April 2008

Appointed by a Republican

The AP had a great article yesterday about perhaps the most reclusive Justice on SCOTUS, Justice Souter.

In it, Justice Souter recounts how a field trip he took to Gettysburg with his law clerks affected his consternation about having to decide a certain, unnamed case.

It seems a fair assessment that one of the pivots of American history was at that place, at that moment …. I could not ever again, under any circumstance, say it is unfair that I have to do this.

Justice Souter also related a story of Judge Learned Hand, who once hurled a paperweight in anger at his law clerk, but “[f]ortunately, he was a poor pitcher.”

Remarking on an unnaturally svelte portrait on display at the Supreme Court of the only person to serve as both Chief Justice and President of the United States–the famously large William Howard Taft–Souter called it “the greatest example of aesthetic weight loss in the history of American portraiture.”

Thx to the AP and How Appealing

Happy 75th to one of the Patron Saints of Texas, next to Sam Houston, Stephen F. Austin, Buddy Holly, and Bob Wills.


Be sure to listen to KUT‘s retrospective on Willie’s storied career as well as a fascinating interview with Willie’s biographer and Texas Monthly writer, Joe Nick Patoski.

* * * UPDATE * * *

The interview answers a question I have long had as well regarding why some news accounts place Willie’s birthday on April 29th instead of the 30th. Apparently, Willie was born sometime after 11 P.M. on the 29th, but the attending physician, “Doc Sims,” did not sign Willie’s birth certificate until after midnight.

Thx to Willie for his many years of bringing Texas music to all those were born here as well as all those who wish they were.

Batman and Robin

Following up on our earlier discussion of Justice Scalia‘s recent interview on 60 Minutes (available here and here, in its entirety), Justice Scalia and Bryan Garner have also given a fascinating audio interview to the ABA Journal’s Richard Brust regarding their newly-published book, Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges.

The ABA Journal has also posted some great excerpts from the book, including the following snippets.

On the right and wrong way to frame the relief you seek:


The undersigned counsel do hereby for and on behalf of their clients, for the reasons explained hereinbelow, respectfully request that this Honorable Court consider and hereby rule that no issues of material fact do exist in the instant controversy, and that a final judgment be entered in favor of the client of the undersigned counsel (sometimes herein referred to as “Defendant” or “Cross-Plaintiff”) and against Plaintiff.


Johnson requests entry of summary judgment.

On signposting one’s arguments:

There are many such guiding words and phrases: moreover, however (preferably not at the head of a sentence), although, on the other hand, nonetheless, to prove the point, etc. These words and phrases turn the reader’s head, so to speak, in the direction you want the reader to look. Good writers use them abundantly.

Normally, the very best guiding words are mono­syllabic conjunctions: and, but, nor, or, so and yet. Pro­­­fessional writers routinely put them at the head of a sen­tence, and so should you.

On eliminating jargon:

Banish jargon, hackneyed expressions and needless Latin. By “jargon” we mean the words and phrases used almost exclusively by lawyers in place of plain-English words and phrases that express the same thought. Jargon adds nothing but a phony air of expertise. A nexus, for example, is nothing more or less than a link or a connection. And what is the instant case? Does it have anything to do with instant coffee?

* * *

Write normal English. Such as a demonstrative adjective (such action) can almost always be replaced with the good old normal English this or that. And hereinbefore with earlier. And pursuant to with under. The key is to avoid words that would cause people to look at you funny if you used them at a party.

On avoiding clichés:

Hackneyed expressions are verbal formulations that were wonderfully vivid when first used, but whose vividness—through overuse—no longer pleases but bores. Such-and-such a case “and its progeny” is a good example. Or the assertion that an argument is “fatally flawed” or “flies in the face of” something; that your adversary is “painting with a broad brush”; that a claim isn’t “viable”; that the “parameters” of a rule aren’t settled; or that something is true “beyond peradventure of doubt.” The test is: Have you seen the vivid phrase a lot? If so, odds are it’s a cliché.

On avoiding unnessecary Latin phraseology:

Judges are permitted to show off in this fashion, but lawyers must not. And the judge who does not happen to know the obscure Latin phrase you have flaunted will think you a twit.

On the careful use of humor during oral argument, Justice Scalia recounts the unfortunate joke told by Texas assistant AG Jay Floyd during the oral arguments in Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), in which he began by remarking:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the court, it’s an old joke, but when a man argues against two beautiful ladies like this, they’re going to have the last word.” No one laughed. Onlookers said that during an embarrassing silence, Chief Justice Burger scowled at the advocate.

On handling a difficult judge during oral argument:

A noted barrister, F.E. Smith, had argued at some length in an English court when the judge leaned over the bench and said: “I have read your case, Mr. Smith, and I am no wiser than I was when I started.”

To which the barrister replied: “Possibly not, My Lord, but far better informed.” Smith, who later became a famous judge as the Earl of Birkenhead, could reportedly carry off such snappy rejoinders with impunity.

We doubt that, but in any case we don’t recommend that you emulate him.

Thx to the ABA Journal and Volokh

Mano y Mano

The New York Post has a new flash game that allows you to duke out the eventual Democrat Party nominee.

It is interesting to note that I’ve played as both candidates, and it seems that Hillary is far more accurate in landing her punches than Obama is in landing his.

Thx to the NY Post

So long

When you’re making your entertainment plans this summer, be sure to include one last visit to the Backyard, because this summer will be your last chance to see a show at the original location.

I was just out with an old friend the other night at Doc’s MotorWorks drinking a few too many pitchers of Shiner, when we began to reminisce about the good old days of the Backyard, before it was surrounded by a parking lot and bigbox chain stores. The last show I saw there was Willie, and it was really magical to sit out under the oaks in the majestic Texas Hill Country and listen to really good Texas music.

The owner of the Backyard hopes to relocate down the road in the City of Bee Cave in a location that won’t again be overrun by developers.

So, hopefully unlike Shady Grove RV Park and the banks of Waller Creek, the Backyard will once again be a tranquil spot where you can come listen to some of the best music around.

Thx to the Austinist

My wife and I have long been fans of the Alamo Drafthouse for its great food, fantastic beer selection, and Austin ethic, but now we have even more reason to love the Alamo thanks to the TABC.

The downtown Alamo can now serve liquor!!!! Whooohooo!!!!

The Man

Now, I can actually watch Goldfinger while sipping on my very own shaken vodka martini. It just doesn’t get any better than that.

Thx to the TABC and the Alamo Drafthouse

Queen Kim

The sky is the limit for first-term Austin City Councilwoman Jennifer Kim. When it comes to allocating the $260,000 a year with which her office is endowed (nominally to pay for the member’s salary and that of their staff), Councilwoman Kim has appropriated generously.

Oh, not on salaries mind you or other public expenses that wouldn’t raise the eyebrows of Austin’s taxpayers, but on questionable items such as:

$921 for a three-night stay at the W hotel in Manhattan
$700 for a membership to Continental Airlines’ ‘President’s Club’
$550 for a Sharper Image air purifier
$400 for 20 copies of Discover Your Strengths
$232 in Crane and Company brand stationary
$86 in Vera Wang barware
$67 for a Steam Wizard from The Sharper Image
$59 each for “Executive Rollerball” pens from The Sharper Image.

Using taxpayer dollars to buy designer barware, and a stay at a trendy Manhattan hotel? Has she been reading the Pedernales Co-op’s guide to fiscal responsibility?

When asked about these expenditures by a local reporter, Kim defended her acquisitional judgment by saying, “I spend what I need to out of my budget to be able to do the job. And in the beginning, it was a brand new office, a brand new staff, there were a lot of things that we needed.”

Like Vera Wang barware. Riiiiight.

I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt on the pens (my Mont Blanc makes those look reasonable), the stationary, the suit steamer, the travel club membership, etc., but–despite being an Aggie–she should know enough not to use public funds to buy any of these items from expensive vendors, if at all.

This is not the first example of Kim’s poor judgment however. In early 2007, she created a furor by indignantly attempting to bypass airport security at ABIA, claiming nonexistent VIP status. When informed her status as a member of the Austin City Council conferred her no special security rights, Kim said “I didn’t know it was a [Transportation Security Administration (TSA)] issue, … I thought since it was our airport and we own it, and if we are pre-cleared, we could get through.”

Uh, ask anyone who has flown since 9/11 if they are aware TSA runs airport security.

As reported elsewhere, Kim’s antics have made her hard to work with, running through at least three executive aides since she took office in 2005.

Her airport shenanigans have even given her electoral opponent a campaign slogan, “I’ll be happy to stand in line with you at the airport anytime.”

Thx to KVUE’s Political Junkie, the Austin Chronicle, News 8 Austin, and PinkDome

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