Monday, July 09, 2012

Inside baseball at SCOTUS

Tom Goldstein has all the goods here on how SCOTUSblog got it right on Health Care day and CNN/FOX got it wrong.

One thing that is totally annoying:
The Supreme Court will not grant SCOTUSblog a press credential. Lyle Denniston is the only member of our team permitted in the press area; he has a press credential because of his reporting for WBUR in Boston. There are six other members of our team nearby, running nine computers on eight separate Internet connections.
Why wouldn't the Court give SCOTUSblog access when it is the site most people are relying on for SCOTUS news?  And to boot, the Court won't email the opinion:
The Court’s own technical staff prepares to load the opinion on to the Court’s website. In years past, the Court would have emailed copies of the decision to the Solicitor General and the parties’ lawyers once it was announced. But now it relies only on its website, where opinions are released approximately two minutes later. The week before, the Court declined our request that it distribute this opinion to the press by email; it has complete faith in the exceptional effort it has made to ensure that the website will not fail.
But it does. At this moment, the website is the subject of perhaps greater demand than any other site on the Internet – ever. It is the one and only place where anyone in the country not at the building – including not just the public, but press editors and the White House – can get the ruling. And millions of people are now on the site anxiously looking for the decision. They multiply the burden of their individual visits many times over – hitting refresh again, and again, and again. In the face of the crushing demand, the Court cannot publish its own decision.
The opinion will not appear on the website for a half-hour. So everyone in the country not personally at 1 First St., NE in Washington, DC is completely dependent on the press to get the decision right.
The article explains how CNN and Fox do not at all get it right.  Fun read.
Another fun article, but not related to the law, is this piece on the '83 Fleer baseball card set:
A fan here named Scott Mortimer has his own pursuit, with July 31 as the date to watch. That is when the Class AA Erie Seawolves come to Manchester to play the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. The hitting coach for Erie is Jerry Martin, a former outfielder who hit .251 for five teams from 1974 to 1984. Scott Mortimer needs him.
Mortimer, 41, is a stay-at-home father on a worldwide baseball scavenger hunt. He is trying to get autographs on all 660 cards in the 1983 Fleer baseball card set. After six years of trying, he is down to his final 99. One of the blank cards is Martin’s.
“I don’t know what kind of person Jerry Martin is, if he’d be willing to sign the card, if he would even pop out of the dugout before the umpires come out,” Mortimer said at his home last Sunday. “But that’s part of the excitement.”
Mortimer calls it the 83F Project and runs a blog with images of the autographs. He is part of a tribe of collectors who put their twist on a child’s hobby, mining a subset of the industry for fun, not profit. He trades with other collectors pursuing their own autographed sets, and has friends in other countries — scouts, in a way — who keep a lookout for his targets.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Tom Goldstein = Supreme Schmuck

Sick of those fuckers like him repeatedly trying to close SCOTUS practice to "specialists":

"Sure, if your case makes it to the Supreme Court, you don’t want a schlub up there representing you. But even the best lawyer can’t convince a majority of the justices to take a position they’re allergic to.

That is how Tom Goldstein, creator of Scotusblog and another Supreme Court specialist, sees it. Goldstein still gives Clement raves: “He got the very most that was humanly possible out of these cases,” Goldstein said. “With health care in particular, he took what I always regarded as an impossible case and almost pulled it off. My opinion remains unqualified that he is the best.”


But doesn’t the obvious point here—lawyers matter less than judges—suggest that the services of the elite Supreme Court bar can be overrated? A bad lawyer can screw up at oral argument by conceding a point he or she shouldn’t have. And a really bad lawyer can blow it completely by writing a brief that doesn’t cover all the legal ground that it should. But if you have the bases covered, and you don’t embarrass yourself on the big day, the case you argue will probably turn far more on the predilections of the justices, and on the court’s precedents, than it will on your brilliance.

It’s a concession that, however obvious, doesn’t get made a lot in Washington. That’s probably because it goes against the self interest of the small group of lawyers who have made Supreme Court practice a specialty and are either paid dearly for it or help their firms attract other mega-business. Increasingly, they’ve succeeded in becoming must-haves. According to a study by Harvard law professor Richard Lazarus, Supreme Court specialists argued 6 percent of the cases before the high court 30 years ago, compared to more than 50 percent by 2008.* That has frustrated other lawyers around the country, as Adam Liptak has pointed out in the New York Times: “The old guard is often wary of, if not hostile toward, the new breed of skilled and ambitious advocates, fearing that they are more interested in the glory of a Supreme Court argument than in what is best for their clients and the development of the law.”

Read the rest of Liptak’s article for a thoughtful analysis of that critique. I will just point out here that some of the time we are talking about a lot of money. Clement has “confirmed speculation that he typically bills in the range of $1,000 an hour.” In the health care cases, he reportedly made a deal a year ago to cap his fee at $250,000. (I don’t know if that covers the Supreme Court work.) Clement recently asked the Supreme Court to hear a case next term about whether Congress can ban same-sex marriage via the Defense of Marriage Act. About that one, the New York Times reported last October, “House Republicans recently tripled the cap on his fees to $1.5 million, paid from tax coffers.”

Yes, we the taxpayers are paying Clement to defend DOMA. We also pay Donald Verrilli, of course, but not $1,000 an hour or $1.5 million—his annual salary is $165,300. Surely, the House Republicans will still bet on Clement as worth the price, never mind his losses this term. But his record is a reminder, welcome or not, that even the best lawyering doesn’t mean victory before the Supreme Court. The argument five justices prefer, plus good-enough lawyering, does."