Another reason to have compassion for law school grads who began their legal careers during the recession -- even for those who found work, their work experience at work-starved firms doesn't measure up to the experience of law grads from happier times. And that makes them less valuable as lateral hires. The ABA Journal has the story.
The 5th circuit says no. A Texas high school cheerleader who refused to cheer for a player she accused of sexually assaulting her (he later pled guilty to a misdemeanor) lost her suit against the school district and officials who dismissed her from the squad. The court recited as fact that the plaintiff as a cheerleader was "contractually required to cheer for the team," including her attacker. Her complaint alleged that her determination not to cheer for her attacker was an exercise of symbolic expression of her disapproval of her attacker, protected by the First Amendment. The court rejected the argument:
In her capacity as cheerleader, H.S. served as a mouthpiece through which SISD could disseminate speech -- namely, support for its athletic teams. Insofar as the First Amendment does not require schools to promote particular student speech, SISD had no duty to promote H.S.’s message by allowing her to cheer or not cheer, as she saw fit. Moreover, this act constituted substantial interference with the work of the school because, as a cheerleader, H.S. was at the basketball game for the purpose of cheering, a position she undertook voluntarily.
Okay, in New York, according to a new New York State Bar Association ethics opinion, you can gather information on adverse parties in litigation from their publicly accessible social media pages. Just don't try "friending" them (or friending them by proxy) to do it. Here's a link to the NYSBA press release on the opinion, which contains a link to the opinion. By the way, the Philadelphia Bar, which should really know the meaning of Friends, agrees.
The American Lawyer has created a list of the 37 richest law grads in America, culled from the Forbes list of the 400 wealthiest Americans. You can read it here. Only one Michigan law grad makes the list: No. 60 (tie): $4.4 billion, Samuel Zell, of Equity Group Investments, who makes the Forbes list tied at No. 60, with $4.4 billion. He is a 1966 graduate of the University of Michigan Law School, and quit the practice of law after one year. American Lawyer says that he once told the Wall Street Journal that he found drafting contracts "deadly."
Yesterday we told you about a new recusal controversy in West Virginia, in which a sitting Justice who had said about the state's limit on non-economic damages, "I will not vote to overturn it. I will not vote to change it. I will not vote to modify it," declined to recuse himself on a case on just that question. Today, he's changed his mind, sort of:
"Upon further reflection, I am disqualifying myself from the above case. I strongly believe there is absolutely no legal basis for my disqualification. See Republican Party of Minnesota v. White, 536 U.S. 765 (2002). However, it appears to me that the lawyers who moved to disqualify me are attempting to create a 'firestorm' by assaulting the integrity and impartiality of West Virginia's Supreme Court.
"I promptly sent my disqualification response to the lawyers on September 23, 2010. The next day my response appeared in a Washington internet blog. (See copy attached.) How did a blog so quickly get my disqualification memorandum which was sent only to the lawyers in the case? Why is it newsworthy that a West Virginia judge previously exercised his right of Freedom of Speech?
"The blog did not have the decency to publish my First Amendment rationale as authorized by Republican Party of Minnesota v. White, or quote the legal rationale from White set out in my memorandum.
"I could care less if the blogs or press crucify me personally. However, I believe the lawyers are pulling the press's strings to place our Court in an unfavorable light. A lot of hard work has been accomplished to keep the Court out of the limelight since I took office on January 1, 2009. I don't want our Court to be publicly maligned by those with a 'win-at-all-cost' mentality. I disqualify myself from this case."
You can hear, but you can't see. The U.S. Supreme Court has decided to post the audio of all Supreme Court arguments on the web, but will no longer provide same-day audios of high profile arguments. Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said that the Court has decided that it won't entertain requests from broadcasters for the same-day release of audio recordings any longer. Last term, the AP reports, the justices rejected every broadcaster request. The recordings will be released at the end of the week.
Michigan registers at the high end of the serious response scale to things being filed late in court with the jailing by Wayne County Circuit Judge Tim Kenny of court reporter Paulette Martin for contempt for missed deadlines in a case in which the transcript was due last July. Martin served two and a half weeks of a 30 day sentence before Kenny released her. The Free Press story is here.
Meanwhile in New Jersey, a federal judge has fined a New Jersey law firm $500 a day for future late failings, based on its "habitual" late filing of briefs in Social Security appellate matters. The apparent trigger was a filing more than a month late, for which a $13,500 fine was imposed:
This Court has tried everything within its power and creativity to cajole, prod, warn, exhort, and practically beg this law firm to take seriously the deadlines that are needed for the Court to decide its cases. No case can begin without a plaintiff's brief.
"Yet, over and over and over again, this firm does not file its brief until this Court is required to take time out of its busy schedule to order counsel to file," she continued. "At this point, the refusal to file on time verges on the contumacious and is, regrettably, disrespectful of Court time and the duties of counsel to proceed without the need for the Court to become a nursemaid."
The sanctions were entered jointly and severally against the firm and its partners; the cost may not be passed on to clients. In cases where the firm's fees are paid under the Equal Access to Justice Act, such funds may not be used to pay the sanctions. The firm was also ordered to meet with the clients whose cases are before the judge and explain that the case will be dismissed if the firm runs afoul of court rules, and to file a certification with the court that they have done so.
Wal-Mart and a host of amici are urging to Supreme Court to grant cert in the appeal of a federal appeals court ruling that the largest employment discrimination case in U.S. history can proceed as a class action. (See Largest Class Action Suit Ever Approved). The sex discrimination lawsuit was brought by six female Wal-Mart employees in 2001. Although the appeals court reduced the size of the original class from 1.5 million to 500,000, it held that the remaining employees might be eligible for back pay under a separate class action. Wal-Mart had argued that the size of the class was too large to be manageable as a class action.
The head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce calls the case, Wal-Mart Stores v. Dukes, 10-277, the “800-pound gorilla” of the court’s 2010-11 docket.
Nineteen of Wal-Mart's fellow employers are weighing in on Wal-Mart's side with amicus briefs. They areAltria Group, Bank of America, Chrysler, Cigna, Del Monte Foods, Dole Food, Dollar General, DuPont, General Electric, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Kimberly-Clark, McKesson, Microsoft, PepsiCo, Tyson Foods, UnitedHealth Group, United Parcel Service, and Williams Cos.
Now that the recession has been declared officially over, it's time to focus on being happy. Time magazine reports on a Princeton study about wealth and happiness, and concludes that $75,000 per year looks like a rough pivot point in the balance: "At that level, people probably have enough expendable cash to do things that make them feel good, like going out with friends." There's a lot of academic research on the subject (check out Stumbling on Happiness, by Harvard professor Daniel Gilbert), but it all seems to point to what your parents told you growing up -- friends, family, and health are way more important to happiness than money. Here's an international take on that homespun wisdom from SmartMoney:
And what do we find from large-scale, international surveys of life satisfaction? According to two new working papers from John Helliwell and Christopher Barrington-Leigh, economists at the University of British Columbia, we find that money matters to happiness — but not entirely in the way one might think. Money does matter quite a bit when it comes to the difference between poverty and Western levels of prosperity. The difference in happiness between Denmark and Zimbabwe is large, and it’s mostly (though not entirely) explained by per capita income.