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Robert Bork, R.I.P.

by Walter Olson on December 19, 2012

Ilya Shapiro salutes the distinguished judge for his revival of originalism, his resistance to Warren Court lunacies, and his single-handed transformation for the better of the field of antitrust. “The injustice and character assassination done against him in 1987 was a watershed moment that changed American history and government for the worse,” notes Ted Frank.

More: NYTimes obit; Roger Pilon; John Podhoretz, Commentary; Timothy Sandefur; Adam White, Commentary, on the 1987 Supreme Court confirmation fight a quarter-century later; my extremely critical review of Bork’s 1997 Slouching Toward Gomorrah; Jay Nordlinger with an anecdote of Patrick Leahy and Judge Bork; more on Bork’s religious beliefs from Eric Olson (no relation) at Catholic World Report; Michael McConnell; Jeff Rosen. Andrew Grossman reminds us that even if we may take it for granted now, Bork’s work on antitrust was a big, big deal in the revitalization of economic dynamism.


New York’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, has a particular niche among state courts: it’s liberal on many matters, as suits the state’s politics, but over the years has tended to take care that its commercial law is relatively predictable and efficient from a business perspective, since it would rather not risk tempting the state’s huge business sector to flee to other jurisdictions. With two vacancies on the court, Gov. Andrew Cuomo now has a chance to confirm the court’s historic path, or set it on a different one. [Lawrence Cunningham]


“Behold the power of incumbency,” including Judge Cynthia Brim’s successful campaign to retain her $182,000/year job; her “18-year tenure,” as the Chicago Tribune puts it with wry understatement, “has been marked by controversy.” [Above the Law]


I had the honor of moderating a debate at Cato on Thursday between Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III, author most recently of Cosmic Constitutional Theory: Why Americans Are Losing Their Inalienable Right to Self-Governance, and the Cato Institute’s Roger Pilon on the proper role of restraint and energy in judicial protection of constitutional liberty. It was a scintillating discussion and you can watch it above, or at this Cato link.


Washington Post columnist Steven Pearlstein’s smear job on D.C. Circuit judge Brett Kavanaugh over an environmental ruling shouldn’t go unanswered, and thanks to Ed Whelan at NRO it hasn’t.

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Judges roundup

by Walter Olson on July 12, 2012

The good, the bad, and the beyond belief:

My new opinion piece on the ObamaCare decision and its leaks. It’s the first thing I’ve written for The Daily, the iPad-native news launch. Earlier coverage of NFIB v. Sebelius/the Health Care Cases here, here, here, here, here, etc.



by Walter Olson on June 26, 2012

The Texas Supreme Court has sent back for further adjudication a controversy in which two newspapers had failed to win a summary judgment motion in a libel case filed against them. It took judicial notice that the trial judge in the case had taken a plea bargain on racketeering charges that included having accepted a $8,000 bribe to rule against the newspapers on the motion [ABA Journal]


February 19 roundup

by Walter Olson on February 19, 2012

  • Self-service arrangement: Pennsylvania judge charged with fixing her own parking tickets [Lancaster Online]
  • Economist cover story: “Over-regulated America“. Obama hesitant about heavy-handed regulation? Really? [Veronique de Rugy, NRO]
  • Argument for letting money market funds “break the buck” without federal backstop [David Henderson, EconLog]
  • Suing apps makers? “Entertainment Lawyers Go Wild for ‘Secondary’ Copyright Lawsuits” [WSJ Law Blog] SWAT raid on Kiwi copyright scofflaw? [Balko] Despite its editor’s views, NYT finds it hard to avoid breaching copyright laws itself [Carly Carioli, Boston Phoenix] “Contempt Sanctions Imposed on Copyright Troll Evan Stone” [Paul Alan Levy] More: “obscene materials can’t be copyrighted” offered as defense in illegal download case [Kerr]
  • Tenure terror: “Teacher in Los Angeles molest case reportedly paid $40G to drop appeal of firing” [AP]
  • FDA rejects lead-in-lipstick scare campaign [ACSH vs. Environmental Working Group]
  • A horror story of eyewitness I.D. [claim of DNA exoneration in Va. rape case; AP via Scott Greenfield]

Sinking deeper into substance abuse, a prominent Tennessee judge spins ever further out of control. How long does it take before he’s removed and the public alerted to his problem? Way too long for comfort [Knoxville News Sentinel]

The defense says a new trial is warranted by an Ontario judge’s advice to jurors that the presumption of innocence “is only defeated if, and when, Crown counsel has satisfied you beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Guilty – I’m sorry, that Mr. Wilson – is guilty of the crime charged.” [Globe and Mail]

Trying cases in the press

by Walter Olson on December 2, 2011

Yes, media coverage does affect the outcome of court cases, and here are some of the ways [Andrew Trask]

The disclosure of a Pennsylvania judge’s email to interested parties in a politically charged redistricting case may have stalled his hopes for advancement to the federal bench. [The Legal Intelligencer]

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A Kentucky judge’s colorfully worded order is grist for my latest post at Cato.


“… that a lawyer’s participation makes judicial proceedings more fair, not less fair.” So should we be shocked that the U.S. Supreme Court does not partake of this article of faith? [earlier on Turner v. Rogers and Civil Gideon] Related: Are we sure we want judges who are “great lawyers”? [Chiang, Prawfs, Greenfield]


“Philly judges tell reporter he can’t take notes in court” [Legal NewsLine]

April 19 roundup

by Walter Olson on April 19, 2011

  • Environmental milestone? “Bolivia is set to pass the world’s first laws granting all nature equal rights to humans.” [JoNova via Coyote]
  • Add another to the list of judges who file suits over critical discussion of their rulings, in this case by the losing party, a newspaper [ABA Journal]
  • “Obama on presidential signing statements then … and now” [Bainbridge, Outside the Beltway]
  • “The never-ending stream of futile petitions suggests that habeas corpus is a wasteful nuisance.” [Joseph Hoffmann and Nancy King, NYT, via Lat, Frank] A different view: Scott Greenfield, The Briefcase.
  • Global warming suits “a misuse of the judiciary branch” [Laurence Tribe, Boston Globe via WLF]
  • Competing for the HuffPo reader? On link between chemical exposures and cancer, perpetrates “utter nonsense” [Orac, Respectful Insolence]
  • Iqbal/Twombly: “Reports of pleading’s demise may have been exaggerated” [Wasserman, Prawfs]


“…And wretches hang that jurymen may dine.” And now there’s even empirical evidence. (h/t Sam S.)

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