Wednesday, October 31, 2012

On Actually Voting in Illnois

I grew up in Wisconsin, where it is very easy to vote. You show up at the polls with some proof of your address, and you vote. Then I moved to Minnesota, where it was much the same.

Now I live in Illinois. It's harder to vote here. You have to register in advance. And, as my wife found out today, your registration can be rendered "inactive" by some bureaucrat without notice. If you show up to the local polling place with this "inactive" registration, you will be turned away. [BUT SEE UPDATE.]

Here's the story, set forth in emails between me and the Cook County clerk's office.

When did America decide it wanted more Star Wars movies?

I missed the meeting when we voted on this but it turns out that there will be "at least" three more Star Wars movies.  The Onion AV Club has the scoop. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Upon further reflection, Justice Stevens still thinks he is right.

The Wall Street Journal Law Blog reports that retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens is still unhappy about being on the dissenting end of two cases from the 1990s.  However, Justice Stevens is not just sitting there wallowing in defeat.  Instead, Justice Stevens is proposing an amendment to the Constitution.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Justice Scalia's advice to law students: just say no to frills.

The Caspar, Wyoming Star Tribune has a report about a speech that Justice Scalia gave to students at the University of Wyoming law school.  The article mentions the advice Justice Scalia gave the students about what courses they should take.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Judge Posner: A Critical Critic

Reader(s)™ are familiar with my series of posts on the Posner–Scalia-Garner dustup. Recently, however, Judge Posner came out with another controversial and extremely critical book review, this time of Professor Akhil Reed Amar's new book called "America’s Unwritten Constitution: The Precedents and Principles We Live." A snippet:
WHEN YOU HAVE twelve constitutions to play with, of which only one is a document, you can reach any result you want, and you can say that the result you want is in the Constitution(s), which like the Trinity is at once singular and plural. You put it in, you stir it in a pot called “the implicit meaning of the Constitution as a whole,” and then you pluck it out, congratulating yourself on your “sensitive understanding of America’s unwritten Constitution.”
Perhaps my biases are showing, but I thought this particular hatchet job was pretty awesome. I decided to look for some other Posner attack-reviews. It turns out that the noncuratlex blog has already gone through the trouble of finding the best Posner book reviews. For example, here is Posner's take on Herman Melville's "Moby Dick":
. . . yet, in the final analysis, Melville’s tale of obsession rings hollow from an economic perspective, and thus, proves utterly unpersuasive.  Fairly early in the text, it becomes clear that Ahab could maximize his returns by pursuing other whales, instead of Moby-Dick.  True, Ahab lost his leg to the creature, but that is a classic sunk cost. (Can you see why?) That Ahab foregoes other, better opportunities for oil and ambergris in his hunt for the white whale represents a mystery that the author never satisfactorily explains . . .
For other excerpts, head over noncuratlex.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Shamed, or at least censured, by his game.

Reader(s)™ may recall this post from April in which we discussed how Wayne County, Michigan Circuit Judge Wade H. McCree told the media "Hot Dog, yep that's me. I've got no shame in my game" upon being shown a picture by the Detroit Free Press of the judge sans shirt that he had given to his bailiff.  The bailiff's husband was not amused.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The future is getting closer.

When I was a kid, the future contained two big promises.  First, that we would have jet packs.  Second, that the weapon of the future would be lasers (or possibly phasers).  Since jet packs were featured on the intro to the Wonderful World of Disney, it seemed like the public would get jet packs first. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Rules are rules

The Chicago Tribune reports that man charged with killing thirteen people and wounding more than two dozen more in a shooting rampage at Fort Hood has had his trial indefinitely delayed.  Why has the trial been delayed?  The suspect will not agree to shave.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Did Richard Milhous Nixon win the popular vote in 1960?

A fascinating blog post by Sean Trende at RealClearPolitics says yes, although the real answer is that the question is incoherent because of the way Alabama voted for its electors.

Meanwhile, according to Nate Silver there is currently a 5.4% chance that Mitt Romney will win the popular vote but lose the election this time around (see "scenario analysis" in right sidebar at link).

And Ross Douthat wonders whether, in such an event, the Electoral College could survive.

I wonder, on the other hand, whether the Electoral College could ever be killed.

Something completely different.

I was in northwest Iowa this weekend and attended mass at Sacred Heart Church in Spencer, Iowa.    As anyone familiar with the Catholic mass knows, there is a part of the first Eucharistic Prayer that  states,

Friday, October 19, 2012

A source of shame?

The New York Times reports that the BlacBerry is so passé that it has become a source of shame and derision.  This may be evidence that people have a misplaced sense of shame nowadays. The article also points out that complaints from associates about being given BlackBerrys at Covington & Burling led to the firm agreeing to offer its lawyers an iPhone option.  I guess because it is totally rational to pick a lawyer based on what kind of mobile handheld device they use.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Another bad decision and another criminal sentence

I did a post recently about how a bad decision by a Wisconsin man resulted in him going to prison for 23 years.   With that in mind, consider the sentence given to Linda Hamm.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Strange math and strange predictions

George Mason University School of Law professor Ilya Somin has a post about how little coverage is being paid to the possibility that President Obama or Mitt Romney will get to pick a Supreme Court justice during the next four years.  Professor Somin writes
. . . this election could have a huge impact on the future of the Court. Even if a reelected Obama gets to relace two liberal justices with younger liberals or Romney gets to replace two conservatives with younger conservatives, that will still have a profound impact. There’s a big difference between a justice who is likely to be around for only a few more years, and one who could well serve for thirty years or more. Given increasing life expectancies, a justice who is in his or her early fifties when appointed could easily serve until 2050 or even later.
Note the could in the first sentence.  It might or might not have "a huge impact on the Court."  Perhaps that unknown is why few are discussing it.  However,  let's assume that the two appointments occur and that they do so in 2014 before both parties are gearing up for the 2016 presidential election.  Professor Somin assumes that these new justices might serve beyond the year 2050.  A fifty-year-old appointee in 2014 would have to serve until they are 88 in order to still be on the court in 2050.  Since professor Somin is assuming that Supreme Court justices serve until they are 88, which Supreme Court justices will be 88 during the next presidential term?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Don't steal Westlaw

Westlaw might be making money off your briefs, but if you use a Westlaw password without permission you might well find yourself getting disciplined by the bar authorities.

Undecided on Big Bird? Probably not.

The Volokh Conspiracy has a post about a survey in Virginia that asked people their opinions about President Obama, Mitt Romney, and Big Bird.  Professor Volokh notes that more people have a favorable opinion about Big Bird than have a favorable opinion about either President Obama or Governor Romney. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Three houses, four houses, what's the difference?

Tommy Thompson, former four-term governor of Wisconsin and Secretary of Health and Human Services under President George W. Bush, has done pretty well for himself since he left government.  So well, in fact, that when he was asked how many houses he owns, he miscounted.  Daniel Bice of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel has the story.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

This day in drug-using prosecutors

1) Nicholas Athanasiou, a former prosecutor, allegedly accepted cocaine as payment for legal services. Thus begins a new era in alternative billing: the snortable hour.

2) Jason Cantrell, a current prosecutor, was arrested by the police officers he was talking to when he took his hands out of his pockets and a marijuana joint fell out. The incident occurred in the courthouse. To top it off, his wife is running for city council. She is concerned: “I love my husband unconditionally and am very concerned for his health and well-being, and for that of our family. I hope that this incident will encourage Jason to seek the professional help.”

For Mr. May

My debate analysis, in picture form:

The Infield-Fly Rule

When we were studying the commerce clause (or perhaps "the dormant commerce clause") in law school, the professor asked the class, "What is the difference between Wisconsin and Iowa?"

The context was that long-haul truckers prefer to drive through Iowa rather than Wisconsin, so the answer was very clear: Wisconsin has hills, Iowa doesn't.

Still, such an open-ended question gets my jokey little brain going and, after a long uncomfortable silence where no one was willing to supply the correct answer, I found myself blurting out: "Wisconsin has a baseball team."

It got a pretty big laugh, but it also got me a homework assignment. I was to go to the library and seek out a famous law review article: "The Common Law Origins of the Infield Fly Rule." And I did. (It was actually kind of difficult because the article was too old to be found on Westlaw, so I had to pull an actual dusty book off the shelves. Ew.)

The article is hilarious. The very first word—"the"—is followed by a footnote to the OED definition of this definite article. (A not-so-subtle knock on persnickety law-review editors.) But it is also pretty informative and substantive. I recommend that anyone interested in the history of sports give it a read. It is also essential background information for evaluating John Roberts's claim that a judge is just an umpire. (Because it turns out that umpiring is more interesting and iterative than it may at first seem.)

Anyhow, the infield-fly rule is in the news because it played a significant role in the outcome of the one-game wildcard playoff game between St. Louis and Atlanta last night. It's unclear to me whether the correct call was made (though the Atlanta fans certainly made their position known), but I think it's great that this wonderful and confusing rule is in the news. Here's a nice read.

Friday, October 5, 2012

One bad decision leads to 23 years in prison.

The Journal-Times in Racine, Wisconsin has a story that shows how one instant can change everything.

Albert Paragamian was an 88-year-old World War II combat veteran who was pulling out of a parking stall of Wheaton Franciscan-All Saints hospital on his way to meet his wife of 47 years as she was transferred from the hospital to a nursing home.  Richard Lewis was a 23-year-old man, on probation and driving without a driver's license, when Mr. Paragamian's car bumped the car Mr. Lewis was in.  Neither car was damaged.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Is any publicity good publicity?

Some folks say that there is no such thing as bad publicity.  A Wisconsin attorney is evidently trying to find out if that is true.  As reported everywhere on the Internet, Kenneth Krause wrote to La Crosse, Wisconsin television personality Karen Livingston to tell her she was fat.  Ms. Livingston regarded Mr. Krause's communication as a form of bullying and did an on-air piece about it.  The result was that the story went viral and that most people seemed to conclude that Mr. Krause had been out of line.  Mr. Krause, perhaps recognizing that his fifteen minutes of fame were running, doubled down on his comments instead of apologizing. 

As a result of this controversy, a google search for "Kenneth Krause Wisconsin Attorney" yields mostly hits on the story rather than links to a website where one might find Mr. Krause's contact information if a person decided that a lawyer who calls a local celebrity fat is the sort of lawyer a person needs.  Thus, one might wonder if Mr. Krause is going to see a benefit to the story going viral.  What do you think Mr. Torvik will Mr. Krause's business pick up as a result of this story?