Friday, October 27, 2006


Legal Blog Watch

Is the Supreme Court Picking on the Media?

Lawyers who argue before the Supreme Court expect tough questioning, perhaps even skepticism or ridicule from the justices. But journalists? According to this commentary, The Supreme Press Critics Take on the Fourth Estate by Supreme Court reporter Dahlia Lithwick (Slate, 10/24/06), Justices Scalia and Alito have been speaking out against the media, in some instances at events that are closed to the press and the public. As an example, Lithwick writes that last weekend at a conference sponsored by the National Italian-American foundation, Scalia criticized the quality of media coverage of Supreme Court cases, asserting that "The press is never going to report judicial opinions accurately." Lithwick continues:

And although, if anything, the Supreme Court press corps is hypercautious in its attention to legal detail at the expense of sensationalism, Scalia dismisses them, and their readers, because, in his view, "nobody would read it if you went into the details of the law that the court has to resolve."

Justice Samuel Alito apparently picked up on the theme, complaining about the role of the Internet in legal reporting, suggesting that the media either oversimplifies or sensationalizes decisions (I guess Alito doesn't realize that while he turns up his nose at Internet reporting, his colleagues are increasingly citing blogs in their opinions).

Lithwick also quotes Justice Roberts' recent comment that judges don't serve to educate the public about the law and the court system. And perhaps that's true. But the legitimacy of our judicial system comes from the public confidence in the system, which in turn, comes about only where the public knows what's going on. As Lithwick concludes:

Either the justices want Americans to understand and care about what they do in that big old white building, or they don't. It's too late to hope that citizens might just choose to tune out. And if the justices want Americans to be educated about the court, they should encourage the fullest reporting possible, recognizing that some of it will be good and some will be bad, but that more information is always better than less. The justices can keep taking swipes at the Internet, imaginary editorialists, and phantom tabloid reporters for making them look bad. Or they can recognize what makes them look even worse: themselves.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on October 26, 2006 at 01:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

$100,000 Available for Public Service Grads from UC Berkeley

You don't typically see "$100,000" and "public interest law attorneys" in the same sentence. But to some extent, that's changing, at least for law school graduates from UC Berkeley, as reported in this article, Berkeley to help lawyers in public service (10/25/06). From the article:

In an effort to make it easier for young attorneys to pursue careers in public service, the law school at the University of California, Berkeley, says it will cover up to $100,000 in student loans for graduates who embark on public interest work.  A number of law schools offer similar programs, which are intended to help students manage loan debt while they're entering careers that typically dont offer lucrative salaries.

The loan program is funded by student fees and alumni donations. Graduates must work in government or public service jobs that pay less than $58,000 per year. Previously, the law school offered up to $55,500 in loan repayment, but the amount has been nearly doubled in light of the increasing cost of law school tuition. On average, students graduate Berkeley with about $60,000 in debt.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on October 26, 2006 at 11:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Four Score Years of Practicing Law

Many law firms don't stay in practice 80 years, but this 1924 Harvard Law School graduate did. As this news story reports, Walter Seward, a West Orange, N.J., resident who celebrated his 110th birthday, loved the practice of  law so much that he stuck with it for 80 years, working as a title attorney until he neared 100. He's the oldest living graduate of Harvard Law School.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on October 26, 2006 at 11:52 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Reality Movie Participants Gain Release From Their Release

Let's say you sign a general consent form to participate in a "documentary-style film" designed to reach a young adult audience by using entertaining content and formats." Turns out, however, that your participation entails playing straight guy to comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, who's posing as a journalist from Kazakhstan, who has a knack for making even the mundane look foolish on camera and who plans to use your tape in a major movie.

Most people would wonder whether they could sue Cohen, for fraud or invasion or privacy or ... something. But as Daniel Engber discusses in this article, Borat Tricked Me! Can't I sue him or something? in Slate (10/24/06), the movie participants face an uphill fight, having signed a fairly extensive release that appears to cover all bases. Though it's difficult to feel sympathy for consenting adults who bound themselves by contract, when you read this piece about the circumstances surrounding the signing and take into account that the movie will probably generate a good deal of money, it's not hard to conclude that the movie producers took advantage.   

What do you think?

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on October 26, 2006 at 11:51 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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