Which Justice is this? You’ll have to watch to find out. Puppy and Supreme Court Last2Week_Tonight_with_John_Oliver

Which Justice is this? You’ll have to watch to find out.

Today’s post is of the type for which Change of Venue Friday was created. I’m guessing you’ll like it.

There is a video going around, viral-like, from the TV program Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. In fact, so viral it is, and so many lawyers have mentioned it to me, that I hesitated to offer it here. But finally I examined the matter and applied high editorial values, and I saw that the content includes puppies. So you’re welcome.

The challenge faced by the show’s producers—and by any American who cares about American justice—is that the U.S. Supreme Court will not allow cameras in its august chamber. So the show decided to create a courtroom mockup and have dogs sit in the justices’ seats. They then could use the official audio from the actual courtroom to make history come alive for all of us.

Watch below.

As if that’s not enough, the patriots at the Last Week Tonight show did this: They offered a video of the dogs “deliberating,” entirely without audio. Why? They explain:

“We have provided this footage for you to do your own Supreme Court reenactments. Please feel free to use it, post your videos, and tag them #RealAnimalsFakePaws so we can find them.”

Here it is:

Enjoy? Go here to see more of what the show is up to.

And be sure to get the official audio from the Supreme Court (capable of puppy-purposing) here.

Have a fun—and chew-toy-filled—weekend.

Judge George Anagnost moderates the We the People panel, Sept. 17, 2014. He gestures toward panelists Bob McWhirter and Doug Cole.

Judge George Anagnost moderates the We the People panel, Sept. 17, 2014. He gestures toward panelists Bob McWhirter and Doug Cole.

Last week, I attended the annual “We the People” CLE program, which gathers smart folks and lets them loose on the most recent High Court Term. The follow-up was complete and often enlightening.

Paul Bender, Doug Cole and Bob McWhirter offered insightful and often humorous takes on a wide variety of the cases taken by SCOTUS. Led by moderator Judge George Anagnost, they were a formidable intellectual team.

(I appreciated Professor Bender’s unintended error when he misquoted the opening words for the Court’s day: “God save the United States from this honorable Court.” Who doesn’t agree with that occasionally?)

And yet I continue to wonder about the marrying of content with the panelists who discuss it. I have covered this topic—diversity—before, and so let me mention it again.

As always, the cases explored by the panel touch on nearly all areas of human experience. But, as an example, how would the treatment of even one case—Hobby Lobby—have varied had there been even one woman scholar on the panel? Some closely held businesses apparently are untroubled by any medical product or procedure save one—and that one affects women most of all. Would a woman scholar’s view have offered a different, compelling vision?

Of course, I do not believe that all women—or all of anyone—think the same way about legal topics. But, conservative, liberal or in between, a woman panelist may have taken more than an academic interest in the issue.

Professor Paul Bender, seated, at the We the People panel, Sept. 17, 2014.

Professor Paul Bender, seated, at the We the People panel, Sept. 17, 2014.

The same is true of the Shelby case regarding the Voting Rights Act, or the Schuette case regarding affirmative action, or the McCullen case regarding abortion-clinic buffer zones, all ably examined. A mandatory number of African American scholars, or women, per panel is not what I’d expect. But their complete absence is surprising. (Imagine attendees’ surprise if they walked in and saw an all-woman panel, or an all-Black panel. THAT would be news!)

Adding to the oddity of the absence of diversity was the extended discussion on that very topic by the panel. Professor Bender, for example, took pains to note that all of the current Supreme Court Justices have had professional lives as professional judges, rather than some form of law practice (except for Justice Kagan). And he and others noted that the Court may be diverse in some ways, but not in socio-economics, or geography, or even religion (currently, the Court has no Protestants, six Catholics and three Jews).

An attendee could be excused for feeling some disconnect, sympathetic to the desire to see a diverse bench, while at the same time looking around the very room in which we sat …

Bob McWhirter presents at the We the People panel, Sept. 17, 2014.

Bob McWhirter presents at the We the People panel, Sept. 17, 2014.

Again, and in advance of the usual commenters who will say this is window-dressing (or worse): This is about excellent legal education, and a topic on which the State Bar of Arizona has pledged its focus. I found the discussion to be first-rate, but how can we know all of the excellent diverse commentary we are missing? A consistent absence of diverse voices on legal topics that disproportionately affect those very voices is odd, at best. And it makes you wonder if you are getting a full and complete examination of the issues underlying a Supreme Court docket.

That, after all, is what is promised.

OK, have at it in the comment box below.

U.S. Supreme_Court

This Wednesday, September 17, we get another in a popular series of analyses from the recent U.S. Supreme Court Term.

Organized by the State Bar CLE folks, it will include the thoughts of Judge George Anagnost as moderator, as well as panelists ASU Law Professor Paul Bender, Arizona Summit Law Professor Dave Cole, and attorney–scholar Bob McWhirter.

As they describe it:

“This symposium will review significant cases for the October 2013 Term including the Hobby Lobby and the Town of Greece case. The program will feature scholars on the Court focusing on cases presenting important questions of law, comments on individual justices’ legal perspectives, and a preview of petitions for certiorari for this coming October Term 2014.”

More information is here. I hope to see you there.

Does you have privacy rights in what's stored in your cellphone? Supreme Court cases raise the issue.

Do you have privacy rights in what’s stored in your cellphone? Supreme Court cases raise the issue.

A quick question for you on Monday morning: How private is your cellphone?

That simple question underlies some cases facing the U.S. Supreme Court this Term. There, the justices must wrestle with issues of search and seizure when it comes to the ubiquitous cellphone.

When you are asked to empty your pockets (following, we suppose, establishment of probable cause or at least a Terry stop), is your phone entitled to no more privacy than, say, the wad of tissues, or the spare change?

Here is how one news story about the cases opens:

“Two Supreme Court cases about police searches of cellphones without warrants present vastly different views of the ubiquitous device.”

“Is it a critical tool for a criminal or is it an American’s virtual home?”

“How the justices answer that question could determine the outcome of the cases being argued Tuesday. A drug dealer and a gang member want the court to rule that the searches of their cellphones after their arrest violated their right to privacy in the digital age.”

“The Obama administration and California, defending the searches, say cellphones are no different from anything else a person may be carrying when arrested. Police may search those items without a warrant under a line of high court cases reaching back 40 years.”

“What’s more, said Donald Verrilli Jr., the administration’s top Supreme Court lawyer, ‘Cellphones are now critical tools in the commission of crimes.’”

Read the whole story here.

And let me know where you stand on the privacy rights attendant on that phone in your pocket.

Twitter on wall

Legal news arrives pretty fast via the little blue bird.

Conversation with many lawyers about law practice inevitably leads to dialogue about the value of social media. In that regard, things are shifting. We used to never hesitate to call the profession a very very very “late adopter.” But more attorneys have dipped their toe in to test the waters.

However, even those lawyers who may have established a LinkedIn page for themselves (daring much?) shiver in fear at the suggestion of engaging via Twitter.

Perhaps it’s the less-than-serious name and surrounding nomenclature that turns them off, or the fact that many cannot say their complete name in fewer than 140 characters, but attorneys too rarely share the Twitter love.

Here’s hoping the summer and the United States Supreme Court can change that.

Unlike other breaking news, Supreme Court opinions are issued on a relatively predictable schedule. As such, I can count on my Twitter feed to light up like Broadway as news of an opinion emerges. Via Hootsuite or directly via Twitter, I can quickly scan the posts of journalists and lawyers I’ve come to trust about these things.

Constitutional law communicated via digital means may not be something the Founding Fathers anticipated, but I’m confident they’d be down with it. I mean, if published today, Common Sense would have a digital edition, and The Federalist Papers would have a paper-free app.

The stream of SCOTUS news got me wondering: How are you tracking breaking updates from the Court?

Reading the daily newspaper? Reading websites of partisan groups? Watching TV news?

Please tell me you’re not watching TV news.

Don’t get me wrong: Many of those media are perfectly fine. But if you like how they cover news, check to see if they have a Twitter handle. If they do, follow it. (And if they don’t, seriously reassess your choices.)

Remember, you can use Twitter solely as a one-way news stream. Though I recommend you be an active participant with those you follow (and who may follow you), it is not required. Silent reading and consuming of news is perfectly OK. That way, at least you’ll be benefiting from some of Twitter’s functionality.

(And yes, you may even follow my own Twitter feed here.)

follow us on twitter-bird

… at @azatty

If you have not clicked through Twitter links before, you may be pleased to discover this: That what begins as a pithy 140-character tweet may blossom into some wonderful long-form coverage. Don’t buy into the stereotype that complex ideas cannot be synthesized, and that Twitter is analysis-lite.

Don’t be that guy. Get on Twitter.

Once there, search around for media sources you trust, or lawyers whose insight you appreciate. Click Follow. You might even organize them into Lists to encapsulate all your interests (“Supreme Court coverage,” “Mad Men,” “Law Practice Management,” “Recipes”).

The Supreme Court and I will be there waiting for you. And we may even retweet your own insight out to the world. Because we’re all share-y that way.

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor

By now, you’ve heard about a new book being launched, written by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. It’s titled Out of Order: Stories from the History of the Supreme Court.

Happy Change of Venue Friday. For those of you (OK, me) hoping for the excavation of a few skeletons from the Court’s many closets, we’re likely to be disappointed. Here’s how an ABA Journal news story opens:

“Readers hoping for juicy revelations about controversial Supreme Court cases or ‘tell all’ insights won’t find them in Sandra Day O’Connor’s latest book.”

“But those looking for a ‘succinct, snappy account’ of the Supreme Court’s history should pick up the latest book by the retired justice, the New York Times reports. The Christian Science Monitor also has a review of the book, Out of Order: Stories from the History of the Supreme Court.”

(The whole story is here.)

Out of Order Sandra Day OConnor bookSuccinct and snappy are grand, just grand. But throw us a bone. I’m not expecting garish displays or jaw-dropping pronouncements. But something. Anything.

  • Does Justice Scalia slurp his soup?
  • Does Justice Kennedy irritate other Justices by earmarking the pages of books? (And is that really why Justice Souter retired?)
  • Does Justice Ginsberg sneak extra Jell-O in the Court’s dining room?
  • Does Chief Justice Roberts park badly, causing his next-door parker to put nasty notes on his windshield, and maybe, just maybe, to dissent more often as retribution?

You see where I’m going here. We want a little insight. But I suppose I’ll have to wait for a less courteous member of the Court to retire for that enticing volume to appear.

That said, I too will likely read the book. (Or, as the Justices stoutly declare, “I join.”) And if I know anything about Justice O’Connor, I’ll learn quite a bit in the process.

And if you want to buy what looks like a great book, it is available here.

Have a great weekend.

Today I’m pleased to share this space with a guest writer as she highlights a pending decision that may profoundly affect law school admissions around the country. The case is Fisher v. University of Texas, and Rachel Higgins walks through the main points. Ms. Higgins writes a lot about education; go here to find institutions offering online teaching degrees on her primary website.

When Abigail Fisher filed a lawsuit against the University of Texas on the grounds that she was denied admission because she is white, she triggered the first affirmative action case handled by the U.S. Supreme Court in nearly a decade. Now, the future of racial quotas imposed by American higher learning institutions rests on the Court’s final decision.

Fisher was denied entrance to UT in 2008. In her brief, Fisher accused the school of sacrificing a productive learning environment for the attainment of “purely representational” demographic quotas. Her attorneys also stated that schools that strive for on-campus diversity by way of affirmative action have produced “negligible” results for U.S. colleges and universities.

Enrollment at the University of Texas is still predominantly white, as just over 51 percent of students, a narrow majority, self-identified as white only. The next-largest racial group, Hispanics, made up just 17 percent of total enrollment, and Asian American students followed closely behind at 15 percent of the student body. Just over 4 percent of the student body self-identifies as black, and more than 8 percent of the student body is foreign. This racial breakdown is not representative of the population at large, leading many to believe that there is much more work to be done in diversifying the student body.

However, the university defended its decision as entirely in keeping with Grutter v. Bollinger, a 2003 case in which the Supreme Court upheld the University of Michigan Law School’s equal opportunity policy after Barbara Grutter, a white applicant with high GPA and LSAT scores, was denied admission to the program. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor authored the Court’s narrow 5–4 decision, adding that all American colleges and universities should strive to develop a more “race-neutral admissions formula” over the coming 25-year period. The Court ruled that race could be used to admit applicants as long as this criteria was “narrowly tailored” to meet the “critical mass” of minority students necessary to boost on-campus diversity to optimal levels.

Since Grutter v. Bollinger, Justice O’Connor has retired and been replaced by the more conservative Justice Samuel Alito. This shake-up, some experts predict, could lead to a reversal of the 2003 decision, despite the remaining 16 years recommended by Justice O’Connor. However, the recusal of Justice Elena Kagan from Fisher v. University of Texas on the grounds that she worked on the case as Solicitor General has also opened up the possibility of a 4–4 split; if that occurred, the case would be deferred to an earlier ruling by the lower court that sided with UT.

In recent months, other colleges and universities have come to UT’s defense. In August, 14 higher learning institutions (led by MIT and including several Ivy League schools) filed an amicus curiae brief in support of college-level affirmative action policies. “Although all Amici have highly selective admissions criteria designed to ensure that all of their students (including minority students) will be prepared for demanding coursework and will graduate successfully,” the brief stated, “they all recognized long ago that admissions by purely numerical factors such as grade-point averages and standardized test scores would not effectively accomplish their broader educational missions.” In all, 90 amicus curiae briefs have been filed in the case—17 defending Fisher, and 73 defending UT.

The Supreme Court heard the case’s first oral arguments in mid-October—and, as expected, the justices appeared strongly divided. Though a decision date has yet to be determined, Fisher v. University of Texas could greatly affect the use of race as college admissions criteria.

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