Wednesday Writs for 10/10


Welcome to the first edition of Ordinary Times’ new linky feature, “Wednesday Writs”, which will attempt to bring to you the latest and most interesting headlines from the legal world. What is a writ, you say? Well, for our purposes, it’s a legalish word that lends itself to catchy alliteration, but for our first link, let’s answer that:

[L1]: Simply put, a writ is “an order issued by a court requiring that something be done, or giving authority to do a specified act.” One of the oldest and most famous examples of a writ is at the core of a case that is the cornerstone of judicial review: Marbury v. Madison, our case of the week.

Mr. Marbury, relying upon the Judiciary Act of 1801, sought a writ of mandamus to compel delivery of his commission as a judge, issued by President Adams before leaving office. Chief Justice John Marshall agreed that the law would require issuance of the writ- except that the law itself was unconstitutional. With this ruling, the power to declare a law unconstitutional was conferred upon our SCOTUS, elevating the Court to the powerful institution we know today. (To learn how and why this was actually a brilliant political maneuver by Marshall to counter the political efforts of his second cousin and sworn enemy, President Thomas Jefferson, listen to the July 1, 2016 episode of the podcast mentioned in [L8] below. Also, our own Burt Likko wrote about it here.)

[L2]: Lawyers are not generally known for their politeness, but it takes some pretty bad behavior to cross the line into unacceptable. This Connecticut lawyer has found that line– seven times in 20 years. Note to self: The F word is not attorney work product.

[L3]: An attempt by the Department of Justice to retroactively apply its sex offender registration law made it to the Supreme Court, where it faced criticism from a pair of unlikely allies: Justices Ginsburg and Gorsuch.

[L4]: 160 years after enslaved Dred Scott sued for his freedom, his descendants reconcile with those of the man who denied it. 

[L5]: Dumb criminal of the week: when breaking into your 8th car of the night, best not to lay down and take a nap in the back seat.

[L6]: “Stairway to Heaven” is a rip off of a song by musician Randy California- or so says his estate, 47 years after “Stairway” was released. A California jury disagrees, but the fight rages on following a decision out of the 9th Circuit.

[L7]: If you have been following the goat rodeo that is the West Virginia Supreme Court impeachment saga, here’s the latest.

[L8]: Podcast Recommendation: If you have any interest in learning more about the history of SCOTUS and the back story behind some of its most famous cases, you should be listening to “More Perfect,” an entertaining but informative weekly podcast from RadioLab.

[L9]: Partisan squabbling, European style: The EU’s 28-nation parliament scolds Romania for easing its corruption laws.

[L10]: Weird law of the week: Until 2016, it was illegal for idiots to vote in New Mexico (try to avoid the easy jokes here).

That’s it for this week. Until next Wednesday, stay on this side of the law.

Johnny Cash – On This Side Of The Law

Senior Editor

Em was one of those argumentative children who was sarcastically encouraged to become a lawyer, so she did. She is a proud life-long West Virginian, and, paradoxically, a liberal. In addition to writing about society, politics and culture, she enjoys cooking, podcasts, reading, and pretending to be a runner. She will correct your grammar. You can find her on Twitter.

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16 thoughts on “Wednesday Writs for 10/10

  1. L2 “Lawyers are not generally known for their politeness, but it takes some pretty bad behavior to cross the line into unacceptable.”

    I used to work for this guy:

    Read between the lines and you will find that he was disbarred for being a jerk. He did stuff for years, including my time with him, that while not strictly kosher, had no repercussions. Until it did, because he pissed off another lawyer badly enough that the guy made it a Cause. At that point the guy had no problem finding any number of other lawyers who my former boss had pissed off over the years. and away they went merrily collecting evidence.

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    • It’s a fine line between being a “shark” of an attorney and being an unethical jerk. I’ve known both. The former manage to be a thorn in the sides of opposing counsel without violating the rules or ticking off the judge. I worked for one like that… I admired him greatly. I am personally can be a little “too nice” for litigation.

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    • The L2 attorney comes across as mental. It’s one thing to be jerk with another attorney in private, but when the deposition disputes were brought to the judge, the attorney sniped at and argued with the judge. When the judge ruled that the deposition would continue in the presence of the Judge and the attorney continued in this behavior, it was analogous to speeding down the highway and seeing a cop car ahead and doing nothing to reduce your speed even though you know you are being watched.

      (As a procedural aside, I don’t know that Judges have this authority in my state. They generally refer bad behavior to the attorney disciplinary board, which has the power to either give a reprimand or suspend the license in increments of six months)

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  2. L2: My experience is that many lawyers are pretty good for professional courtesy. I’ve had some experience with older lawyers who like to use their physical size as an asset though.

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