Friday, April 24, 2015

Oral Arguments in Same-Sex Marriage Cases

On Tuesday April 28th, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in four cases challenging state bans on same-sex marriages and state bans on recognition of existing same-sex marriages. When decided the consolidated cases will have the title Obergefell v. Hodges.

If you would like to preview the arguments the Court will be presented with, the Court's website has posted briefs from the parties and amici. If reading over 1,000 pages of legal briefs doesn't fit into your weekend plans, SCOTUSblog has a four part series analyzing the briefs filed by the couples seeking to over turn the bans, the states defending the bans, the amici supporting the couples-including the federal government, and the amici supporting the states.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Robinson on Race and Criminal Justice

Remember Jeffery Robinson's presentation on Ferguson in December? You might be interested in this 9-minute interview with him on KUOW: Seattle Defense Attorney To Lead ACLU's Center For Justice (April 20, 2015). (The Center for Justice includes the National Prison Project, the Criminal Law Reform Project and the Capital Punishment Project.)

Environmental Law for Earth Day

Mark Earth Day with a quick look at some of the environmental law scholarship that's been produced at UW Law in the last several years:

Friday, April 17, 2015

Legal Milestones in Choral Music

Two upcoming choral concerts honor historic legal events.

1297 copy of Magna Carta on display
in the National Archives
(and the NationalArchives
Featured Documents web exhibit
UW Collegium Musicum presents a musical setting of a medieval poem about the events leading to the Magna Carta in 1215. Magna Carta 800: Music of the British Isles, Sat. April 18, 2015, 7:30 PM, Mary Gates Hall, $10.

Orchestra Seattle and Seattle Chamber Singers present 1954 in America , Sunday, May 17, 3:00 PM, First Free Methodist Church (in West Seattle). One of the works is Breathe, by Stacey Phillips:
Breathe, a work for chorus and orchestra selected as the winning entry in the 2014–2015 OSSCS Composer Competition, features lyrics drawn from the 1954 Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education, the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Paul Dunbar’s poem “Sympathy.” Written during the months following protests in response to the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, Breathe “raises the continuing question of how this country, founded on the principles of equality, continues to struggle with questions of social justice.”
Thanks to Patty Roberts.

National County Government Month #NCGM

"April is the cruellest month," wrote T. S. Eliot. If you're a fan of Eliot, you might be celebrating April as National Poetry Month.

National County Government Month logo
But April is also National County Government Month (declared by the National Association of Counties (NACo)), and as lawyers you're more likely to deal with county government or even be a part of it than you are to be a professional poet, so let's take a minute to think about county government.

This year's theme is "Counties Moving America Forward: The Keys are Transportation and Infrastructure."

Washington County Profiles (from the Municipal Research and Services Center) offers quick access to county websites, codes, and comprehensive plans.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Working at the IRS; Pew on Taxes

Bloomberg News has a long story looking at life inside the IRS: Devin Leonard & Richard Rubin, IRS Workers Are Miserable and Overwhelmed, April 8, 2015. The headline conveys the gist of it, but read the article to learn more about budget cuts, hiring freezes, reorganizations, and other constraints that make the lives of these public servants challenging. 

screen snip showing headline from story

Think of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, NASA, or the Department of Defense: that agency can't do its work unless the folks at the IRS do their work. 

I listed those three agencies because they get very high approval ratings (65-70% favorable) while the IRS got more unfavorable (48%) than favorable (45%) responses. That's from the Bloomberg News article, crediting Pew Research Center. For more on that survey of attitudes toward agencies, see Most View the CDC Favorably: VA's Image Slips, Pew Research Center, Jan. 22, 2015. The complete report is here.

Speaking of reports from Pew, see 

Monday, April 13, 2015

Growth of Incarceration

The Growth of Incarceration in the United States: Exploring Causes and Consequences (2014), packed with research and analysis from social scientists and policy experts, is available as a free PDF from the National Academies Press.

This animated video summarizes the findings:

And this video summarizes it without the graphics:


Other National Academies publications in Law and Justice address topics such as:
  • eyewitness identification
  • the illicit tobacco market
  • juvenile justice reform
  • sex trafficking
  • forensic evidence

Friday, April 10, 2015

Prohibition comes to Seattle!

Don't worry–you can still have your evening cocktail! MOHAI (the Museum of History & Industry) is presenting the exhibit American Spirits the Rise and Fall of Prohibition April 2 through August 23. Along with this exhibit on June 6, 2015, "MOHAI will present 21st Century Speakeasy - a chance for visitors to discover how our region has pushed boundaries and led national conversations about legislating morality, including, most recently, the legalization of marijuana in Washington State."

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Poetry! Get Your Poetry!

April is National Poetry Month. Whether you like your poetry funny or serious, romantic or modern, one nice feature of most poems is that you can enjoy one or two even while keeping up with your law school reading assignments. (I know: you can't get through the Aeneid or Paradise Lost in a half hour. I said most poems.)

You can find free poetry and other resources on and (the website of the Academy of American Poets).

If you like your poetry on paper, go to the University Bookstore on Friday, April 10, when all poetry books in stock are 25% off.

University Book Store sale ad

A poetry book is a bargain!
And gives a break from legal jargon!
Get prepared for April 30, Poem in Your Pocket Day.

Help Make LEGO Legal Justice Team a Reality!

Remember the Legal Justice League: Women of the Supreme Court in LEGO??

Well, they're back, but in a slightly different form. LEGO initially rejected Maia Weinstock's original proposal, featuring actual female justices from the U.S. Supreme Court, under its policy against creating political minifigures based on real individuals. Weinstock and LEGO have now reached a compromise and a proposed set including three generic female justices has now been submitted to LEGO Ideas (LEGO's crowdsourced incubator for potential sets).



The project requires 10,000 votes before it's qualified for LEGO Review. Help show your support by voting for the project here.

You can also find more details about Maia Weinstock's chronicle of events leading to the creation of the Legal Justice Team here.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

You've Been Served.. via Facebook?

Traditionally, when commencing a lawsuit a person must be served in-person, or if not in person, through alternative service such as by publication. However, recently a New York State Judge ordered that the Defendant could be served via Facebook private messenger. What do you think of this new, alternative service? Is it constitutional? Read the Court's full opinion here.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Tips for Better To-Do Lists

Is it still early enough in the quarter that you aren't behind? or not too far behind?

If you're always scrambling to keep track of what's going on, you might find these tips helpful: What Happened When Fast Company Staff Created Better To-Do Lists (Sept. 22, 2014).

The article is from the blog How To Be a Success at Everything: "From big ideas like balancing work and life to small, everyday choices, we discover how talented people are so effective at what they do."

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Federal Appellate Briefs to Get Shorter?

A proposed change to Rule 32 of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure would put appellate briefs on an enforced diet:
  • a principal brief would max out at 12,500 words (rather than the current 14,000 words)
  • a reply brief would have half that.
Because the Judicial Conference uses, you can read the comments that have been submitted.

Some of the comments are from individuals. Many are from organizations, for example
  • Seth Waxman submitted a letter on behalf of the appellate practice groups of several large law firms (including his own firm, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP).
  • EarthJustice, Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, and Western Environmental Law Center submitted joint comments.
  • The American Academy of Appellate Lawyers also weighed in, approving changes to other rules but not Rule 32.
  • Judge Frank Easterbrook (7th Cir.) wrote supporting the current, 14,000-word limit, and also explaining its origin. 
Most of the comments are against the change, but some support it. See Mark Wilson, FRAP 32: Do Federal Appellate Briefs Need to Be Shorter?, Strategist (Feb. 17, 2015).

By the way, the corresponding rule in Washington (RAP 10.4) limits brief length in terms of pages, not words. Its limit is 50 pages for a principal brief, which might work out to be about the same as 14,000 words. Judge Easterbrook says that the old federal rule was 50 pages; to change to a word count, he calculated the number of words in 50-page briefs and found an average of just under 40,000 words.

Autism Awareness

Today is World Autism Awareness Day (see the UN General Assembly resolution and President Obama's proclamation) and April is National Autism Awareness Month.

For an essay criticizing the rhetoric of "celebrating" autism, see this essay on the Washington Post website by the mother of three adult daughters with autism.

Prof. Steve Calandrillo
To sample some of the legal issues, visit SSRN and search for "autism." When I did, the top article (in a ranking by number of downloads) was by UW Law's Prof. Steve CalandrilloVanishing Vaccinations: Why Are So Many Americans Opting Out of Vaccinating their Children?, 37 U. Mich. J. L. Reform 353 (2004). (It's been downloaded 1336 times.) Other papers address special education, criminal law, bullying, trial practice (children with autism as witnesses), and more.

Last year, the Autism CARES Act tweaked autism-related provisions of the Public Health Service Act. (The full title is a mouthful: Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education, and Support Act of 2014, Pub. L. 113-157, 128 Stat. 1831.) Because autism issues are within the domains of different agencies (e.g., Health and Human Services and Education), the federal government has an Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee. Among other thing, the committee provides a range of publications. For less technical, more accessible information, see HHS's Autism Information page.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Group Study Rooms to Be Remodeled

Associate Dean Hazel Pennington announced today that over spring break the law library had plumbing installed to accommodate hot tubs in three of the group study rooms rooms on L2. "I think this will increase usage of the study rooms, while improving student morale and well being."

Students enjoying a relaxing study session.

An extension of the chair yoga offered during Wellness Wednesdays, the availability of whirlpool hot tubs should contribute to the mellow vibe in the law school. "We are cooperating with a cognitive psychologist on campus who is interested in the performance enhancing effects of regular hot tubbing by law students," said Dean Pennington. "As well as making our students' lives more pleasant, we might be improving their performance. And if not, well, at least the students will be relaxed."

Dean Pennington reported that the location of the study rooms on the lowest level of the building is ideal. The increased weight from the hot tubs would unduly stress upper floors. "While we want to relieve students' stress, we don't want to increase the building's structural stress!"

Graphic: mashup by Mary Whisner of her own photo of a study room and a hot tub photo by Travis Rigel Lukas Hornung. Hot tub photo used under Creative Commons license