: The Blawgraphy
Life of a Law Student, University of Houston Law Center

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Supreme Court Inc

Rosen, a law prof at George Washington University, offers an insight in the business of Supreme Court. On one hand it traces the ‘conservativation’ of the Court, a concerted effort to steer the Court to the right by judges, academics, and most importantly, Presidents. At another level, it recounts the professionalization and increasing sophistication of Supreme Court practice and a way of strategizing that goes well beyond winning or losing any one case.

the transformation of the court was no accident. It represents the culmination of a carefully planned, behind-the-scenes campaign over several decades to change not only the courts but also the country’s political culture.

Highly recommended.

Tom Goldstein’s iPhone

I don’t know if this clever name-drop-a-thon really qualifies as the Absolute BEST Lawyer Ad of the Year (Carolyn Elefant‘s words, not mine) but it’s quite entertaining and has managed to somehow make me even more acutely aware of my iPhone-lessness. Sigh.

When not writing for SCOTUSblog, Goldstein co-heads Akin Gump’s Supreme Court Practice and teaches courses in Supreme Court litigation at both Stanford and Harvard. Goldstein’s path to leading Supreme Court advocate is an unusual one. As the WSJ noted:

Goldstein’s move to a large, established firm represents an end to one of the more improbable stories in the recent history of Supreme Court advocacy. Lawyers who focus on arguing before the Supreme Court have historically cut their teeth in government practicemost typically at the U.S. Solicitor General’s office before moving into private practice.

Mr. Goldstein forged a different route. In the mid-1990s, while a young associate at the law firm now known as Jones Day, Mr. Goldstein figured out a method for predicting which cases might be ripe for Supreme Court review. He’d then contact the litigants and offer himself as counsel. In 1999, while a 29-year-old associate at David Boies’s firm, then known as Boies & Schiller, Mr. Goldstein handled his first argument in a Supreme Court case, Cunningham v. Hamilton County.

He lost, but the experience convinced him to pursue Supreme Court advocacy further. He set up his own firm, Goldstein & Howe, and grew a practice. Mr. Goldstein says he has argued 16 cases in front of the court. In the current term, he says he is counsel to parties in nine cases, more than 10% of the docket.

Counsel to parties in more than 10% of the Supreme Court of the United States Docket? That iPhone is well deserved.

Prophylactic Legislation

I wish the Supreme Court would stop using the phrase “prophylactic legislation.” Not only is it vaguely ambiguous and hard to spell, but it conjures up disturbing mental images. Might I suggest “anticipatory” or “preventative” legislation. Just a suggestion to any sitting Justices who happen to come across this blog.

Jeffrey Toobin might forgive Justice Thomas for being black or conservative, but not both

Jeffrey Toobin’s recent article Unforgiven, in this week’s New Yorker, is the latest in a long line of Supreme Court pundits puzzling over the enigma of a Supreme Court Justice who is both black and conservative.

Thomas came of age at a time when broad swaths of American society thought it was time for African-Americans to be given chances that had been denied to their forebears. To be sure, all that Thomas received in these places was a leg up, and he succeeded each time based on his own skills. Thomas’s career looks like a model of how affirmative action is supposed to work. But that isn’t how Thomas sees it.

Toobin finds it clear that every job and opportunity Justice Thomas was given in his career was given to him because he was black. This is the necessary narrative folklore required to posit Justice Thomas as a hypocritical ingrate, even though it’s been noted that Thomas was in the top 1-2% of his class at Holy Cross and with a decent LSAT score should have had a shot at Yale law no matter what color he was. This oft-repeated treatment that Thomas was somehow demonstrably unqualified for the Supreme Court on his own merits seems to prove Thomas’ own point that affirmative action has just as often served to undermine his career as advance it. Comically, Toobin seems shocked and appalled that Thomas would be less than forthcoming on his jurisprudential philosophy in confirmation hearings less than four years after Bork became a verb. Toobin’s attempt at psychoanalysis boils down to a plea – equally paternalistic and pathetic – why Clarence, oh why can’t you be the reliable liberal vote you, as a black Justice, were born to be?

For a more nuanced interpretation of Justice Thomas’ views on race, see Mark Tushnet’s Clarence Thomas’s Black Nationalism.

How to find out if the Supreme Court granted cert in your case? ScotusBlog

The University of Houston Law Center website had an interesting bit of news last night. The United States Supreme Court granted a writ of certiorari in response to a petition filed by Brent Newton, an Assistant Federal Public Defender who also teaches at the Law Center. This was my favorite part, however -

Prof. Newton said he was surprised when he clicked to a Supreme Court website ( and learned of the court’s decision to grant oral argument in Gonzalez v. United States.

Hold on, the best way to find out the Supreme Court of the United States granted cert in your case from a BLOG? We have entered a braver, newer world ladies and gentlemen.

SCOTUSblog is a tremendous resource and should be on every law students RSS feed. Written by a cadre of Supreme Court appellate specialists, it offers the usual insightful commentary and does a great job of case watching from filing to opinion, with lots of great resources thrown in. Newton’s petition, for instance, is available on SCOTUSblog here.

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