, Democrats Giddy at Trump Indictment, But Legal Experts Warn Case is Weak (March 30, 2023), available at: Democrats giddy at Trump indictment, but legal experts warn case is weak (nypost.com)
 See Elie Mystal, Donald Trump Has Been Indicted/ Don’t Get Your Hopes Up (March 30, 2023), available at: Donald Trump Has Been Indicted. Don’t Get Your Hopes Up. | The Nation
 National Review, The Reckless Trump Indictment (March 31, 2023), available at: Reckless Donald Trump Indictment | National Review (emphasis added) (brackets added).
 See Mystal, supra note 6, available at: Donald Trump Has Been Indicted. Don’t Get Your Hopes Up. | The Nation
 Jeremy Herb, Kara Scannell, and John Miller, Inside the Long and Winding Road to Trump’s Indictment (April 1, 2023), available at: Donald Trump: Inside the long and winding path to a historic indictment | CNN Politics
 See Kara Scannell, New Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg Pledges to Focus on Trump Investigations (Dec. 20, 2001), available at: Alvin Bragg: New Manhattan DA pledges to focus on Trump investigations | CNN Politics (emphasis added).
 Jose Pagliery, Manhattan DA Insiders Worry the Trump Hush Money Case is Weak Sauce (March 29, 2023), available at: Manhattan District Attorney Insiders Worry the Trump-Stormy Daniels Alvin Bragg Hush Money Case Is Weak Sauce (thedailybeast.com)
 Mark Joseph Stern, The Big Problem with the Trump Indictment (March 30, 2023), available at: Alvin Bragg’s indictment of Donald Trump is full of challenge and promise. (slate.com).
 See Laura Nahmias and Daniel Samuelsohn, Michael Cohen Sentenced to 3 Years in Prison (Dec. 12, 2018), available at: Michael Cohen sentenced to 3 years in prison - POLITICO
 See Bart Jansen and Kevin Johnson, Lawyer Assails Trump Grand Jury Witness as ‘Liar on Revenge Tour,’ (March 20, 2023), available at: Robert Costello undercuts Michael Cohen in Trump grand jury probe (usatoday.com)
 Dershowitz, supra note 3, available at Trump Indictment Case Looks Like a Weak Exercise in Creative Prosecution | Opinion (newsweek.com) (emphasis added).
 See Melissa Klein, NYC Convictions Plummet, Downgraded Charges Surge Under DA Bragg (Nov. 26, 2022), available at: Convictions plummet, downgraded charges surge under Manhattan DA Bragg (nypost.com) (emphasis added).
 See Chelsia Rose Marcius and Eh Shanahan, Major Crimes Rose 22 Percent in New York City, Even as Shootings Fell (January 5, 2023), available at: Major Crimes Rose 22 Percent in New York City, Even as Shootings Fell - The New York Times (nytimes.com)
 See Tony Perkins, The Numbers that Prove How Much the Mainstream Media Hate Trump (Dec. 14, 2017), available at: The Numbers That Prove How Much the Mainstream Media Hate Trump (frc.org)
 See Philip Ewing, Mueller Report Finds No Evidence of Russian Collusion (March 24, 2019), available at: Mueller Report Finds No Evidence Of Russian Collusion : NPR
 See Stuart Kyle Duncan, My Struggle Session at Stanford Law School (March 17, 2023), available at: My Struggle Session at Stanford Law School - WSJ
 See Bradley Evans, ADF General Counsel Harassed at Yale Law School Event (March 21, 2022), available at: ADF General Counsel Kristen Waggoner Harassed at Yale Law School Event | Alliance Defending Freedom (adflegal.org)
 Dershowitz, supra note 3, available at Trump Indictment Case Looks Like a Weak Exercise in Creative Prosecution | Opinion (newsweek.com) (emphasis added).
April 1, 2023 in Appellate Justice, Appellate Practice, Current Affairs, Law School, Legal Ethics, Legal Profession | Permalink | Comments (5)
Sunday, March 26, 2023
Personal Jurisdiction – Messy Jurisprudence that May Be in Even Greater Flux
Rex Lee, the late Reagan-era solicitor general and president of Brigham Young University, once wrote that the Supreme Court’s “net contribution” to a “cohesive body of law” applying the First Amendment’s Religion Clauses “has been zero” and added that “some would say that it has been less than zero.” Personal jurisdiction, a subject of intense interest in the Court over the past dozen years, has suffered a similar fate with the Court making a hash of it.
If there is one case lawyers remember from their civil procedure class, it is Int'l Shoe Co. v. Washington, which established that due process only required that a defendant have “certain minimum contacts” of a continuous and systematic nature with a jurisdiction sufficient “that the maintenance of the suit does not offend ‘traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.’” Int’l Shoe overturned Pennoyer v. Neff, which adhered to a rigid territorial limitation that was somehow derived from the Due Process Clause. With the demise of Pennoyer, states began to enact long-arm statutes that enabled them to exercise authority over out-of-state defendants who had caused injury and damage within the state. About a decade after Int’l Shoe, the Court speculated that the law would continue to expand “the permissible scope of state jurisdiction over foreign corporations and other nonresidents,” because of the “increasing nationalization of commerce” and the ease of “modern transportation and communication” to make it “less burdensome for a party sued to defend himself in a State where he engages in economic activity.”
Yet, more recently, the Court has adopted a more restrictive approach to personal jurisdiction than Int’l Shoe suggests, even as it continues to identify that opinion as the “canonical decision” on personal jurisdiction. Its recent cases have reduced Int’l Shoe’s flexibility into a set of mechanical, bright-line rules that it often claims divides personal jurisdiction into only two forms: “specific” and “general.”
Specific jurisdiction exists when the activity or occurrence that is the subject of the lawsuit takes place in forum State. A defective product is sold or shipped there. Thus, in Bristol-Myers, the Court permitted California consumers of the allegedly defective drug to sue the out-of-state manufacturer for their injuries, but held that non-California plaintiffs alleging the same injuries could not sue in that state, but had to initiate separate lawsuits in their home states, even if the allegations were identical. Those who also sued the distribution company in California had to split their lawsuits, because the distributor was California-based and subject to general jurisdiction in California. As Justice Sotomayor pointed out in dissent, the decision was a substantial “contraction of specific jurisdiction by holding that a corporation that engages in a nationwide course of conduct cannot be held accountable in a state court by a group of injured people unless all of those people were injured in the forum State.” Moreover, she points out that the consequences of the decision is to prevent plaintiffs from banding together from different states to bring a single action based on a defendant's nationwide course of conduct, unless they sue in the defendant’s home state, where the action would likely have to be subdivided into claims for each plaintiff’s home state. Yet, where the defendants are from different states so that no one state will be able to entertain the mass action, there will have to be a multiplicity of lawsuits, including potentially separate lawsuits against each defendant, creating a potential “empty-chair” defense.
General jurisdiction provides all-purpose authority over a defendant when it is “essentially at home” in the forum because it is either incorporated or has its headquarters there. Under the general jurisdiction rubric, illogically, a corporation can have a broad corporate campus and substantial operations in a state, but not be subject to general jurisdiction there. Yet, incorporation in, say, Delaware, where its only presence is a post office box, is sufficient to subject the corporation to suit in that state because it is deemed essentially at home even if not actually present there.
Yet, specific and general are not the only types of personal jurisdiction that exist, even though the Court has said as much. For example, the Court has also recognized “tag” jurisdiction, which subjects an individual from outside the state to jurisdiction when served in the state. Although being subject to personal jurisdiction when caught passing through a state could pose a hardship to an individual, no similar concept permits jurisdiction over a corporation that maintains a continuous and substantial presence in the state. A second form of personal jurisdiction is consent jurisdiction, where the defendant either agrees to jurisdiction or does not fight it. The Supreme Court has previously approved state statutes that require registration and consent to personal jurisdiction as the price of doing business in a state. Yet, on November 8 of last year, the Court heard argument on whether the Pennsylvania consent statute it upheld more than a century ago violated due process in Mallory v. Norfolk Southern Ry. Co., No. 21-1168, where a decision is expected by June.
And there are congressional grants of personal jurisdiction as well. Yet, a 12-5 en banc decision by the Fifth Circuit last year, for which certiorari was denied this past week, required the use of Rule 4(k)(2), promulgated as a federal long-arm statute at the suggestion of the U.S. Supreme Court to reach foreign defendants, still had to satisfy the general jurisdiction test, so that it could never be used for foreign or domestic defendants.  Foreign defendants cannot be “at home” in the U.S. And, if general jurisdiction applies, Rule 4(k)(2) is unnecessary The decision effectively renders the rule unconstitutional as a matter of due process.
Is there a way out of the current messy jurisprudence that has developed recently? Justice Gorsuch, joined by Justice Thomas, has suggested that the current personal-injury regime is looking “quaint” and “a little battered” “when corporations with global reach often have massive operations spread across multiple States,” rather than one or two homes. He added, “[m]aybe, too, International Shoe just doesn’t work quite as well as it once did.” So, while the past dozen years have seen a revolution in personal jurisdiction as the Court embarked on a more restrict approach, leavened a bit by its 2021 decision in Ford, another potentially abrupt change may be in the making. Indeed, originalist scholars contend that due process puts no limitation on federal personal jurisdiction. If the Court, which has taken an originalist approach to a number of constitutional issues, goes down that path, they could untangle the ball they created for personal jurisdiction. Could they also replace it with nothing?
 Rex. E. Lee, The Religion Clauses: Problems and Prospects, 1986 B.Y.U. L. Rev. 337, 338 (1986).
 326 U.S. 310 (1945).
 Id. at 316.
 95 U.S. 714 (1877).
 McGee v. Int’l Life Ins. Co., 355 U.S. 220, 222-23 (1957).
 Ford Motor Co. v. Montana Eighth Jud. Dist. Ct., 141 S. Ct. 1017, 1024 (2021).
 Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Ct. of California, San Francisco Cnty., 582 U.S. 255, 262 (2017).
 Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v. Brown, 564 U.S. 915, 919 (2011).
 Bristol-Myers., 582 U.S. at 269 (Sotomayor, J., dissenting).
 Id. at 277 (Sotomayor, J., dissenting).
 Id. at 278 (Sotomayor, J., dissenting).
 Goodyear, 564 U.S. at 919.
 Burnham v. Sup. Ct., 495 U.S. 604, 619 (1990) (plurality op.).
 Ins. Corp. of Ireland v. Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinee, 456 U.S. 694, 703 (1982).
 See, e.g., Pennsylvania Fire Ins. Co. v. Gold Issue Mining & Milling Co., 243 U.S. 93 (1917); Ex parte Schollenberger, 96 U.S. 369, 376-77 (1877).
 See, e.g., D'Arcy v. Ketchum, 52 U.S. (11 How.) 165, 176 (1850).
 Douglass v. Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha, 46 F.4th 226 (5th Cir. 2022), cert. denied, No. 22-562, 2023 WL 2563319 (U.S. Mar. 20, 2023). The author was counsel for Petitioners in the Fifth Circuit and in the Supreme Court.
 Ford, 141 S. Ct. 1017, 1034 (2021) (Gorsuch, J., concurring).
 Id. at 1038 (Gorsuch, J., concurring).
 See, e.g., Max Crema & Lawrence B. Solum, The Original Meaning of “Due Process of Law” in the Fifth Amendment, 108 Va. L. Rev. 447, 467 (2022); Lawrence B. Solum & Max Crema, Originalism and Personal Jurisdiction: Several Questions and a Few Answers, 73 Ala. L. Rev. 483, 524 (2022); and Stephen E. Sachs, The Unlimited Jurisdiction of the Federal Courts, 106 Va. L. Rev. 1703 (2020).
March 26, 2023 in Appellate Advocacy, Current Affairs, Federal Appeals Courts, United States Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, March 20, 2023
GPT-4 Just Passed the Bar Exam. That Proves More About the Weakness of the Bar Exam Than the Strength of GPT-4.
It's official: AI has passed the Uniform Bar Exam. GPT-4, the upgraded AI program released earlier this week by Microsoft-backed OpenAI, scored in the 90th percentile of actual test takers.
"Guess you're out of a job," my wife said when I told her the news.
Maybe she's right--unless, of course, the bar exam isn't actually an effective measurement of minimum competence to practice law.
That's the open secret of the legal profession. Bar exams do test a small handful of core legal skills, such as critical reading and basic legal analysis. But they're downright abysmal at measuring the multitude of skills that separate competent and incompetent lawyers, such as legal research, writing ability, factual investigation, crisis response, communication, practice management, creative problem solving, organization, strategic planning, negotiation, and client management.
I am hardly the first commentator to draw attention to this issue. In Shaping the Bar: The Future of Attorney Licensing--which should be required reading for anyone interested in the attorney-licensing conundrum--Professor Joan W. Howarth says this:
Bar exams are both too difficult and too easy. The exams are too easy for people who excel at multiple-choice questions. Wizards at standardized tests can pass the bar with little difficulty, perhaps with a few weeks spent memorizing legal rules, without showing competence in a greater range of lawyering skills or any practice in assuming professional responsibility.
And, bar exams are too difficult for candidates who do not excel at memorizing huge books of legal rules. An attorney would be committing malpractice by attempting to answer most new legal questions from memory without checking the statute, rules, or case law. Leon Greene, the dean of Northwestern Law School in 1939, observed that "there is not a single similarity between the bar examination process and what a lawyer is called upon to do in his practice, unless it be to give a curbstone opinion." The focus on memorization of books of rules was silly in 1939, but today it is shockingly anachronistic, as attorneys asked for "curbstone opinions" would be carrying a complete law library on their phones. Extensive rule memorization makes bar exams less valid, meaning that they test attributes not associated with competence to practice law. Law graduates who would be great lawyers--too many of whom are people of color--are failing bar exams because they cannot drop everything else for two months to devote themselves to memorizing thick books of rules.
Against this backdrop, is it really a surprise that a literal learning machine beat 90% of the human test takers?
Predictably, the National Conference of Bar Examiners quickly issued a press release once the news broke about GPT-4 acing its exam. The NCBE said that human attorneys have unique skills, gained through education and experience, that "AI cannot currently match." And, on that score, I wholeheartedly agree. But that raises the question many of us have been asking for years: If "skills," "education," and "experience" (not mass memorization, regurgitation, and fact-pattern recognition) are what set the best lawyers apart, why aren't we using those qualities to measure minimum competence?
Philip Seaver-Hall is a litigation attorney at Knox McLaughlin Gornall & Sennett, P.C. The views expressed in this post are the author's alone and are not necessarily shared by the Knox Law Firm.
March 20, 2023 in Books, Current Affairs, Law School, Legal Profession, Science, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)
Saturday, March 18, 2023
ChatGPT and Legal Writing
ChatGPT is an artificial intelligence chatbot that can, among other things, compose music, play games, and generate student essays and examination answers. Indeed, ChatGPT has already been studied to assess its efficacy on law school examinations. One study, for example, revealed that ChatGPT passed four law school exams at the University of Minnesota -- earning an average grade of C+ -- and an exam at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business.
The leader of the study examining ChatGPT in the law school performance context stated that “[a]lone, ChatGPT would be a pretty mediocre law student," and emphasized that “the bigger potential for the profession here is that a lawyer could use ChatGPT to produce a rough first draft and just make their practice that much more effective.”
Certainly, in law school and in the legal profession, ChatGPT can have benefits. For example, ChatGPT can enhance efficiency by, for example, producing rough drafts of basic legal documents such as complaints, memorandums, interrogatories, and document requests. Additionally, ChatGPT can assist individuals who cannot afford legal services in producing competent legal documents.
What ChatGPT cannot do, however, is teach law students how to think, how to write, and how to persuade. That, in a nutshell, is the point – and the problem. Below are two concerns regarding ChatGPT’s effects on law school and the legal profession.
1. Law students need to learn how to think critically.
Learning how to think critically is among the most important skills needed to be a competent lawyer. And in recent years, many students begin their first year of law school lacking this skill. Thus, during the first year of law school, particularly in doctrinal and legal writing courses, students learn, among other things, how to read cases, understand complex legal concepts, synthesize the law, and apply the law to different fact patterns.
ChatGPT is problematic because, in some contexts, it does the thinking for the students. In so doing, it enables students (to some extent) to avoid the admittedly arduous process of understanding and interpreting complex legal doctrines, and presenting such doctrines (e.g., in a memorandum or a brief) in an understandable, logical, and persuasive manner. Indeed, David Kemp, an adjunct professor at Rutgers Law School, stated that “[i]f you’re asking it to organize several concepts, or are struggling to explain something in a way that’s really understandable, it can help.”
That, again, is the point – and the problem.
Students should not be relying on artificial intelligence to organize complex legal concepts or explain them in a way that readers can understand. They should, through hard work and perseverance, develop critical thinking skills so that they can do it themselves. Otherwise, we are training students to rely not on their minds or their legal training, but on a technology that, at best, produces mediocre results.
Perhaps some would describe this as an “old school” approach to legal education. And they would be right. The quality of law students at many law schools has steadily declined in recent years, and ChatGPT threatens to worsen this problem by doing for law students what they should, after three years of legal training, be able to do for themselves.
2. Law students need to learn how to write competently and persuasively.
It is no secret that judges and lawyers often criticize law graduates for their poor writing skills. The reasons for this include, but are not limited to, insufficient preparation during students' undergraduate coursework, and insufficient dedication to required legal writing courses in law school.
This fact, however, only underscores the need to train students to think – and write – like lawyers. Students need to learn, for example, how to research the law, how to craft a compelling narrative, how to synthesize legal authority, how to reconcile unfavorable facts and law, and how to draft an organized and well-structured legal argument.
To do so, students need to embrace the writing process, which involves writing, rewriting, and editing. It requires critical thinking. Hard work. Perseverance. And the ability to write effectively and persuasively. ChatGPT is not going to teach students how to do this because, at least to some extent, it will do it for them. That makes the problem worse, not better.
To be sure, ChatGPT may produce the equivalent of a mediocre first draft, which students will then edit and re-edit to improve its quality. But good legal writing is not simply about editing. To be an excellent editor, you must first be an excellent writer and re-writer. That means embracing the writing process and acquiring the skills needed to draft, for example, a persuasive motion or appellate brief. As one professor explains.
Legal writing faculty interviewed by the ABA Journal agree that ChatGPT writing can model good sentence structure and paragraph structure. However, some fear that it could detract from students learning good writing skills. ‘If students do not know how to produce their own well-written analysis, they will not pass the bar exam,’ says April Dawson, a professor and associate dean of technology and innovation at the North Carolina Central University School of Law.’
Professor Dawson may be correct that ChatGPT will reduce bar passage rates. What it will almost certainly do is ensure that students never become excellent persuasive writers. And it will also cause some students to rely on ChatGPT to do the hard work that they should be doing, and that is necessary, to produce quality legal work. This is the risk that reliance on ChatGPT – particularly for complex legal motions and briefs – engenders.
Ultimately, ChatGPT can certainly have benefits. Among those is increasing efficiency and productivity. But law students still need to have the analytical thinking and writing skills to be able to interpret complex legal texts, draft persuasive legal arguments, and present compelling arguments before a court. As such, ChatGPT’s benefits must be balanced against the need to train students to think, write, and practice like lawyers.
Perhaps this is an “old school” approach, but that approach has produced extraordinary attorneys who have transformed the law and the legal profession through their advocacy.
Simply put, you cannot replace an intelligent, thinking human being.
 See Samantha Murphy Kelly, “Chat GPT Passes Exams from Law and Business Schools” (January 26, 2023), available at: ChatGPT passes exams from law and business schools | CNN Business
 Reuters, “Chat GPT Passes Law School Exams Despite ‘Mediocre’ Performance” (January 25, 2023) available at: ChatGPT passes law school exams despite 'mediocre' performance | Reuters.
 Kelly, supra note 1.
 See Ann Nowak, The Struggle with Basic Writing Skills (March 1, 2021), available at: The Struggle with Basic Writing Skills | Published in Legal Writing (legalwritingjournal.org)
 Kelly, supra note 1.
March 18, 2023 in Appellate Advocacy, Appellate Practice, Current Affairs, Law School, Legal Ethics, Legal Profession, Legal Writing, Rhetoric | Permalink | Comments (2)
Sunday, March 5, 2023
Licensing Paid Blogs?
When your appellate practice focuses heavily on constitutional issues, as mine does, it is hard not to look at news stories and imagine the upcoming litigation. I had that reaction when I saw what is only a bill in Florida, but absurdly seeks to license blogs that generate income and mention government officials.
S.B. 1316, introduced by State Sen. Jason Brodeur, seeks to treat bloggers the same way as lobbyists, imposing registration and reporting requirements, although it exempts blogs that appear on a newspaper’s or similar publication’s website. Registration and reporting is required “[i]f a blogger posts to a blog about an elected state officer and receives, or will receive, compensation for that post.” The report must disclose the source and amount of compensation, rounded to the nearest $10.
Presumably, the legislation is being justified on the idea that disclosure can be required “so that the people will be able to evaluate the arguments to which they are being subjected.” Yet, it immediately recalls the early prior restraints that followed registrations of printing presses in the 1600s and licensing of newspapers.
The legislation raises a host of constitutional issues. First, it says nothing about its potential extraterritorial import. Does the sponsor anticipate that a blogger in another state would have to comply with its registration and reporting requirement even though separate and apart from the First Amendment issues such a requirement would violate the Dormant Commerce Clause and due process for its attempt to reach beyond the State of Florida? And, how could it be enforced against an out-of-state blogger? And, if it does not apply, what justification exists for treating an out-of-state blogger differently from one who resides in-state, even though both blogs would be equally available through the Internet.
Still, by exempting newspapers and other publications, the legislation fails to treat all paid publications evenhandedly. The Tenth Circuit found the distinction likely fatal when faced with the same issue at the preliminary-injunction stage. There, Colorado attempted to claim that “a valid distinction exists between corporations that are part of the media industry and other corporations that are not involved in the regular business of imparting news to the public ” in support of a disclosure law that treated mention of a political candidate to constitute electioneering. In fact, the Supreme Court in its controversial Citizens United decision state that “[t]here is no precedent supporting laws that attempt to distinguish between corporations which are deemed to be exempt as media corporations and those which are not. We have consistently rejected the proposition that the institutional press has any constitutional privilege beyond that of other speakers.”
Another distinction in the legislation likely fails to pass constitutional muster: the distinction between paid bloggers and gratis ones. More than three decades ago, the Supreme Court shut down differential treatment of those engaged in expression on public matters based on compensation.
It is difficult to think of a justification for registration and reporting at the mere paid blog mention of a state official. Doing so only facilitates further regulation, scrutiny, or retaliation. If the disclosure has a public purpose, why is that purpose not equally compelling on issues of public concern or non-office holding political candidates? Instead, by tying it to officeholders, the legislation suggests an improper purpose. After all, the First Amendment represents a “profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open, and that it may well include vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials.” Thin-skinned politicians need not apply.
S.B. 1316 may never become law. Even if enacted, it seems unlikely to ever take effect.
 First Nat. Bank of Bos. v. Bellotti, 435 U.S. 765, 792 n.32 (1978).
 Citizens United v. Gessler, 773 F.3d 200, 212 (10th Cir. 2014).
 Citizens United v. Fed. Election Comm’n, 558 U.S. 310, 352 (2010).
 See Meyer v. Grant, 486 U.S. 414, 424 (1988).
 New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254, 270 (1964).
March 5, 2023 in Appellate Advocacy, Appellate Practice, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1)
Monday, February 27, 2023
ChatGPT & Grammar
This past weekend I was at a conference in Las Vegas. At the conference, my colleague Diana Simon presented on her recent book--The (Not Too Serious) Grammar, Punctuation, and Style Guide to Legal Writing. During the social time after the presentation, someone asked how ChatGPT handles grammar. While many professors are stressing over student use of ChatGPT, some professors are considering a key question: Can ChatGPT help me grade papers (at least grade grammar)?
I was mostly just eavesdropping while the professors were discussing grammar, but at least one person noted that ChatGPT does a pretty decent job, and it can give you explanations. Turns out that is right. Stephen Horowitz, a professor of Legal English at Georgetown, has a detailed blog post on how he used ChatGPT for an assignment with his LLM students. For the assignment, he had his students run a short essay through ChatGPT with the instruction to "Please fix any language issues in this essay."
While I commend the full post to you, I will share just his conclusion:
What I really liked about the assignment is that it succeeded in helping my students build grammatical awareness. Also, I think my students greatly appreciated a way to get detailed language feedback. In my class, while I provide language feedback to the extent it connects to the communicative purposes related to legal analysis and writing, it’s not a grammar class and I don’t have the bandwidth to provide detailed language feedback on every aspect of the students’ writing. (A statement I’m assuming many in the legal English/legal writing field likely relate to.) Additionally, I believe there’s a certain amount of value in receiving the feedback in a manner removed from the power dynamic associated with the student-teacher relationship, i.e., not from an authority figure who has the power to decide your academic fate, but from a neutral, non-judgmental chatbot. And I think it also opens up the potential for more focused conversations and questions between student and teacher about language and grammar, as it helps narrow down areas of student concern from the perspective of each student.
February 27, 2023 in Current Affairs, Legal Writing, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (2)
Advice for Law Students on Oral Argument
After judging a regional round of the National Appellate Advocacy Competition this weekend in Los Angeles, it was apparent immediately that the law students participating in this competition demonstrated intelligence, talent, and persuasiveness. Indeed, the participants were quite impressive and showed that the future of the legal profession is bright. Having said that, below are a few tips for law students to help improve their already-impressive appellate advocacy skills.
1. Slow down. Once again, slow down. Your goal is to advocate for your client and maximize the persuasive value of your argument. To do so, you need to be authentic and conversational. In so doing, you should change your pace, tone, and inflection to emphasize (and de-emphasize) specific points. When you speak too quickly, you lose credibility and negatively impact the persuasiveness of your argument. And you lose points. So be sure to focus on being yourself, which means being authentic, conversational, and comfortable at the podium.
2. Don’t be scripted. You should never draft every word of your oral argument. Instead, you should draft an outline of the substantive points that you want to make, and trust yourself to articulate those points effectively and persuasively. When you memorize a script, you appear rehearsed and thus inauthentic.
3. Watch your conduct at the counsel table. Being professional and respectful is vital to ensuring your credibility with a court. Thus, be sure never to show emotion at the counsel table, either toward your teammates or in response to your adversary’s arguments. The failure to do so is unprofessional and immature – and will cost you points. When a moot court or mock trial team, for example, displays unprofessional conduct at the counsel table, they signal to the judges that they are not a good team.
4. Be flexible and concede weaknesses in your argument. Every argument has weaknesses, whether on the facts or the law. Denying these weaknesses, particularly in the face of difficult questions from the judges, will affect your credibility and persuasiveness. Thus, be sure to concede weaknesses in your argument, such as by acknowledging unfavorable facts or law, and explain why such weaknesses do not affect the outcome you seek.
5. Answer the judges’ questions directly and persuasively. The key to an outstanding oral argument is how you respond to the judges’ questions. Those questions tell you precisely what the judges are concerned about or focused on when deciding the merits of your case. As such, you should answer the judges’ questions directly and persuasively, and not offer evasive or non-responsive answers, which will compromise your credibility. In other words, do not view the judges’ questions as an attack on your argument. View them as an opportunity to make your case.
6. Be willing to adapt and modify your argument (or desired remedy) based on the judges’ questions. Far too often, oralists propose a categorical rule – or seek a particular remedy – and relentlessly advocate for that rule or remedy regardless of the judges’ concerns. That is a mistake. You must demonstrate flexibility – within reason – to ensure that you obtain the best result, even if it is not the perfect result. For example, if you were arguing that Roe v. Wade should be overturned, and a majority of the justices on the United States Supreme Court suggested through their questions that they were unwilling to do so, yet were willing to impose stricter limits on the time within which a woman could seek an abortion, you need to pivot and explain why, in the absence of overturning Roe, such a limit would be warranted. In other words, you must exercise good judgment in the moment and, based on your perception of how the judges might rule, propose alternative remedies that will persuade the judges even if it means not getting everything you want. Remember that the best is often the enemy of the good.
7. Be prepared. The best advocates are the most prepared. They know the page and line numbers of deposition testimony. They know precedent by heart and can recite the holdings and dicta in relevant cases without notes or hesitation. Simply put, the best advocates are the most prepared advocates.
8. Non-verbal conduct is critical to persuasion. It’s not just what you say, but how you say it. When you are making an oral argument, know that your hand gestures, your tone, your cadence, your volume, and your movement all matter tremendously. If, for example, you speak in a monotone voice, it doesn’t matter how persuasive your argument is or how much the law supports your argument. You will lose points and minimize the persuasive value of your argument if your non-verbal conduct (how you say it) is not as powerful as your verbal conduct (what you say).
February 27, 2023 in Appellate Advocacy, Appellate Justice, Appellate Practice, Appellate Procedure, Current Affairs, Law School, Legal Profession, Moot Court, Oral Argument | Permalink | Comments (1)
Saturday, February 18, 2023
The 2023 Justice Donald L. Corbin Appellate Symposium
On March 30 and 31, the Pulaski County Bar Foundation will be hosting its Annual Justice Donald L. Corbin Appellate Symposium at the University of Arkansas Little Rock Bowen School of Law. This national symposium honors the late Justice Donald L. Corbin of the Arkansas Supreme and Appellate Courts. The event offers the chance to discuss and learn about the appellate process from federal and state judges, professors, and experienced practitioners in beautiful Little Rock. You can tour the Clinton Library too!
The impressive lineup this year includes many members of the appellate bench:
- A United States Court of Appeals panel discussion with Judge Michael Y. Scudder of the Seventh Circuit, Chief Judge Lavenski R. Smith of the Eight Circuit, and Judge Jane Kelly of the Eight Circuit;
- Judge Morris S. "Buzz" Arnold, United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, speaking on ethics;
- A state Supreme Court panel discussion with Justice Courtney R. Hudson of the Arkansas Supreme Court, Justice Holly Kirby of the Tennessee Supreme Court, and Justice Piper D. Griffin of the Louisiana Supreme Court;
- Justice Annabelle Imber Tuck (Retired), Arkansas Supreme Court, speaking on oral argument; and
- An Arkansas Court of Appeals Panel Discussion with Judges Cindy Thyer, Wendy S. Wood, and Stephanie P. Barrett.
Robert S. Peck, of the Center for Constitutional Litigation, will be speaking on framing issues for appeal, and How Appealing's founder Howard Bashman will present as well, along with several other appellate practitioners and professors.
You still have time to register, and you can find all of the details here: https://www.pulaskibarfoundation.com/corbinsymposium.
This year, I am honored to be speaking on appellate brief writing, and I invite you to join us at the beautiful Bowen School of Law for the 2023 Corbin Symposium. Plus, if you have never been to Little Rock, I highly recommend a visit. Trust this Chicago gal living in Los Angeles, Little Rock is a charming and welcoming town with big city amenities in a gorgeous part of the country. See you there!
February 18, 2023 in Appellate Advocacy, Appellate Court Reform, Appellate Justice, Appellate Practice, Appellate Procedure, Current Affairs, Federal Appeals Courts, Legal Ethics, Legal Profession, Legal Writing, Oral Argument, State Appeals Courts | Permalink | Comments (0)
Saturday, February 11, 2023
Rethinking First Amendment Jurisprudence
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution protects the rights to freedom of speech and religion, which are essential to liberty and an informed citizenry. Indeed, the original purpose of the First Amendment was, among other things, to create a “marketplace of ideas” in which diverse opinions on matters of public concern, however unpopular, distasteful, or offensive, are rightfully protected. And the United States Supreme Court’s First Amendment jurisprudence reflects steadfast adherence to these principles, with the Court holding in numerous cases that a robust and expansive right to free speech is critical to ensuring liberty, autonomy, and a society where diverse viewpoints inform citizens’ views on various political and social issues.
But shouldn’t there be a limit?
Aren’t there some types of expression that are so vile, so valueless, and so vituperative that neither the Constitution nor the courts should afford them protection?
The answer to both questions is yes.
Think about it:
- Should people be permitted to hurl racist slurs at minorities? No.
- Should they be allowed to stand outside the funeral of a deceased gay soldier who died in the Iraq War with signs that say, “God Hates Fags?” and “Thank God for 9/11?” No.
- Should a newspaper have the freedom to publish a satirical depiction of a famous evangelical minister having sex with his mother in an outhouse? No.
- Should people be allowed to depict horrific acts of animal cruelty? No.
- Should wealthy individuals be permitted to donate millions to political candidates knowing that such donations will give them unfair influence in and access to the political process? No.
- Should Nazi groups and the KKK be allowed to march on Main Street spewing antisemitism and racism? No.
- Should people be allowed to wear t-shirts with a symbol of a Nazi swastika? No.
- Should pro-life groups be permitted to march with signs depicting dismembered fetuses? No.
Such speech should be banned everywhere and in any circumstance for three reasons.
First, speech such as that mentioned above has absolutely no value. It contributes nothing whatsoever to the “marketplace of ideas,” an informed citizenry, or a functioning democracy. And neither the text nor the original purpose of the First Amendment supports allowing individuals to express utterly valueless speech when it is expressed for the purpose of demeaning or traumatizing others, including vulnerable and marginalized groups.
Second, such speech causes substantial and often lasting harm. Make no mistake: speech can and does traumatize individuals, often causing severe emotional distress and other psychological injuries. Think about it: how would you feel if, as a minority, someone hurled a racist slur at you? How would you feel, as a person of Jewish faith whose great-grandparents died in the Holocaust, if you had to tolerate people marching with Nazi swastikas? How would you feel if, as a homosexual, someone called you a fag? To ask the question is to know the answer. Such speech serves no public purpose whatsoever.
This is not to say, of course, that offensive, distasteful, and unpopular speech should be restricted in any manner whatsoever. Indeed, such speech may and often does cause emotional distress. It is to say, however, that there is a limit. When speech has no value whatsoever and is intended to – and does – traumatize others, it should enable individuals to sue for the resulting emotional harm.
Some may argue that limiting such speech will empower the government to enact content-based restrictions on speech with which it disagrees. This slippery slope argument is without merit. First, the Supreme Court has already recognized limits on free speech, such as in Miller v. California, when it held that obscene speech that appeals to sexual interests receives no First Amendment protection, and in Brandenburg v. Ohio, where the Court held that words intended to incite violence lacked First Amendment protection. Second, the solution to this problem is obvious: enact a statute that delineates with specificity the precise words or expressions that are prohibited. In so doing, the limits on speech – which admittedly should be narrow – will be unambiguous. In Germany, for example, it is a crime to publicly deny the Holocaust – and for good reason.
Additionally, some may argue that the standards used to determine what speech should be limited will be invariably subjective and will thus lead to arbitrary and unconstitutional restrictions on speech. But this argument misses the constitutional mark. Many, if not most, constitutional provisions require subjective value judgments, such as whether a punishment is cruel and unusual under the Eighth Amendment, whether a search is unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment, and whether counsel is ineffective under the Sixth Amendment. Moreover, banning the type of speech mentioned above is hardly subjective. Any reasonable person with a conscience would agree that this speech has no value and inflicts severe injury on its targets.
The United States Supreme Court, however, is reticent to support any limits on speech other than sexual obscenity and fighting words. In Hustler Magazine, Inc. v. Falwell, for example, the Court held that the First Amendment protected a depiction of the Reverend Jerry Falwell having sex with his mother in an outhouse. In Snyder v. Phelps, the Court held that the First Amendment protected members of the Westboro Baptist Church who held signs stating “God Hates Fags” and “Thank God for 9/11” outside the funeral of a deceased military veteran.
These decisions were wrong.
The notion of allowing individuals to express offensive, distasteful, and unpopular speech should not preclude reasonable limits on valueless speech that cause severe emotional harm. It’s one thing, for example, to say that homosexuality is a sin. It’s quite another to call someone a fag. It’s one thing to say that abortion is immoral. It’s quite another to shove pictures of dismembered fetuses in the faces of women trying to access abortion services. In each example, the former should be protected, and the latter should not. The distinction is predicated on value and injury.
Ultimately, a society that values liberty, autonomy, and democracy need not tolerate valueless speech that contributes nothing to public discourse, and that marginalizes others, causes others to commit suicide, or humiliates others in a manner that causes lasting harm.
If you disagree, let’s see how you feel when, if you are gay, another person shoves a sign in your face that says, “God Hates Fags” or, if you are Jewish, a person shoves a sign in your face that says, “The Holocaust Never Happened.” You know exactly how you’d feel. That is the point – and the problem. And it’s a problem that needs to be solved – now.
 413 U.S. 15 (1973); 395 U.S. 444 (1969).
 485 U.S. 46 (1988).
 562 U.S. 443 (2011).
February 11, 2023 in Appellate Advocacy, Appellate Justice, Appellate Practice, Current Affairs, Law School, Legal Ethics, Legal Profession, United States Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0)
Sunday, February 5, 2023
A Call for Law Over Politics
In the novel Guy Mannering, Sir Walter Scott wrote that a “lawyer without history or literature is a mechanic, a mere working mason; if he possesses some knowledge of these, he may venture to call himself an architect.” As lawyers and especially as appellate advocates, we aspire to creating an edifice where the rule of law governs and not simply the politics of the day. We seek to design the law to withstand political winds while capable of change though remaining true to rules and standards that sensibly apply regardless of the ascendant ideologies.
It is not an easy task, and we are not always very good at perpetuating that approach. Sometimes, our inability to do so leads to embarrassment and harm to the rule of law. Other times, it leads to revolutionary and welcome change. Rarely, though, do we realize which outcome is most likely going to result until significantly later as we look back retrospectively.
Today, our courts have lost enormous public confidence and respect, traits that are essential to their salutary operation. We have seen the rhetoric of politics in the place of timeless legal principles populate judicial opinions — and appellate briefing at levels and rates that mark a departure from past instances of the same developments.
New evidence of the escalating trend may have emerged from the North Carolina Supreme Court. The new year saw that court flip from a 4-3 Democratic majority to a 5-2 Republican majority (use of party labels is perhaps unsettling but unavoidable in this instance). The new majority has granted petitions for rehearing in two election law cases: one involving redistricting and another on a voter identification law.
Reconsideration of this type is normally used when a court made its decision under a misapprehension of the record or some other error that demands correction. It is an extremely rare event. Here, it is clear that the law is unchanged, and there are no evidentiary issues. The only thing that changed was the membership of the court — and that is a troubling basis for reconsideration.
As Justice Anita Earl put it in dissent from the grant of reconsideration:
it took this Court just one month to send a smoke signal to the public that our decisions are fleeting, and our precedent is only as enduring as the terms of the justices who sit on the bench. The majority has cloaked its power grab with a thin veil of mischaracterized legal authorities. I write to make clear that the emperor has no clothes.
Hall v. Harper, No. 413PA21 (Feb. 3, 2023) (Earl, J., dissenting).
I write this post in a bit of a state of shock, simply because of how blatant and clear the coming reversal is. If law is not to become little more than a yoyo or roller coaster ride, it cannot simply become the spoils of political warfare. As much as there are precedents that I hope will be overturned, and there are past examples of judicial composition driving changes in the law, this precipitous reversal of field renders the law less the work of architects and more a political game where appellate advocacy becomes less relevant. Rather than the rule of law, the rule of seat warmers prevails.
February 5, 2023 in Appellate Advocacy, Appellate Justice, Current Affairs, Federal Appeals Courts, Legal Profession, State Appeals Courts, United States Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0)
Saturday, January 28, 2023
Implicit Bias Challenged, If Not Debunked
In recent years, the concept of implicit bias – the belief that all individuals harbor unconscious biases that affect their choices and actions – has been embraced by many law schools and the American Bar Association. In fact, the ABA passed a resolution requiring law schools to provide some type of bias training. But there is one problem – implicit bias research is deeply flawed and, in fact, so flawed that its validity is now in question. Below is a summary of the flaws in implicit bias theory.
1. The Implicit Association Test (IAT) is deeply flawed.
The IAT, developed by researchers at Harvard University, purports to measure an individual's implicit biases. The problem is that there is little, if any, evidence that IAT scores actually measure unconscious bias. As one scholar states:
The IAT is impacted by explicit attitudes, not just implicit attitudes, . . . It is impacted by people’s ability to process information quickly on a general level. It is impacted by desires to want to create a good impression. It is impacted by the mood people are in. If the measure is an amalgamation of many things (one of which is purportedly implicit bias), how can we know which of those things is responsible for a (weak) correlation with behavior?
Furthermore, individuals who take the IAT are likely to achieve different scores if they take the IAT multiple times. One commentator explains as follows:
The IAT, it turns out, has serious issues on both the reliability and validity fronts, which is surprising given its popularity and the very exciting claims that have been made about its potential to address racism” … That’s what the research says, at least, and it raises serious questions about how the IAT became such a social-science darling in the first place.
Indeed, “much murkiness surrounds (a) the proper causal explanation for alleged IAT effects, (b) the psychological meaning of IAT scores, [and] (c) the statistical generality and potency of alleged relations between IAT scores and actual behavior.” To be sure, Tony Greenwald, who co-created the IAT, acknowledged that the IAT should not be used to predict biased behavior, stating that the IAT is only “good for predicting individual behavior in the aggregate, and the correlations are small.” Put simply, the “IAT provides little insight into who will discriminate against whom, and provides no more insight than explicit measures of bias.”
2. There is insufficient evidence that implicit bias – or results on the IAT – predicts biased behavior.
Empirical studies suggest that implicit biases do not necessarily cause biased behavior. As one commentator explains:
Researchers from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Harvard, and the University of Virginia examined 499 studies over 20 years involving 80,859 participants that used the IAT and other, similar measures. They discovered two things: One is that the correlation between implicit bias and discriminatory behavior appears weaker than previously thought. They also conclude that there is very little evidence that changes in implicit bias have anything to do with changes in a person’s behavior. These findings, they write, ‘produce a challenge for this area of research.’
Importantly, these researchers examined “63 studies that explicitly considered a link between changes in bias and changes in actions . . . [but] they found no evidence of a causal relationship.”
3. There is no way to quantify the impact of implicit bias on biased behavior, particularly given the presence of explicit biases.
Assuming arguendo that implicit bias exists, there is no reliable way to quantify its relationship to biased behavior, if such a relationship even exists. For example, how can one distinguish between explicit and implicit biases? And how can scholars quantify or measure the impact of implicit biases when explicit bias has a demonstrable relationship to biased behavior?
These and other issues have led some scholars to question the validity of implicit bias as a predictor of biased behavior: As one scholar states:
Almost everything about implicit bias is controversial in scientific circles. It is not clear, for instance, what most implicit bias methods actually measure; their ability to predict discrimination is modest at best; their reliability is low; early claims about their power and immutability have proven unjustified.
Resolving these issues in an intellectually honest manner is critical to determining whether implicit bias bears any relationship to biased behavior.
4. Implicit bias training is ineffective.
Not surprisingly, implicit bias training is not effective in reducing biased behavior. For example, a study in the United Kingdom concluded as follows:
[A] 2017 meta-analysis of 494 previous studies of racial sensitivity training programmes found that ‘changes in measured implicit bias are possible, but those changes do not necessarily translate into changes in explicit bias or behaviour’. The Equality and Human Rights Commission published its findings in 2018, stating that ‘the evidence for [unconscious bias training’s] ability effectively to change behaviour is limited’ and that it may cause a ‘backfiring’ effect, actually making people more biased. And last year the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (the UK’s main HR professional body) said ‘unconscious bias training has no sustained impact on behaviour’.
Indeed, “while implicit bias trainings are multiplying, few rigorous evaluations of these programs exist,” the fact remains that “to date, none of these interventions has been shown to result in permanent, long-term reductions of implicit bias scores or, more importantly, sustained and meaningful changes in behavior (i.e., narrowing of racial/ethnic clinical treatment disparities."
Of course, these facts have not stopped the American Bar Association from requiring law schools to conduct training on implicit bias, a proposal that was rightfully met with resistance from established scholars. Perhaps this is because most law faculties are so overwhelmingly liberal that groupthink, rather than critical thinking, precludes a principled assessment of implicit bias’s validity.
Without such an assessment, claims that implicit biases impact biased behavior will continue to lack empirical support. As such, the efficacy of implicit bias training remains dubious.
Ultimately, eradicating bias and discrimination from all facets of society is a legal and moral imperative, but scholars should question seriously whether a focus on alleged implicit biases is an effective way of doing so. And in so doing, scholars should be committed to intellectual honesty to ensure that their own biases do not influence their findings.
 Lee Jussim, 12 Reasons to be Skeptical of Common Claims About Implicit Bias (March 28, 2022), available at: 12 Reasons to Be Skeptical of Common Claims About Implicit Bias | Psychology Today
 See Adam Lamparello, The Flaws of Implicit Bias and the Need for Empirical Research in Legal Scholarship and in Legal Education, available at: The Flaws of Implicit Bias -- and the Need for Empirical Research in Legal Scholarship and in Legal Education by Adam Lamparello :: SSRN.
 See The Spectator, The Dangers of Unconscious Bias Training (Aug. 15, 2020), available at: The dangers of unconscious bias training | The Spectator
 Harvard Embraces Debunked ‘Implicit Bias’ Test that Labels You a Racist, (Jan. 22, 2020), available at: Harvard Embraces Debunked 'Implicit Bias' Test that Labels You a Racist (mixedtimes.com)
 German Lopez, For Years, This Popular Test Measured Anyone’s Racial Bias. But It Might Not Work After All, VOX (Mar. 7, 2017, 7:30 AM), https://www.vox.com/identities/2017/3/7/14637626/implicit-association-testracism (quoting New York University Professor James Jaccard).
 Tom Bartlett, Can We Really Measure Implicit Bias? Maybe Not, CHRON. OF HIGHER EDUC. (Jan. 5, 2017), https://www.chronicle.com/article/Can-We-Really-Measure-Implicit/238807.
 Brandie Jefferson, Change the Bias, Change the Behavior? Maybe Not, WASH. UNIV. IN ST. LOUIS NEWSROOM (Aug. 1, 2019), https://source.wustl.edu/2019/08/change-the-bias-change-the-behavior-maybe-not/
 Lee Jussim, Mandatory Implicit Bias Training Is a Bad Idea, PSYCH. TODAY (Dec. 2, 2017), https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/rabble-rouser/201712/mandatory-implicit-bias-training-is-bad-idea.
 Lewis Feilder, The Dangers of Unconscious Bias Training (Aug. 15, 2020), available at: The dangers of unconscious bias training | The Spectator
 See Tiffany L. Green & Nao Hagiwara, The Problem with Implicit Bias Training Aug. 28, 2020), available at: The Problem with Implicit Bias Training - Scientific American
 See, e.g., Karen Sloan, U.S. Law Students to Receive Anti-Bias Training After ABA Passes New Rule (February 14, 2022), available at: U.S. law students to receive anti-bias training after ABA passes new rule | Reuters
 See Michael Conklin, Political Ideology and Law School Rankings: Measuring the Conservative Penalty and Liberal Bonus, 2020 U. Ill. L. Rev. Online 178, 179 (2020) As Professor Conklin explains:
It was not until 2015 that a robust analysis of law school ideological diversity was published (hereinafter “2015 study”). Before this, it was already well known that law school professors were disproportionately liberal—both when compared to the public at large and when compared to the overall legal profession. A study using 2013 data found that only 11% of law school professors were Republicans, compared to 82% who were Democrats. Not only do conservatives find it difficult to gain admittance into legal academia, but those who do find that they are effectively barred from the more prestigious topics, such as constitutional law and federal courts, and are instead relegated to topics such as law and economics.
 See Green and Hagiwara, supra note 12.
January 28, 2023 in Current Affairs, Law School, Legal Ethics, Legal Profession, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)
Tuesday, January 24, 2023
Concrete Economics on the Supreme Court
The Supreme Court has recently offered strikingly similar answers to two seemingly disparate questions. The first concerns Article III standing to bring a case in federal court: What does it mean to show a “concrete and particularized injury in fact” that would, in part, support standing? The second concerns precedent: What does it mean for citizens to “rely” on precedents so that those prior decisions deserve stare decisis protection? The Court’s answers to each of these questions uses similar reasoning to amplify economic interests that are easy to identify and measure. Taken together, these seemingly unrelated jurisprudential developments also have an important real-world effect: they help ensure that our legal system provides the greatest level of protection possible for clear, monetary concerns, relegating more intangible individual rights to a second-class status.
Start with the Courts recent jurisprudence on Article III standing, which includes, as one of its elements, a requirement that plaintiff’s suffer a concrete and particularized injury in fact. Recent Supreme Court analyses have heightened this concreteness hurdle to enter federal courts. In Spokeo v. Robins, the Court suggested that Congress cannot create concrete injuries by fiat simply by including a statutory damages remedy in legislation. Five years later in Transunion LLC v. Ramirez, the Court again noted that an injury does not become concrete simply because Congress creates a statutory cause of action to redress it—although such Congressional action might be instructive. The Court emphasized that it would only resolve “‘a real controversy with real impact on real persons.’” In effect, these decisions emphasize the need for plaintiffs to come to the courthouse with an injury that can easily be measured, typically in real dollars and cents, before filing suit.
Meanwhile, as I have argued, the Court’s treatment of stare decisis in the landmark abortion rights case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization used similar language to signal the Justice’s willingness to overturn a broader swath of the Court’s prior decisions. According to Justice Alito’s majority opinion in Dobbs, stare decisis only protects reliance interests that arise “where advance planning of great precision is most obviously a necessity”—not reliance interests that come from the kind of “unplanned activity” that may lead to an abortion. Alito also claimed that stare decisis protects only “very concrete reliance interests, like those that develop in ‘cases involving property and contract rights.’” Courts simply cannot measure, and thus cannot protect, more intangible forms of reliance that involve the organization of intimate relationships and decisions about a woman’s position in her family and community. Though this language appears content-neutral, Alito's approach to stare decisis significantly weakens precedents that protect intangible individual rights. Few citizens make contractual arrangements or economic plans based upon such precedents, and thus those precedents seems less viable in the long term.
Taken together, these trends prioritize economic interests over a number of other important interests that the legal system previously seemed to protect. Many social interests or individual rights are not the subject of economic agreements. And under the Court’s approach to both standing and stare decisis, those rights are less worthy of legal protection, on that basis alone. Put another way, if a legal interest is difficult to quantify economically, it is hardly a legal interest at all.
Without garnering much public notice, these joint emphases on concreteness create new barriers for the protection of individual rights in federal courts. They are perhaps an even greater threat to individual rights than a decision that forthrightly admits it is designed to curb those rights.
 See, e.g., Valley Forge Christian Coll. v. Ams. United for Separation of Church & State, Inc., 454 U.S. 461, 472 (1982); Lujan v. Defs. of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560–61 (1992).
 578 U.S. 330, 339-40 (2016); Richard L. Heppner Jr., Statutory Damages and Standing After Spokeo v. Robins, 9 ConLawNOW 125, 125 (2018).
 141 S. Ct. 2190, 2204-05 (2021).
 Id. at 2203 (quoting Am. Legion v. Am. Humanist Ass’n, 139 S. Ct. 2067, 2103 (2019) (Gorsuch, J., concurring)).
 142 S. Ct. at 2272, 2276.
 Id. at 2272, 2277.
January 24, 2023 in Appellate Advocacy, Appellate Justice, Appellate Practice, Appellate Procedure, Current Affairs, Federal Appeals Courts, United States Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0)
Saturday, January 14, 2023
What Law Students Should Know About Law Practice
One of the criticisms of law schools is that they do not adequately prepare students for law practice.
In law school, students learn legal doctrines, acquire critical thinking, argumentation, and persuasive writing skills, master IRAC/CRAC, and participate in clinics – all of which help students to obtain the knowledge and skills needed to successfully practice law. But for many years, lawyers and judges have criticized law schools for not producing practice-ready graduates, citing, among other things, graduates’ substandard persuasive writing skills, inexperience in drafting real-world legal documents, and lack of ‘soft’ skills. This criticism, as underscored by graduates at many schools, has some merit, although law schools certainly do their very best, within a limited time of three years, to provide students with the skills to practice law competently upon graduation.
Below are a few tips for students regarding what to expect – and the skills needed – when practicing law.
1. Learning to work with other people – including those you don’t like – is critical to your success.
In the legal profession – and in life – you are going to encounter people that you despise. Such individuals are not hard to identify and there are many of them in all facets of the legal profession. They typically display inflated egos, treat others disrespectfully, lack trustworthiness, have narcissistic tendencies, and are so self-absorbed that they cannot possibly appreciate an opposing argument or perspective. Nobody likes these people. Invariably, however, you will almost certainly have to work with them – or for them – in your legal career.
And when you do, the worst thing that you could do is become combative, disrespectful, or dismissive. Doing so will only hurt you – and empower them. Instead, focus on what you can control, such as your work product, your responses to their behavior, and your demeanor. If you do that and, as such, learn to work with difficult people, you will increase your value and reputation. So don’t focus on how others behave or be consumed with external circumstances over which you have no control. Focus on how you behave and conduct yourself.
2. Confidence and humility are critical to developing strong relationships with your colleagues.
Confidence matters in the legal profession.
But humility matters too.
Regardless of whether you graduate at the top of your class at Harvard, serve as your law review’s editor-in-chief, or publish in the Yale Law Journal, you will face a steep learning curve when you begin practicing law. Recognizing that – and being willing to learn from and listen to your more experienced colleagues – is essential to developing strong relationships with them and mastering the skills necessary to practice law at the highest levels. Thus, being courteous, respectful, and professional is vitally important if you want to cultivate a reputation as a good lawyer – and a good person.
In other words, personality matters. If you are a jerk who gossips about or criticizes your colleagues, boasts about your class ranking or LSAT score, or treats assistants like they are second-class citizens, you will not get very far. If you think that you are ‘right’ all the time or are overly opinionated, most people will despise you. Simply put, don’t be a jerk – the world is already saturated with them, and nobody wants to associate with those types of people. Rather, be authentic, humble, and respectful.
3. Your reputation and credibility – particularly with your colleagues and judges – are vital to your success.
Reputation and credibility are everything in the legal profession. If you lose your credibility, you lose your ability to garner the trust of your client, your colleagues, or judges. When your reputation or credibility is compromised, your career is likely irreparably damaged.
Accordingly, make sure, for example, that you work diligently to produce an outstanding work product. Always be honest, particularly when you make a mistake. Treat your clients, your adversaries, and judges with respect and civility. Be ethical and professional. And most importantly, be a nice, authentic, and decent person. As stated above, nobody likes jerks.
4. Excellent persuasive writing skills are essential.
If you cannot write persuasively, you cannot practice law effectively. Thus, at the beginning of and throughout your legal career (and life), focus on continually developing your persuasive writing skills. In so doing, read outstanding legal briefs and legal writing textbooks. Take the time to thoroughly rewrite and edit your work. Read great fiction books and apply literary techniques to your briefs where appropriate. Ask for feedback from more experienced colleagues about your writing. After all, two or three semesters in legal writing classes, while helpful, is not nearly enough to develop outstanding persuasive writing skills. Learning to write persuasively is a lifelong lesson and one that you should embrace if you want to be a great lawyer.
5. Outstanding communication skills are critically important.
Interpersonal communication, whether with a client, an adversary, or a court, is integral to your success as a lawyer. If you cannot, for example, clearly articulate arguments and explain complex legal concepts in an understandable way, you aren’t going to be successful.
Thus, you must know, among other things, how to present an argument concisely, clearly, and persuasively. You must understand that how you say something is just as important as what you say. You must actively listen to and respect others’ opinions. You have to show empathy and compassion for your client. You need to be skillful in negotiating with your adversary, present your argument in a way that convinces others to adopt your position, and have the judgment to know when compromise is appropriate.
6. Law practice is stressful and can be all-consuming.
The legal profession is often quite stressful. Indeed, at times, the pressure can be all-consuming, such as when preparing for a trial, writing motions and briefs, reviewing voluminous discovery documents, or preparing to argue before an appellate or supreme court. Indeed, practicing law is far from glamorous, as many days and hours are spent reviewing documents and filing motions. Put simply, there’s a reason why many lawyers struggle with alcohol or drug abuse, or mental health issues. The legal profession is difficult and there is no way around that fact. If you are working in a large or medium-sized firm, your billable hours matter. Whether you can attract clients matters. Whether you win matters.
But that doesn’t mean that you have to become the legal profession’s next alcoholic or drug addict. It does mean, however, that you have to prepare yourself for this reality. In so doing, learn how to cope with stress and adversity. Organize your day and prioritize your tasks. Take care of your physical and mental health, such as by exercising every day, eating healthy, and reserving some time – even if only for an hour – to do something that you enjoy. Spend time with family and friends. And realize that you’re probably not going to change the world, that justice is truly subjective, and that life is going to present far more adversity than you expected. But if you can help your clients to achieve positive results, live a meaningful life, and find happiness, then the law is a profession that can have a noble purpose.
 See, e.g., David Segal, What They Don’t Teach Law Students: Lawyering (Nov. 19, 2011), available at: After Law School, Associates Learn to Be Lawyers - The New York Times (nytimes.com)
January 14, 2023 in Current Affairs, Law School, Legal Ethics, Legal Profession, Legal Writing | Permalink | Comments (0)
Sunday, January 8, 2023
Who Serves on the Bench Matters
As lawyers and appellate advocates, we trust that the rule of law will prevail – that there will be consequences for breaching contracts, for negligence that injures another person, and for violating constitutionally guaranteed rights. We trust that judges will be impartial and apply the law within a range of accepted conclusions that may not always be right but with an error rate that maintains confidence in the justice system. We believe that the law should not differ because of who serves on the bench because all who do must adhere to the rule of law. And yet, we know that who serves often will make all the difference.
We engage in ideologically tinged battles over who serves on the bench, regardless of whether the path to a judgeship is through appointment or election. Appellate advocates tailor their arguments to the judges who hear a case, combing their past opinions and other writings for clues that might trigger a favorable response for their client or issue. Some judges have expertise on the subject of the appeal, while others do not. Some have staked out positions on the appellate issue that makes the appellate task easier or even insuperable. Some utilize a methodology or a hierarchy of interests that signal the approach a wise advocate should take. A one-time dissenting view can now fit within the mainstream of legal thinking so that it provides a new handle on addressing an issue. That is why advocates are well-advised to know their audiences.
Court memberships shift, and the likely result from a court can shift with it. In an end-of-the-year decision from the Ohio Supreme Court, the justices’ own awareness of that shift was on display. In full disclosure, I was the winning advocate in the case and had the opportunity to watch it play out. By virtue of the mandatory retirement requirements of the state, the chief justice was due to step down from the court on December 31. I argued the case, which challenged the constitutionality of a state statute both facially and as applied, in late March. The decision, striking the law as applied, was written by the chief justice for a 4-3 majority and issued December 16. One dissenter appended a paragraph to the decision complaining of a departure from what he called the “regular and orderly internal rules of operation and practice,” because the majority insisted on issuing the decision so that the current court, rather than its successor, would rule on any motion for reconsideration. He added his apology to the “citizens of Ohio that my individual dissent is not of the quality that I have come to deliver and that the public expects” because his “time on this case was aberrantly and improperly limited.”
That paragraph became the focus of the motion for reconsideration filed just within the deadline on the evening of December 27. It seemed apparent that both the majority and the dissenter were well aware of the consequences of pushing reconsideration off to the new year and the new court. The majority sought to assure that a reconsideration motion would come before the same court that decided the case; the dissenter sought to push the case to the new term where he believed a different membership would reach a different result and his dissent could become the decision of the court.
Taking no chances, I filed my opposition to reconsideration within hours of the motion’s filing so awaiting opposition would not provide an excuse to delay a ruling. On December 29, reconsideration was denied.
The episode demonstrates what we know as advocates: who sits on the bench makes a difference. It also confirms another thing we know – judges are as acutely aware of that as anyone else.
 Brandt v. Pompa, 2022-Ohio-4525, ¶ 132 reconsideration denied, 2022-Ohio-4786 (Fisher, J., dissenting).
January 8, 2023 in Appellate Advocacy, Appellate Justice, Appellate Practice, Current Affairs, Federal Appeals Courts, State Appeals Courts, United States Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0)
Sunday, December 25, 2022
Christmas and the Law
Thinking about a holiday-appropriate topic to write for Christmas, the false claims that there is a war on the holiday came to mind. Attempts to acknowledge the holiday but preserve the secular nature of a government that neither advances nor inhibits religion, gave us the two-reindeer rule. The “rule” comes from the 1984 case of Lynch v. Donnelly, where the city of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, had long sponsored a display in a shopping district. That consisted of a Santa Claus house, a Christmas tree, a banner reading "Seasons Greetings," reindeer pulling a sleigh, and a creche.
In rejecting a challenge to the display based on the Establishment Clause by a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court held it to be a holiday display, rather than advocacy of a religious message. The Court treated the items featured as advancing the historical origins of the holiday and considered that to provide "legitimate secular purposes." The most religious item in the display, the creche, passively connected to the holiday “like a painting” in a government museum, the Court said. The nearby display of reindeer and a sleigh, it went on to say, were secular symbols that conveyed “a friendly community spirit of goodwill in keeping with the season.” Derisively, the ruling was dubbed the “two-reindeer” rule because, according to a predominant reading of the case, adding two reindeer to an otherwise religious display transformed it into something secular.
Interestingly, modern attitudes toward Christmas have changed substantially. In 1659, Massachusetts had a law called the “Penalty for Keeping Christmas,” that stated:
For preventing disorders arising in several places within this jurisdiction, by reason of some still observing such festivals as were superstitiously kept in other countries, to the great dishonor of God and offence of others, it is therefore ordered by this Court and the authority thereof, that whosoever shall be found observing any such day as Christmas or the like, either by forbearing of labor, feasting, or any other way, upon such accounts as aforesaid, every such person so offending shall pay for every such offence five shillings, as a fine to the country.
The law reflected the thought that making this deeply religious day into a festival brought “great dishonor” to God and reflected Puritan attitudes about Christmas. Puritans believed that celebrating Christmas entailed wasteful activities and social excess that were both immoral and antithetical to Christian beliefs. Fourteen years before the Massachusetts law came into being, the English Parliament promulgated a “Directory for Public Worship” that treated so-called festival days, including Christmas, as periods of private contemplation and not celebration. By 1677, English law flipped, and it became illegal for any ”person whatsoever to do or exercise any worldly labour, business or work of their ordinary callings” on Christmas Day.
Recalling these transformations of attitudes in an appellate advocacy blog serves only to show that even deeply religiously held convictions can change, much as the law itself demonstrates a capacity to develop in sometimes unpredictable ways – and advocacy assumes a significant role in the law’s development.
Still, however you celebrate, enjoy the holiday, and I wish you a happy new year.
 Lynch v. Donnelly, 465 U.S. 668 (1984).
December 25, 2022 in Appellate Advocacy, Current Affairs, United States Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0)
Saturday, December 17, 2022
2022 Top Legal Terms Include “Complicit Bias,” “False Narrative,” and “Nuclear Option,” According to Burton’s Legal Thesaurus
Happy December! Whether you are scrambling to finish grading, like me, or wishing for a holiday with no emergency writs or motions, I hope you are enjoying the many lists of odd and interesting things lawyers did in 2022. Recently, I saw the newest edition of Burton’s Legal Thesaurus, the Fortieth Anniversary/Sixth Edition, and the editors have added some intriguing new terms as top legal phrases in 2022.
For example: “Attorneys were busy discussing ‘complicit bias,’ arguing about ‘lawfare’ and discussing the ‘great reshuffle’ this past year, according to Burton's Legal Thesaurus, which released its list of 2022's top new legal terms.” Karp, “Meme Stock,” “Quiet Quitting” Among Top New Legal Terms, Law360 (Dec. 13, 2022). “Complicit bias” means “community complicity in sustaining institutional bias and harassment in the workplace.” See Michele Goodwin, Complicit Bias: Sexual Harassment and the Communities that Sustain It, Huffington Post (Dec. 11, 2017) (credited with creating this new term).
Other neat new terms include “False Narrative” and “Nuclear Option.” “False narrative” is a noun, according to Burton’s, and unsurprisingly means: “a contrived story, artifice,” and “distortion of truth.” Burton’s confirms the political root of “nuclear option,” defining it as a noun meaning “abolish the filibuster, change in voting, change to majority vote for passage in the US Senate,” or “drastic action, extreme action.” In a recent Sixth Circuit case showing one way lawyers are using the term, the court found no abuse of discretion where the district court “allowed [a party] to introduce its [opponents'] threats to stop shipping parts into evidence and to compare those threats to a ‘nuclear option.’” Stackpole Int'l Engineered Prods. v. Angstrom Auto. Grp., LLC, 52 F.4th 274, 284-85 (6th Cir. 2022).
Burton’s contains over 3,000 pages of definitions, but Debra Cassens Weiss summarized some other new items from Burton’s 2022 Top Ten list, including: “‘Lawfare,’ meaning the use of legal proceedings to damage an adversary; [t]he ‘Great Reshuffle’ a variation of ‘Great Resignation,’ referring to people leaving jobs; [and] ‘Movement law,’ an approach to legal scholarships that works with social movements, rather than simply studying them.” Cassens Weiss, 'Complicit bias' and 'lawfare' among top new legal terms in 2022, ABA Journal (Dec. 14, 2022). Cassens Weiss also explained: “Margaret Wu, a legal writing professor at the University of California at Berkely School of Law, is chair of the Select Committee on Terminology of Burton’s Legal Thesaurus,” and “Wu told Law360 . . . ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, “sea changes” at the Supreme Court, diversity and equity initiatives and technology” influenced this year’s terms.
In its pitch for Burton’s Sixth Edition, LexisNexis explains: “As Justice William O. Douglas penned in his 1979 foreword to Burton’s Legal Thesaurus, ‘[t]he root of all language is individual word. Often, it is the use of a specific word or term upon which a case or controversy may hinge. It is through the use of such a tool as the Legal Thesaurus that one may find the precise term to fit the nuances of a particular situation.’” Whatever resources you use to find perfect words this month, I wish you happy writing and happy holidays.
December 17, 2022 in Appellate Advocacy, Appellate Practice, Books, Current Affairs, Legal Writing, Rhetoric | Permalink | Comments (0)
Friday, December 16, 2022
How to Prepare Law Students for the Real World
The goal of law school should be to prepare students to practice law competently and advocate persuasively upon graduation. Below are suggestions that will help to maximize students’ success in the legal profession.
1. Use the Socratic Method.
Some legal scholars have, for a variety of reasons, criticized the Socratic method. Such criticism, however, lacks merit.
The Socratic method teaches preparation. It requires students to learn how to read cases. Additionally, it requires them to discuss these cases in class, often before a large audience. In so doing, students are often confronted with difficult legal and policy questions, which tests their preparation, communication skills, and ability to think on their feet – all of which are essential to being a competent lawyer. That’s why doctrinal courses, particularly in the first year, are so important.
Furthermore, the Socratic method helps students cope with anxiety and uncertainty. Indeed, most students do not know if their professor will call on them in class and, of course, have no idea what questions the professor will ask. Although this may engender anxiety and fear among students, that is not necessarily a bad thing. In law practice, attorneys face anxiety and uncertainty when litigating a case or preparing an oral argument before an appellate court. Helping students to cope with these feelings in a healthy manner is essential to preparing them to succeed in law and in life.
Certainly, if used improperly, such as to embarrass students, the Socratic method can be counterproductive. And the Socratic method alone is not sufficient to prepare students for law practice. But when used responsibly, the Socratic method is an essential component of legal education.
2. Expand the legal writing curriculum.
Many law schools do not devote sufficient time to training students to be competent legal writers in the real world. For example, some schools only require two semesters of legal writing, in which students draft only a legal memorandum and an appellate brief.
But in law practice, students will not only draft memorandums and appellate briefs. They will be required to draft, among other things, complaints, contracts, motions to dismiss, motions for summary judgment, interrogatories, document requests, and requests for admissions, trial briefs, mediation statements, and settlement agreements. Given this fact, law schools should train students to draft and re-draft the most common litigation and transactional documents; in so doing, students will be more prepared to practice law when they graduate.
In fact, imagine if, over three years, students were required to represent a hypothetical client in a litigation that contains issues from all of their first-year required courses, and that required them to, among other things, conduct a client interview, draft a complaint and answer, file a motion to dismiss, draft discovery documents, conduct depositions, draft a motion for summary judgment and a trial brief, participate in a trial, and draft an appellate brief. And imagine if they had to do so in the order that it would occur in practice. That would truly prepare students to practice law, and it would teach students to learn by doing.
More broadly, law schools should focus on developing their students’ writing skills, such as in classes devoted to editing, rewriting, and revising, and requiring students to draft legal documents in a variety of contexts. Doing so takes time, and certainly more than two or three semesters.
3. Require students to enroll in at least two clinics.
Law students do not learn how to practice law by memorizing legal principles and regurgitating them on an exam. They learn by, among other things, applying the law to hypothetical and real-world fact patterns, addressing counterarguments effectively, reconciling unfavorable law and facts, and crafting compelling factual and legal narratives. Perhaps most importantly, they learn by practicing like lawyers, namely, representing clients, drafting briefs, performing oral arguments, negotiating with adversaries, and exercising judgment about trial strategy and settlement.
Clinics provide law students with the opportunity to acquire these and other real-world skills, and often in a context that makes a meaningful difference in the lives of individuals who might otherwise lack access to legal representation.
For these and other reasons, law schools (and some already do) should require students to enroll in at least two clinics prior to graduation. After all, the only way to prepare for practice is to actually practice law (under supervised conditions, of course).
4. Require students to take multiple upper-level practical skills courses.
Most law schools give students the freedom to select most of their upper-level courses. This is certainly understandable, as students are interested in different areas of the legal profession and intend to pursue different paths in law practice. Having an elective-heavy curriculum, however, need not dispense with a focus on practical skills instruction, and theory and practice need not be considered mutually exclusive.
The problem with some upper-level electives is that they have no relationship to practice. For example, courses focusing on comparative jurisprudence, the original meaning of the Privileges and Immunities Clause, or the death penalty, are certainly instructive and probably quite enjoyable. But how do they prepare students for law practice? At the very least, such courses should include practical components, such as the drafting of a complaint, motion, or brief, to merge theory with practice.
After all, in medical school, students are not taking courses on the origins of contraception. They are learning how to practice medicine. Law students, too, should learn how to practice law.
5. Use “high-pressure” assignments.
The legal profession is demanding and stressful. Partners and clients have high expectations. And in many instances, lawyers are under intense pressure to produce high-quality work under severe time constraints. Indeed, many lawyers can relate to the unfortunate and all-too-common situations (often on a Friday afternoon or holiday weekend) where a partner says, “I need you to draft a motion for injunctive relief immediately and, at the latest, by Monday morning.”
For that reason, law schools should train students to excel under and cope with pressure and high expectations. For example, in upper-level courses, a professor can present students with a distinct legal question and require them to draft a memorandum or prepare for an oral argument within twenty-four hours or require them to draft a response to a motion to dismiss within forty-eight hours. Sure, this will be stressful for the students, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Training students about the realities of law practice will help them to become better lawyers, and to develop the mindset and mental toughness necessary to excel under pressure.
6. Focus on developing the intangibles, or soft skills.
A high IQ, an excellent LSAT score, a perfect law school GPA, or the best score on the MBE does not mean that a law graduate will be successful in law or in life. Rather, to be a good lawyer, you need the intangibles, or soft skills, that complement raw intelligence.
For example, great lawyers have emotional intelligence. They work harder than almost anyone. They have excellent judgment. They are efficient and organized. They can handle adversity and criticism, and persevere through difficult times. They know how to cooperate and collaborate with other people, including those that they do not like or who have different viewpoints. They know how to communicate with a colleague, a client, and a court. They are humble and honest. They have empathy. And they want to win.
Without the intangibles or soft skills, law graduates will likely not find success in the legal profession – or in life. As such, law schools should focus on developing the intangibles, and this can be accomplished in, for example, clinical courses, where students are required to be part of a team and represent clients in actual cases.
7. Focus on mindset development – and mental toughness.
In the legal profession and in life, students will encounter substantial and unexpected adversity. They will face unfairness and injustice. They may have to deal with the death of a family member or friend, an abusive colleague, the break-up of a relationship, or an unexpected medical emergency. These and other events, although we all hope to avoid them, will happen.
But law students are not victims. They are not oppressed. They are not powerless. Rather, they have the power – and the choice – to overcome whatever adversity they face because their choices, not their circumstances, determine their destiny.
Of course, as with developing intangible or soft skills, teaching mindset and mental toughness does not necessarily require a separate course. Rather, these lessons can be incorporated into any law school course by a professor who devotes a little time in each class to the mental, not merely the intellectual, aspect of law.
8. Have high standards.
It’s important to have empathy and compassion for students, and to support them in every way possible as they navigate the difficulties of law school. But that does not mean coddling students, which is one of the worst things an educator can do, or dispensing with high – even very high – standards. Challenging students to be their very best, offering constructive criticism, and demanding excellent work is the hallmark of a great teacher. And invariably, students will fail to meet these expectations. But failure is good thing. It presents students with an opportunity to learn and grow. Most importantly, high standards prepare students for what they will face in the real world.
9. Teach students to respect diverse viewpoints.
Diversity is a critical component of any educational institution. And among the most important aspects of diversity is teaching students to respect different viewpoints and engage in civil discourse with those with whom they disagree.
For that reason, professors should create a safe and constructive classroom environment in which all viewpoints are welcomed and respected, and where a diversity of perspectives is encouraged. One of the worst things that educators can do is to reveal their political and personal biases in a classroom (and worse, try to ‘indoctrinate’ students) because doing so stifles debate and diversity.
After all, in the real world, students will encounter – and have to work with – people that they disagree with, that they don’t like, and that have backgrounds and experiences entirely different from their own. If they cannot work with and respect such individuals, and realize that their views aren’t necessarily ‘right,’ their path to success – and humility – will be much harder.
Ultimately, traditional legal education is not broken. The Socratic Method has served students very well over the years. But a few adjustments can be made to ensure that theory and practice merge in a cohesive manner that prepares students to think and practice like lawyers, and to be good people.
December 16, 2022 in Appellate Advocacy, Current Affairs, Law School, Legal Ethics, Legal Profession, Legal Writing, Moot Court | Permalink | Comments (0)