March 31, 2008

Subject to complete awesomeness

A major tip of the hat to my good friend out of the Denver environs, Subject to Complete Defeasance (apparently we both have the same penchant for obscure legal terms). SCD generously takes time away from his hectic schedule as a civil litigator to weigh in with some typically incisive observations on the Wisconsin Supreme Court race:
Having spent the first forty-five years of my life in Ohio, another state in which judges are chosen via head-to-head elections, I can say with some confidence that state supreme court races ain’t what they used to be. In fact, such elections were true yawners once upon a time.

Then came tort “reform.” Chambers of commerce, manufacturers’ associations, insurance companies and various front groups pretending to represent concerned citizens found that, for surprisingly little money, they could purchase corporate legislation that severely restricted access to the civil justice system and severely restricted recovery for those who could obtain access. Result: the proponents of such legislation keep more of their treasure.

The fly in state tort “reform” legislation ointment was state courts. Most state constitutions (not Colorado’s, sad to say) confer a right to trial by jury in civil cases. Some state supreme courts, though by no means all, take those provisions — along with equal protection, due process and separation of powers principles — quite seriously. Result: in some states, components of tort “reform” legislation get shot down as unconstitutional.

Excising that fly from the precious, precious ointment of tort “reform” involves stacking the state supreme court with “pro-business” jurists, i.e., judges who aren’t really judges at all but rather business interest hacks. In states with head-to-head judicial elections, that essentially means buying supreme court seats.
I often link to SPD's top-flight blog with the caveat that he's occasionally moved to side-splittingly hilarious outbursts of scatological profanity — I like to think of him as the Fran├žois Rabelais or the Henry Miller of blawggers — and I warn off the faint of heart.

(If he happens to choose from either of the foregoing high compliments for his "vanity wall," I expect he'll select the one that includes the cleverly inserted nod to our mutual fandom for '70s prog-rock geniuses and multi-instrumentalist wonders Gentle Giant.)

However, seriously, nobody — nobody — can brief a case quite like SCD. Among the innumerable examples of SCD's amazingly concise and equally entertaining restatements of the most complex cases you can imagine is his latest, a truly superlative discussion of Hall St. v. Mattel, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling delivered last Tuesday:

Least necessary SCOTUS decision ever?

Now that, as my good friend Atty. William Tyroler might say, is masterful.

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