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The Court’s revised Rules will go into effect on July 1st. (See the revisions here, and the new complete rule book here.) There are no blockbuster changes, but certain key aspects of Supreme Court practice will change.
And check back for other notes over the coming days.
Brief on the Merits for Appellant Republican National Committee in McCutcheon v. FEC, No. 12-536, filed on May 6, 2013
I recently learned about a new book on how prisoners can write grievances complaining about their conditions in prison. The book, written by Terri LeClercq, is called “Prison Grievances: When to Write, How to Write.”
The reason why this book is so good for prisoners is because it is written in a simple, and easy to understand, language and because it is a graphic novel.
You can learn more about the book here.
What is the worst form of torture? I’ve been thinking about this subject for the past two weeks after reading an article written by William Blake, a New York State prisoner who has been housed in solitary confinement for the past 26 years because he murdered a sheriff’s deputy.
Although I read the article two weeks ago, I can’t shake it. For starters, Blake’s essay describes what solitary confinement is like better than any I’ve ever read. He writes:
There is always the misery. If you manage to escape it yourself for a time, there will ever be plenty around in others for you to sense; and though you’ll be unable to look into their eyes and see it, you might hear it in the nighttime when tough guys cry not-so-tough tears that are forced out of them by the unrelenting stress and strain that life in SHU is an exercise in.
I have lived for months where the first thing I became aware of upon waking in the morning is the malodorous funk of human feces, tinged with the acrid stench of days-old urine, where I eat my breakfast, lunch, and dinner with that same stink assaulting my senses, and where the last thought I had before falling into unconscious sleep was: “Damn, it smells like shit in here.”
And before you think that Blake made some of this up, I would tell you that everything he says in the essay is exactly how I remember solitary. I had two stints, myself, and I felt and witnessed its demoralizing effects as a prisoner across the hall from me hung himself two weeks after I was released back to general population. Read More »
There is a debate fermenting at my law school, the University of Washington, over whether the school should fund a criminal prosecution clinic. I weighed in on the debate, and to the surprise of many, I said that I favor a prosecution clinic. I favor it because I think such a clinic, if done properly, is an indispensable part of changing the criminal justice system in a way to end mass incarceration. Because some of my classmates do not understand my position, I thought I would share my thoughts here.
Let me first give some context. This country has a problem called mass incarceration. The U.S. locks up more people than any other country on the planet, even more than China, which has a few more billion people than we do. We also have a large racial disparity in our criminal justice system, as we lock up a disproportionately large number of people from communities of color. Part of the problem, but surely not the bulk of it, lays at the feet of prosecutors, some of whom believe that their primary job is to lock up as many people as possible for as long as possible.
Given the problem, some of my classmates question, and rightly so, whether UW law school should fund a prosecution clinic, and whether such a clinic evokes the wrong image for a school deeply invested in public interest, and especially, invested in ending mass incarceration. Our school motto is “Leaders for the Global Common Good,” and one of my more comedic classmates said that after the prosecution clinic starts, we should change the motto to the “Jailers for the Common Good.”
I should also point out that our sister school, Seattle University School of Law, rejected the prosecution clinic, largely, from what I hear, on social justice grounds.
Now, not everyone is opposed to the clinic. Some of my classmates desire a prosecution clinic because they plan to begin their career inside a prosecutor’s office and they value clinical experience in their field. They also value trial advocacy experience, which the clinic will provide.
My reasons for valuing a prosecution clinic are many. Most importantly, anyone who thinks that we can end mass incarceration without prosecutors is simply wrong. Prosecutors possess power. The power of discretion in deciding whether to charge, in deciding how to charge, and the discretion in recommending a sentence once a prosecutor proves his or her charge. This is largely why my good friend and mentor, who is one of the top criminal defense attorneys in Nebraska, told me that a prosecutor can do way more justice than any defender ever can. Read More »
Judge Richard Posner, of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, recently laid out his view of appellate briefs (you can read the article on the ABA website here). Judge Posner writes:
So, my essential advice to the appellate brief writer is to put yourself in the judge’s shoes all the way, as it were. That will help you grasp the relevant differences between judge and advocate and so will enable you to write a brief that will communicate your position effectively.
Judge Posner also brought up a couple other points that I found interesting, including that lawyers should perform an Internet search for information that could provide some context to the case. He also wrote that lawyers should provide judges with pictures, graphs, and illustrations in their briefs.
Adam Chandler over at SCOTUSblog recently posted this update of his earlier work on the influence of petition-stage amici. Chandler notes that in the last five years, the number of petition-stage amicus filings has increased 35%, and the total number of amicus filers has increased by almost 65%. “In short: more, more, more,” he writes.
The requirements for petition-stage filings vary from the merits-stage in some important ways (see Rule 37.2), and the petition-stage filer should be aware of the differences.
The first important distinction that practitioners must bear in mind is that all amici must provide the parties’ counsel of record at least ten days notice of the intention to file a petition-stage brief. This requirement is independent of consents, and also applies to governments (which do not need the parties’ consent to file). Amici—including governments—must aver in the first footnote of the brief, appearing on the first page after the Table of Authorities, that proper notice has been given. So, while a governmental filing would be exempt from all of the other Footnote 1 requirements, at the petition-stage even governments must have a Footnote 1 describing notice.
Petition-stage amicus briefs are due 30 days after the petition is docketed. This is the same date that the clerk enters as the response due date on the docket. Amici Read More »