By Carlyn Kolker
Following in Goodwin Liu's shoes?
When Paul Watford was nominated to the 9th Circuit Court of
Appeals by President Obama in October, conventional wisdom had
it his nomination process would be smoother than Goodwin Liu,
who had been nominated for the same spot, but blocked by Senate
Republicans on the Senate floor. Watford seemed to have the
right credentials, including a Supreme Court clerkship and
partnership in the big Los Angeles firm, Munger Tolles & Olson.
The Los Angeles Times even quoted conservative law professor
Eugene Volokh saying he supported Watford, as did a
representative from the Los Angeles chapter of the Federalist
That was then. Watford's nomination so far has not been
smooth sailing. On Thursday the Senate Judiciary Committee voted
to approve Obama's choice, but in a vote of 10 to 6, along party
lines. In voicing his opposition, Senator Chuck Grassley, the
ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he had "substantive concerns" about Watford's work on immigration
and the death penalty. In urging his fellow Senators to vote
against the nominee, Grassley pointed out that Watford has
worked with the American Civil Liberties Union in opposing
Arizona's immigration bill and submitted an amicus brief to the
U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of groups opposing Kentucky's
lethal injection protocol. He claimed that Watford made comments
that went beyond simply advocating on behalf of a client in the
"I'm generally willing to give the President's nominees the
benefit of the doubt when the nominee on the surface meets the
requirements [of a good nominee]. But, I don't think this
nominee meets these requirements," Grassley said.
Most judicial nominees are sent to the Senate floor with
unanimous or near-unanimous approval from the Judiciary
Committee (this does not always mean they are approved
unanimously on the floor - often they are sent up to the floor
so they can simply be given a vote before the full Senate). So a
party-line vote in committee could be a signal Watford may be
headed for a close vote on the Senate floor - if, of course, he
ever gets there. Since the Senate came back into session last
month, it has voted on just one judicial nominee, and
Republicans, angry over Obama's recess appointments, have
signaled they may hold up future nominees.
I reached out to a White House spokesman for any comment on
Watford's nomination, but haven't heard back.
Google gets fined $660,000
On Wednesday Summary Judgments posted about the harsh
treatment Facebook was likely to face in Europe over its privacy
settings. Lawmakers and courts on the continent have often been
a bit, shall we say, unforgiving toward U.S. tech companies
(remember that it took Microsoft years more of wrangling to
resolve its antitrust fight in Europe than it did in the U.S.)
And so we bring you news of yet another tech company that
has been caught in the crosshairs of the European courts. On
Tuesday Google was convicted in France of abusing its market
position in the map sector and was fined 500,000 euros,
according to news agency AFP. The nitty gritty of the charge was
that Google was giving away its mapping software for free, with
the strategy to drive competitors out of business and then begin
collecting fees. Blog Boing Boing notes that such an approach
"seems implausible" and "contrary to Google's business model" of
making money from online data mining. Nevertheless, it clearly
worked for the French firm Bottin Cartographes that filed the
Lawyers behind the PACs
You've heard of PACs (Political Action Committees). You've
heard of Super PACs (Political Action Committees that, thanks to
the Supreme Court's Citizen's United decision, can collect
unlimited donations to spend freely in campaigns). Well, now
thanks to The American Lawyer, you can know about some of the
big-money lawyers behind those Super PACs to the remaining
-Restore Our Future (Super PAC associated with Mitt Romney):
Boston and Palm Beach-based attorney has given $100,000; North
Carolina-based attorney Bill Graham has given $50,000;
Philadelphia firm Klehr Harrison Harvey Branzburg has given
-Priorities USA Action (Super PAC associated with Barack
Obama): The American Association for Justice, the lobbying group
representing plaintiffs' lawyers, has given $50,000.
-Winning Our Future (Super PAC associated with Newt
Gingrich): No major legal donors have emerged, Am Law reports.
Opening up the courts
A Los Angeles County Juvenile Court judge has taken a rare
and controversial measure to open proceedings in juvenile court
proceedings to the news media. It is a move that news
organizations have supported, in the name of transparency, and
advocacy groups, in the name of client protection, have opposed,
as the Los Angeles Times reports.
Michael Nash, the presiding judge in Los Angeles County
Juvenile Court, on Tuesday issued an order saying that certain
cases in juvenile court, including cases pertaining to child
abuse, foster care and adoption, will be open to the news media.
Cases pertaining to crimes committed by minors will not.
The city's child welfare system has been accused of
government mishandling in recent years, the Times writes, and
the judge's order seeks to address the secrecy that has "allowed
problems to fester outside of the public's view." Some in the
child welfare community say they would consider appealing Nash's
order, saying a child's protection could be in jeopardy.
For a related story - albeit different state, different
circumstances - read William Glaberson's November article in the New York Times on transparency in the New York City family
courts. Fourteen years after the city's family courts - which
handle foster case, domestic violence and neglect cases - were
ordered to be open to the public, in practice, Glaberson wrote
they remain "essentially, almost defiantly, closed to the
general public." (After Glaberson's inquiry, court
administrators said they planned a review).
What's the real deal with law schools?
Legal education, as my colleague Moira Herbst has chronicled, is in a state of crisis, either real or perceived.
To wit: The American Bar Association is considering taking a
tougher stance on the job data schools provide. A law school is
suing the ABA over a decision to deny it accreditation. And, as
the Wall Street Journal reports, law students sued a dozen law
schools on Wednesday, seeking tuition refunds and alleging that
the schools misled their students about their graduates'
And so in this roiling waters of legal education a new
anchor, perhaps, emerges: a new legal blog about "trends, facts
and ideas on law and legal education." Dubbed The Legal
Whiteboard, the blog will be written by University of Indiana
Law Professor William Henderson, who studies the economics of
the legal profession as a professor at Indiana University School
of Law, and University of Alabama Law Professor Andrew Morriss,
who does scholarly research in labor and employment law. The
blog will explore whether the sky is really falling in legal
education, says Henderson, and kicked off in late January with
some introductory posts looking at the ways that the marketplace
for legal education is changing. The first substantive post, on
Wednesday, examined three scholarly legal articles that take
counter-intuitive positions about why law schools should change.
The articles, writes Henderson "may be on the right side of
history. Because of the overproduction of law school graduates
and their high levels of debt, we are now at a point when
survival for a large proportion of law schools can no longer be
taken for granted," writes Henderson.
Summary Judgments for Feb. 1
Summary Judgments for Jan. 31
Summary Judgments for Jan. 30
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