Kurt X. Metzmeier's blog

The U.S. Supreme Court Loves Kentucky!


Though no Kentuckian has warmed its benches since Fred Vinson died suddenly in 1953, the U.S. Supreme Court apparently loves Kentucky litigants, most recently inviting first David Friedman's and then Teddy Gordon's clients up to Washington to chat about courthouse decorations and the Louisville public schools. Next year, some Frankfort attorneys will be making the trip, this time to defend the Kentucky death penalty and, in an unrelated case, its Kentucky retirement plan. (Contrary to belief, Eddyville's Kentucky State Penitentiary is not part of the retirement system).

In Baze v. Rees, 07-5439, the Court will decide whether the risk of pain and suffering inherent in execution by lethal drugs makes the method unconstitutional under the 8th Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. The justices will also examine whether Kentucky pension plan engages in age discrimination when it uses age as part of its formulae (Kentucky Retirement v. EEOC, 06-1037).

Details on the cases, including the cert briefs, can be found on SCOTUSBlog.

Freakonomics of Bar Passage Rates


The New York Times' Freakonomics blog has an interesting post today about an upcoming study of first-time-taker bar exam results. In an upcoming Journal of Legal Education article, St Louis University professors Douglas Rush and Hisako Matsuo test the theory that students with lower GPA scores will be helped to pass the bar by a heavy diet of bar courses. Their data suggested no significant relationship exists between passage rates and law school courseload for lower and higher GPA quartile students. Generally, students in the upper two GPA quartiles passed at high rates while students in the lowest quartile passed at significantly lower rates, without regard to the number of bar courses they had taken. (Interestingly, there did seem to be some benefit to such a coursework plan for third quartile students, but there is little analysis of why that might be the case).

The article is a welcome addition of metrics to this debate, although somewhat unsatisifying in its narrow scope and analysis. You want to say "yes, but what if...," but the the "what if" data isn't there. The authors note that "more research is warranted."

Attorney General Michael Mukasey


The Wall Street Journal Law Blog has an interesting post about former federal judge, Michael Mukasey, who President Bush will name today as his nominee as U.S. attorney general. First, his name is pronounced Mew-KAY-Zee. Always good to get that kind inside info, especially since President Bush will likely call him Moo-KAZ-Zee, or just "Mookie." Also amusing is an anecdote about the judge's opinion of the USA PATRIOT Act--specifically, the act's name, not the act itself:

I think one would have to concede that the USA Patriot Act has an awkward, even Orwellian, name, which is one of those Washington acronyms derived by calling the law “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Interrupt and Obstruct Terrorism.” You get the impression they started with the acronym first, and then offered a $50 savings bond to whoever could come up with a name to fit. Without offering my view on any case or controversy, current or future, I think that that awkward name may very well be the worst thing about the statute.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid seemed favorable to the selection and promised that confirmation hearings would be arranged soon.