Wednesday, June 28, 2006


Legal Blog Watch


The Alito Effect
The Supreme Court issued three opinions today, upholding a Republican-engineered Congressional redistricting plan in Texas (League of United Latin American Citizens v. Perry), upholding a Pennsylvania ban on newspapers and magazines for prison inmates (Beard v. Banks) and  ruling that states may bar foreign nationals from raising treaty rights not raised at trial (Sanchez-Llamas v. Oregon). Lyle Denniston has more at SCOTUSblog.

The Pennsylvania case is one in which Justice Alito, as a member of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, was the lone dissenter voting to uphold the ban. He did not participate in today's ruling. Yesterday, Tom Goldstein posted his thoughts on the effect of Alito on the Court, noting:

"This timing of Justice O'Connor's retirement provides an unusual opportunity to isolate the effect of the appointment of Justice Alito on the Court's jurisprudence."

For the three cases reargued after O'Connor's departure, Goldstein offers "a very educated guess" on whether Alito's appointment changed their outcomes. In two of the three, he says, the answer is yes.

In Garcetti v. Ceballos, Goldstein notes that Justice Souter ended up writing no majority opinions from the Court's October sitting, while Justice Kennedy ended up writing two, of which Garcetti was one.

"Because there were only 8 cases argued in October, no Justice should have ended up writing the opinions for the Court in two cases. ... So it is fair to conclude that Justice Souter had the majority before Justice O'Connor's retirement, then lost it when Justice Alito joined the Court."

Hudson v. Michigan suggests a similar scenario, Goldstein writes. While the eventual opinion was authored by Justice Scalia and the principal dissent was by Justice Breyer, the fact that Scalia ended up with two opinions from the January sitting and Breyer had none means "it is fair to conclude that Justice Breyer had the majority before Justice O'Connor's retirement, then lost it when Justice Alito joined the Court."

In the third reargument, Kansas v. Marsh, O'Connor's retirement appears not to have made a difference, Goldstein says.

"Justice Thomas ended up with no opinion from the December sitting, indicating that Marsh was the opinion he would have authored for that sitting had it not been reargued. Justice Souter wrote a majority opinion for that sitting, indicating he did not lose a majority from that sitting."

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on June 28, 2006 at 12:58 PM | Permalink

Rebranding the Plaintiffs' Bar
From the Wall Street Journal's Law Blog comes a pointer to the WSJ's Washington Wire reporting that a name change may be in the offing for the Association of Trial Lawyers of America. Washington Wire's John Harwood reports that ATLA plans to take a vote at its annual meeting in July "on a new moniker that ATLA leaders hope will better communicate trial lawyers' mission in the face of criticism by business interests and Republican officials." ATLA's communications director Chris Mather told Harwood that the new name is undecided, but is likely to include the word "justice."

Meanwhile, back at the WSJ's Law Blog, Peter Lattman is kicking off a contest inviting suggestions for ATLA's new name. He doesn't promise a prize, but given the WSJ's big-business bent, I suspect the winning entry is unlikely to pass muster with the plaintiffs lawyers of ATLA.

My suggestion: Justice League of America. Or is that already taken?

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on June 28, 2006 at 12:56 PM | Permalink

Task Codes for E-Mail Overload
E-mail can overwhelm a lawyer. For those of you with overstuffed inboxes, TechnoLawyer Blog highlights one lawyer's "clever method for quickly delegating items in his e-mail inbox." The reference is to a recent article published in ALI-ABA's The Practical Lawyer, Delegating the Deluge: Action Codes for Forwarding Email." The author, Joshua Stein, a real estate and finance partner at Latham & Watkins in New York, describes the system he devised of "e-mail action codes" to use when forwarding e-mails to his assistant.

At some point after e-mail began to overwhelm him, Stein writes, he realized he could delegate to his assistant messages that required straightforward and definable tasks. This created its own problem, because each task needed his explanation, and providing it sometimes took longer than the task itself. So Stein came up with his series of task codes:

"Now, whenever I receive an email message that requires one of these actions, I click on 'forward,' move the cursor to the end of the subject matter line of the email message, type the abbreviated action code right there, and send the message to my assistant for further processing. My assistant then handles that particular piece of my email deluge, so I can spend more time doing legal work and less time doing data entry, file manipulation, and processing."

Stein's article sets out his series of codes and invites others to use them. Of course, there is one drawback to Stein's system -- it requires that you have an assistant.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on June 28, 2006 at 12:54 PM | Permalink

California's Traps for Unwary Employers
California's employment laws bear a deceptive resemblance to their federal counterparts. But their seeming similarity can lull unsuspecting, out-of-state employers into a false sense of comfort. So say Anthony J. Zaller and Brian F. Van Vleck of Carlton, DiSante & Freudenberger in a guest post today at InhouseBlog. The two provide their top 10 list of the costliest problems that out-of-state employers need to know about in California.

Topping the list: meal and rest period penalties. They explain:

"This is the current favorite claim of plaintiff's class action attorneys in California. A 2001 statute imposes substantial penalties on employers who do not comply with very technical regulations concerning the timing and duration of employee lunch and rest breaks. ... The aggregate liability that can result over time was aptly demonstrated by a 2005 jury verdict in a meal and rest break class action against Wal-Mart that awarded over $192 million in penalties and punitive damages."

If $192 million in penalties grabs your attention, then visit InhouseBlog for the rest of the list.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on June 28, 2006 at 12:51 PM | Permalink

And U.K. Law Firm of the Year Is ...
(Drum roll please.) Clifford Chance. It was honored last night as U.K. law firm of the year during "a sparkling event" hosted by the U.K. magazine The Lawyer. The magazine reports:

"Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer was the other big winner of the night, picking up prizes for Banking/Restructuring Team of the Year, M&A Team of the Year and Pro Bono Team of the Year."

The Lawyer named DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary as Global Law Firm of the Year and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett as U.S. Firm of the Year.

Here is the full list of winners of The Lawyer Awards 2006.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on June 28, 2006