Kudos for SCOTUSblog updates

SCOTUSblog’s e-mail updates have been pretty helpful this October Term! We just started using them to track a few merits cases for which the filings have been fairly slow to appear on Bloomberg Law & WestlawNext. By contrast, the SCOTUSblog updates appear pretty timely in the trial runs we’ve done. The format is terrific, too, providing links both to the PDFs of the filed brief, and a link back to the docket, itself. Next up: subscription to and comparison with alerts from ABA preview briefs.

“Please remember that your function is to correct my errors, not to introduce errors of your own”

I just picked up the Winter 2010 issue of the University of Louisville Law Review.  The article by Melvin I. Urofsky, “Louis D. Brandeis and His Clerks,” was great fun to read.  Take a look at the article when you have a moment, but I want to share some of the best tidbits here.  As you might guess, many have a research connection.

When discussing the thorough work expected of the clerks, Urofsky writes:

“This research took place before the computer age; a legal researcher can now use Lexis-Nexis or Westlaw and instantly have all of the citations on the screen, or Google to get non-legal facts.  His clerks had to to do it the old fashioned way–going to the law library and using the decennial digests for state and federal case citations and other tools for statutes.  They called government offices to get  reports or copies of hearings, kept track of articles appearing in law reviews, and when they spotted a title that might be relevant immediately sent for a copy.  Some used typewriters and others wrote by hand, but their research memoranda often ran for dozens of pages.”

Brandeis expected work to be meticulous.

“When Brandeis came in, he put two volumes of state reports on the desk.  “Did you read all of the cases cited in the footnotes?” he asked.  Acheson [his clerk] said that he had.  “Suppose you read these two again.”  The cases had no bearing on the argument and had slipped in from digests that Acheson had used to organize the notes.  He went on to apologize and Brandeis dismissed the matter with one sentence: “Please remember that your function is to correct my errors, not to introduce errors of your own.”

There would be as many as 20 drafts going back and forth between Brandeis and his clerk — each adding new citations and making corrections.  Notably, Urofsky mentions,  Brandeis was the first Supreme Court Justice to cite to a law review.   [The journal was the American Labor Legislation Review and the case was Adams v. Tanner, 244 US 590 (1917).]

I will close with a very amusing  passage that centers on his former clerk, James Landis, and his new appointment as the youngest dean in Harvard Law School’s history:

“You mean the Harvard Law School? [Brandeis] asked.

“Yes,” Landis replied.

“Why do you want to take that?”

“Well,” [Landis] stumbled for an answer, “it’s a great position.”

“Anybody can be a good Dean of the Harvard Law School,” Brandeis advised.  “Why not take some smaller school and do something with it?”

Citations to Foreign Law in the Supreme Court of Canada

Waiting for Globalization: an Empirical Study of the McLachlin Court’s Foreign Judicial Citations

Peter McCormick

41 Ottawa Law Review 209

From the abstract:

…This paper explores the Supreme Court of Canada’s citations to judicial authority since 2000. The paper argues that the notion of non-Canadian citation must be disaggregated into three component parts – English, American and everything else. – before it can usefully be examined, these three exhibiting quite different patterns; an d its concludes that in none of them can the “expanding globalization” thesis be sustained. … Finally, it looks at the kinds of cases that tend to include non-Canadian citations, and suggests that not only are we still waiting for globalization, but to the extent that we are focusing primarily on rights-based jurisprudence, we may also be looking in the wrong place.

Supreme Court Oral Argument Audio Recordings

This from SCOTUS Blog:

“Starting next week, the Court will release on its own website the audiotape recordings of all of the arguments at the end of each argument week. This will be much faster release than under the prior policy, when they were not available for months — unless, as in a few high-profile cases, the Court released them on the same day of argument — a policy now discontinued.”

Starting with the October Term 2010, visitors to the Supreme Court site can download the FREE MP3 files by clicking on the “Oral Arguments” link from the home page and then clicking on the “Argument Audio”.  The argument audio will be posted on Fridays after Conference.

More details about this new policy are available in the Supreme Court’s press release.