I took the long weekend off from pretty much everything, including blogging and blog-reading. A few thoughts collected from over the weekend.
1. I’m still really digging Pandora, the preference-matching music site I mentioned last week. It’s like listening to someone else’s iPod, in that you never know what’s coming next, but it’s pretty uncanny in sending similar music. It’s not perfect — note that it limits how many times you can skip ahead in an hour, so choose those skips wisely. And when you add a new artist to your station, it tends to load you up on them for a while, before getting back into the mix. (I eventually had to split my set of favorite artists into two stations to solve this.) But overall, it’s a lot of fun, and it’s pointed me to lots of bands and songs I wouldn’t otherwise have found.
2. Prof. Yin had an interesting post about differing self-interest-protection norms in the restaurant business and lawyering. He notes that lawyers in litigation have to take steps to protect their interests, for example by not accidentally turning over too much information in discovery. At a restaurant, though, the norm might be that customers will bring it to the server’s attention if they weren’t charged for something. But (assuming such a norm exists, and I think among most honest people it would), it’s not just because we’ve excused the retsaurant from protecting its interests. It’s because we’ve already consumed the food, and it’s fair to pay for what you order. The law analogy would be if the firm accidentally underbilled the client, for example by omitting Associate Yin’s fine document review. The client has consumed those efforts, and it’s only fair that the client pay for them. The difference is that, in the restaurant context, the customer has the information; the customer is much more likely to remember what he or she ordered and ate than a busy server working several tables. In the legal arena, the firm has the information; the client won’t know who worked on a case for how long until the firm sends a bill. In the discovery mix-up Prof. Yin posits, the firm receiving the mis-sent document has the information, and the other firm lacks it.
So, the question is really about when we decide it’s fair to obligate the information-holder to protect the interests of the information-lacking party. Even in the “adversarial” legal system, we don’t always leave the parties to fend for themselves. This is especially true in the criminal context, owing to the unique role of the prosecutor. The prosecutor’s obligations under Brady v. Maryland are the most obvious instance: the prosecutor is required to turn over potentially exculpatory evidence to the defense. In civil discovery, the roles of the parties are different, and the question is closer.
3. I finished King Dork over the weekend. Review to come, sometime. In brief: I really enjoyed it. Here’s the author’s blog. I didn’t realize until I was finished that it’s officially classified as “teen/young adult.” That probably explains why I couldn’t find it in the bookstore. As PG notes in regard to The Once and Future King, there’s nothing wrong with adults reading books aimed at adolescents. And I re-read The Westing Game last year. Oh, and I suppose a few bajillion Harry Potter fans would concur. Anyway, I’m not going to make a habit of shopping in the “teen” section of the store, but I think a good book is a good book, so I didn’t feel weird about liking King Dork. Anyway, more on the audience when I review it, if I can remember.
4. I’m not going to whine for a review copy of Jeremy Blachman’s Anonymous Lawyer. But I checked out the Anonymous Law Firm mock site, which Jeremy produced as a tie-in for the book. There’s a link here. There are some funny things on there, especially the “Diversity” page. Also, if this story is true, real life is still stranger than fiction.
5. Is Centinel still alive? Just wondering. Surely someone’s done something worth mocking since he last posted in February.
6. Crazy story out of Atlanta. A group of teenagers had been undertaking a series of robberies, and thought they found a new victim. They accosted a 36-year-old waiter walking on the street. The four robbers had a shotgun and a .380 pistol. But the guy they picked on was an ex-Marine with a pocketknife. One of the robbers ended up dead; another is in serious condition at the hospital; the others are under arrest. The Marine had a cut and a bruise.
7. Will Baude and Marty Lederman, among others, are discussing Judge Richard Posner’s review of the two new books about Supreme Court clerks. (They have all the links, so I’ll send the traffic to them.) One idea Posner and Baude (who used to work for Posner) endorse is the publication of cert memos, to give the public a look at the reasons behind denials of cert. I wonder if they think judges should make their clerks’ bench memos public as well. I’ve gone on record (somewhat tongue-in-cheek) in favor of the philosopher-king model of the imperial judiciary, so my feelings are at best mixed. I think I agree with Lederman’s suggestion that we would be unlikely to learn anything new, especially if the memo writers start being extra-careful about what they say, lest posterity be watching. There’s still always going to be some subjectivity to the criteria for granting cert, especially if the ground is something as nebulous as a sense that the case isn’t “important enough.” Unless the justices are required to reveal their inner thoughts, we can’t ever really know the whole story. What will a perfunctory memo add to that? Baude, I presume, would place the burden of justification on those who would keep such items secret. I don’t the risk of “chilling” candor is that great, although my guess is the justices would disagree.
I suppose if I were forced to come up with something, I’d offer this. Now, with “secret” cert memos, there’s still a good chance that the public will eventually be able to examine them when a justice’s papers become open to the public. Yes, it may be years later, but that’s the system we have with lots of classified documents from the executive branch. Ordering the publication of cert memos runs the risk of driving some of the discussion “off the record,” into private conversations between the justices and their clerks. History is unlikely ever to learn the content of those chats. At best, we might get some potentially inaccurate notes of the discussions. Perhaps the parties will be more candid if they know that the memos won’t be made public at least until the justice is off the bench. (That’s the norm, at least; there was some controversy when Justice Blackmun’s papers were made public while several of his colleagues remained on the Court.) I don’t know if this reason is convincing to anyone, but there it is. I wonder, though, if Will would articulate why it’s so much better to see the memos now, rather than a few years later.
8. I’m thinking about a couple of blog projects, and occasionally musing about starting a new, “spin-off” blog. I’m not sure about any of these yet, so there may or may not be announcements in the near future. But I’ve got big dreams. Alas, I’m kind of busy at work these days, so blog-time is spotty. Thanks for hanging in there. At least I’m posting more than Centinel.