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Archive for June, 2008

In case you hadn’t already heard, SCOTUS released their opinion in DC v. Heller today, (unsurprisingly) striking down DC’s handgun ban as unconstitutional.  You can find the opinion and a ton of analysis over at SCOTUSblog.  As you can imagine, the law blogs are afire, so check out the links on the right for more.

So now what?  It’ll take a while for new regulations to be put in place, but presumably you’ll eventually be able to purchase a handgun and properly register it.  There’ll be an amnesty period so people who already had handguns can register then without liability.

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The NYTimes reports: “Justice Department officials over the last six years illegally used ‘political or ideological’ factors to hire new lawyers into an elite recruitment program, tapping law school graduates with conservative credentials over those with liberal-sounding resumes, a new report found Tuesday.”

From a quick skim of the report, it seems that the DOJ changed its hiring process for its Honors Program and Summer Law Intern Program in 2002 so that the programs could better compete with higher-paying law firm jobs for the highest-quality candidates.  These changes involved more Department officials – including political appointees, rather than career attorneys – in the hiring for the Honors Program and SLIP.  Individual DOJ components would select candidates from their applicant pools, and a Screening Committee would review the candidates for final approval.  Between 2003 and 2005, the Office of Attorney Recruitment and Management (OARM) received a few, but not many, complaints about the process or decisions of the Screening Committee.  But in 2006, the Screening Committee rejected, or “deselected,” an unusually large number of applicants to the Honors Program and SLIP, and took 2 weeks, instead of 2 days, for its review.  The OARM got many more complaints, and DOJ changed its hiring process in response. 

You can see the data in the report for yourself.  Based on the 2002 data, candidates with apparent Democratic Party or liberal affiliations were deselected at a significantly higher rate than candidates with Republican Party, conservative, or neutral affiliations.  But, there was no other evidence that the Screening Committee intentionally considered these affiliations in their decisions.  The report didn’t find evidence that Screening Committees from 2003 to 2005 used political or ideological affiliations as a basis to accept or reject candidates: the deselection decisions could reasonably be explained by class rank, grades, and law school tier.

2006 is a different story.  Not only did the data demonstrate that the Screening Committee inappropriately used political or ideological affiliations to approve or reject candidates, but also there were some significant complaints from within the DOJ’s components about the number and types of candidates being deselected.  The complaints were made public in a letter from “A Group of Concerned Department of Justice Employees” to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees.  I’d like to summarize the report’s conclusions here, but there’s just too much information, and if you’re interested I highly recommend reading the report (Section III-D). 

This is all sort of old news, because in 2007 DOJ again changed their hiring policies.  Now, the screening process is conducted by career employees instead of political appointees, and the selection criteria is officially limited to “merit-based” criteria.  I’m sure it’s cold comfort to the qualified but rejected candidates in the 2006 selection process who had their hearts set on working for DOJ (though they probably didn’t have trouble finding work elsewhere).  I can only hope that the bad publicity generated by this report will deter DOJ officials – under any administration – from pulling the same sort of tricks in the future.  (Hat tip: Above the Law.)

PS: For what it’s worth, upon closer reading it’s pretty clear that one of the Selection Committee members – the one who resigned from DOJ and refused to be interviewed for the report – is the designated fall guy (or, in this case, girl).  Though if it’s true that she did cross off applicants because they had “activist” judicial views or were members of “lefty” organizations, I’m sure glad she’s gone. 

PPS: Also, keep in mind that the deselected candidates were rejected before they were interviewed, solely based on their paper applications.  I think this makes a big difference, but you might disagree.

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From the NYTimes: Obama, in Shift, Says He’ll Reject Public Financing:

Citing the specter of attacks from independent groups on the right, Senator Barack Obama announced Thursday that he would opt out of the public financing system for the general election…. Mr. Obama’s decision, which had long been expected given his record-breaking money-raising prowess during the Democratic primary season, was immediately criticized by Mr. McCain, who confirmed Thursday that he would accept public financing.  “This is a big, big deal,” said Mr. McCain, of Arizona, who was touring flooded areas in Iowa. “He has completely reversed himself and gone back, not on his word to me, but the commitment he made to the American people.”

Not surprisingly, Sen. Obama’s campaign puts a different spin on his decision to say “no!” to public funding:

[Thursday] Barack announced to his supporters that he would not be taking public financing for the general election.  Barack is putting his faith in ordinary citizens giving only what they can afford and will not participate in the broken public finance system that our opponents manipulate to raise as much money as possible…. Even though we stood to receive more than $80 million in taxpayer funding for our campaign, the system has been so gamed and exploited by our opponents that it is effectively broken.  John McCain, the Republican National Committee, and their allies in so-called 527 groups that raise and spend unlimited contributions are dedicated to manipulating this broken system to raise as much money as possible — and they’ve proven that they’re very good at it.  A top McCain adviser told MSNBC earlier this month, “now that we’re in the general election, the RNC money counts, the DNC money counts. So the truth is today, John McCain has more cash on hand and more money than Barack Obama does.”

This is a problem for me.  I understand the basis: by continuing to accept private donations, Obama can maintain his image of being funded by the little man, with over 90% of his funding coming from small donations; by calling the public financing system broken and gameable, Obama can stick a spear in a system highly identified with McCain.  And maybe, at the beginning of the campaign, Obama and his staff didn’t expect him to become the fund-raising sensation that he is now, which is why he initially said he would take public money.  But for a candidate who has based his electability on integrity and judgment, it’s a big flip-flop to make, and a highly visible one at that.  I don’t know whether the Obama campaign has fully realized what kind of harm this can do to his image as an anti-politician.  Maybe they have, and they still think the benefits of changing sides outweighs the costs.  But they have to be careful now: a candidate like Obama can’t afford to do this more than maybe once or twice.

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Over at Volokh Conspiracy, I saw that the 2d Circuit last week denied a request for an en banc rehearing of Ricci v. DeStefano, a case in which the town of New Haven rejected the results of a fire department promotion test because it did not like the racial distribution of the grades.  At issue is whether the Equal Protection Clause and Title VII prohibit or allow this practice.

As Prof. Adler points out in his posts on Volokh (here and here), the real interesting aspect of this decision is that the Circuit divided 7-6, an unusually close vote, and created two dissenting opinions and one concurrence.

Prof. Somin agrees with the dissenters and Prof. Adler over here and outlines some additional constitutional considerations about the case.

Ed Whelan gives his take over at Bench Memos over here.

And Connecticut Employment Law Blog offers a sympathetic view of the case over here.

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Thought #1

California started handing out wedding licenses last night at 5:01pm.  You can read more about it here. Some counties are refusing to hand out the licenses and perform marriages while in other counties, the mayor is transforming his office into a wedding chapel to help same-sex couples celebrate the remarkable occasion.  The changes in New York and California have been incredibly exciting this spring and I only hope that it is the beginning of a trend across the country.  (I know that’s probably an overly-optimistic hope, but we can all be a little irrational sometimes, right?)

Thought #2

I am clerking for a federal judge in Vermont this summer and was somewhat surprised by what I heard at a hearing yesterday.  The lawyers were arguing about two motions in limine, one asking to admit certain evidence and one asking to exclude certain evidence in a civil rights case against a police officer and a Vermont municipality.  The judge didn’t rule on the motions, but the defense lawyers thought he was leaning toward granting both motions in favor of the plaintiff.  I had done some research on the two motions and knew the legal arguments on both sides pretty well.  However, I was unprepared for the defense attorney’s argument.  The defense attorney asked the judge that since the plaintiff was going to get to exclude evidence they didn’t want in, shouldn’t the city get to exclude some evidence they didn’t want in?  That’s right folks, it was a tit for tat argument.  Instead of pointing out the legal basis for the exclusion (which there were plenty) and poking holes in the plaintiff’s arguments (again, plenty), the lawyer resorted to fourth grade playground bargaining of a tit for tat nature.

Perhaps its naive of me to be surprised by this, but i’m curious about what others think, particularly those who are spending/have spent a lot of time in court.

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Howdy everyone!  I hope that your summers have been fun and productive so far.  As I am sure we all know, the dates for FRP are rapidly approaching: bidding starts in a few short weeks and then our bids are due within a month.

I have tried to get a handle on the myriad of firms and opportunities out there for next summer.  It feels overwhelming.  Almost every firm boasts that it has a “unique” work environment – which collectively doesn’t seem that unique to me.  It seems like a lot of the government job offerings offer very specialized and niche practice areas, which is great if you know where you want to work post-graduation but not so helpful if you don’t.

Are you finding some of the same roadblocks that I am?  Has anyone cracked the “code” to researching job opportunities?  Discuss in the comments.

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Tim Russert Dead at 58

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/25145431/

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