A campaign to invite the Justices of the Supreme Court to same-sex weddings has an underlying mission.

A campaign to invite the Justices of the Supreme Court to same-sex weddings has an underlying mission.

How high profile is the pending Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage? Pretty major. Maybe even big enough to increase the mail reaching the Court.

I’m sure the Justices regularly receive quite a bit of mail—which they cannot answer, for obvious reasons. But now that mail may include wedding save-the-dates.

A movement spearheaded by actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson (of Modern Family TV fame) aims to inundate the Justices with save-the-date wedding announcements—for same-sex couples.

Given his partnership with the website Funny or Die, there are bound to be a few funny elements to the initiative. Here’s how one news story on it opens:

“With the Supreme Court nearing a decision on marriage equality, Funny or Die has collaborated with Jesse Tyler Ferguson to encourage same-sex couples to send Supreme Court justices wedding save-the-date announcements—a reminder of the human lives its ruling will impact.”

Read the complete story here.

Supreme Save the Date with Jesse Tyler Ferguson

Adding to the humor, Ferguson has taped a video in which he plays various Justices, each of whom is baffled by the onslaught of invitations they are receiving. Here it is:

Whatever your beliefs on how the Court should rule, I’m hoping you enjoy the video. Perhaps it’s similar to a past video that portrayed the Justices as puppies. I wrote about it here, but I’ve included the video again below:

Erwin Chemerinsky Supreme Court book coverBefore November runs its course, I wanted to point out one item in this month’s Arizona Attorney you may have missed—a book review.

My fondness for book reviews—when well done—is unabashed. And this month, attorney Roxie Bacon examines a new book by Erwin Chemerinsky that dissects the U.S. Supreme Court.

Chemerinsky is Dean of the UC-Irvine law school, as well as an accomplished scholar and SCOTUS litigant. And his assessment of the Court’s standing is damning. He argues that the Court has fallen down on the job in regard to its most important missions.

You can read Roxie’s excellent review here.

Meantime, for those who think Chemerinsky and Bacon are being too hard on the High Court, consider the current thinking of someone who knows that tribunal well. Linda Greenhouse covered the Supreme Court for years for the New York Times (and I spoke with her once myself, here). Now, she merely shakes her head in dismay at the tortuous legal paths the Court’s majority have taken in significant cases.

Linda Greenhouse

Linda Greenhouse

You should read Greenhouse’s op-ed, and feel free to let me know if the assembled thinkers have overstated their case, or if you agree.

A grateful hat-tip to Kristen Senz of the New Hampshire Bar Association for mentioning Greenhouse’s essay.

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.

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