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.