Legal Profession

The Honorable Chase T. Rogers

This Lecture discusses innovative approaches that courts are employing and developing to ensure that all participants in court proceedings have meaningful access to justice. Approaches include making the most of technological advancements to provide electronic access to information and to promote an understanding of the legal process, working with the legal community to provide representation to self-represented parties, and examining the legal process in order to simplify procedures, better manage cases, control costs, and provide workable alternatives to traditional methods for resolving disputes.

Elizabeth Chamblee Burch

High-stakes multidistrict litigations saddle the transferee judges who manage them with an odd juxtaposition of power and impotence. On one hand, judges appoint and compensate lead lawyers (who effectively replace parties’ chosen counsel) and promote settlement with scant appellate scrutiny or legislative oversight. But on the other, without the arsenal that class certification once afforded, judges are relatively powerless to police the private settlements they encourage. Of course, this power shortage is of little concern since parties consent to settle.

But do they? Contrary to conventional wisdom, this Article introduces new empirical data revealing that judges appoint an overwhelming number of repeat players to leadership positions, which may complicate genuine consent through inadequate representation. Repeat players’ financial, reputational, and reciprocity concerns can govern their interactions with one another and opposing counsel, often trumping fidelity to their clients. Systemic pathologies can result: dictatorial attorney hierarchies that fail to adequately represent the spectrum of claimants’ diverse interests, repeat players that trade in influence to increase their fees, collusive private deals that lack a viable monitor, and malleable procedural norms that undermine predictability.

Current judicial practices feed these pathologies. First, when judges appoint lead lawyers early in the litigation based on cooperative tendencies, experience, and financial resources, they often select repeat players. But most conflicts do not arise until discovery, and repeat players have few self-interested reasons to dissent or derail the lucrative settlements they negotiate. Second, because steering committees are a relatively new phenomenon and transferee judges have no formal powers beyond those in the Federal Rules, judges have pieced together various doctrines to justify compensating lead lawyers. The erratic fee awards that result lack coherent limits. So, judges then permit lead lawyers to circumvent their rulings and the doctrinal inconsistencies by contracting with defendants to embed fee provisions in global settlements—a well-recognized form of self-dealing. Yet, when those settlements ignite concern, judges lack the formal tools to review them.

These pathologies need not persist. Appointing cognitively diverse attorneys who represent heterogeneous clients, permitting third-party financing, encouraging objections and dissent from non-lead counsel, and selecting permanent leadership after conflicts develop can expand the pool of qualified applicants and promote adequate representation. Compensating these lead lawyers on a quantum-meruit basis could then smooth doctrinal inconsistencies, align these fee awards with other attorneys’ fees, and impose dependable outer limits. Finally, because quantum meruit demands that judges assess the benefit lead lawyers conferred on the plaintiffs and the results they achieved, it equips judges with a private-law basis for assessing nonclass settlements and harnesses their review to a very powerful incentive: attorneys’ fees.

The Honorable Wallace B. Jefferson

The legal community has long recognized that indigent citizens often lack access to the judicial system. Pro bono programs and legal aid organizations have attempted to address this issue. In the Nineteenth Annual Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. Lecture on State Courts and Social Justice, Wallace B. Jefferson, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Texas, argues that there are barriers to justice not only for the indigent but also for middle-class Americans. He explores how our most valuable rights are often the least protected. Tenants subject to eviction rarely have counsel, veterans wait years to receive earned benefits, and juveniles cannot invoke the Sixth Amendment to challenge civil fines. Chief Justice Jefferson explores reforms and alternatives that are available when traditional paths to justice are blocked, and he highlights some of the obstacles faced in creating these alternatives.

Zoey F. Orol

This Note seeks to demonstrate the ripeness of early American legal periodicals as a subject of further inquiry by reading the American Law Journal (1808–1817), the first American law review, as a reflection of the changing nature of the legal profession at a crucial time in American history. Close analysis of the content and editorial choices of the journal suggests that the journal both reflects and addresses three early nineteenth century professional needs: the need to practice in a variety of jurisdictions and areas of law; the need to give voice and content to the emerging idea of a professional self-consciousness, which some scholars suggest developed only later in the century; and the need to respond to the internationalization of American legal and political affairs, which undercuts the arguments of many legal historians that the period marked an increasing tendency in American jurisprudence to look inward. The few scholars who have attempted to paint a picture of legal affairs in this transformative period have typically focused on the dockets of particular jurisdictions while overlooking legal periodicals. However, such sources can more accurately portray the state of the national legal profession given that a journal editor, unconstrained by state or regional boundaries, can incorporate cases and sources from a wide range of jurisdictions and on a varied array of topics. Furthermore, the fact that periodicals are necessarily dependent on a subscriber base suggests that such editors had to touch on issues of interest to subscribers from all across the country in order to stay afloat.

Nancy Morawetz

The emergence of a new Supreme Court Pro Bono Bar, made up of specialty practices and law school Supreme Court clinics, has altered the dynamic of litigation related to public interest issues. The new Bar often brings expertise in Supreme Court litigation to cases where there may otherwise be a dearth of resources to support high quality lawyering. But at the same time, this new Bar is subject to market pressures that have important consequences. This Article shows how members of this new Bar are engaged in a race for opportunities to handle Supreme Court cases on the merits. At the certiorari stage, this Bar can be expected to engage in truncated case analysis, avoid coordination with lawyers handling similar cases, and otherwise make decisions that are influenced by each firm’s interest in being in a position to handle cases on the merits before the Supreme Court. Moreover, throughout the litigation, this Bar may be influenced by the merits opportunity that provided the incentive to take the case in the first place. This Article explores the
implications of this new dynamic in Supreme Court litigation for both pro bono practices and public interest practice communities. With respect to pro bono practices, this Article proposes principles that firms could adopt, including those that relate to the selection of cases for free representation and those that relate to the nature of representation that the pro bono practices provide once the firm has taken on representation. With respect to public interest practice communities, this Article considers the strategic decisions that practice communities face in light of the new Supreme Court Pro Bono Bar. This Article argues that practice communities must anticipate Supreme Court activity on the issues that interest them and must engage constructively both with lawyers whose cases might be possible targets for a petition for writ of certiorari and with the Supreme Court Pro Bono Bar.

Robin A. Moore

New technologies such as the VCR and Google Book Search can change the way copyrighted works are used, thereby making their innovators rich. Copyright owners are aware of these riches and often strategically sue the technology companies with the aim of gaining a share of the money. This dynamic—an innovator investing to create a new technology and a creator of a copyrighted work then suing for her share of the profits—creates an investment incentive problem. The dual goal of promoting the efficient creation of both new copyrighted works and new technologies that augment those works requires us to choose a legal rule that divides the gains from these new technologies between authors and innovators. The fair use doctrine—the statutory rule that allows some types of copyright infringement—is the legal rule that is used to do this dividing. However, economic theories of copyright law do not contain an analysis of investment incentives. This Note analyzes the effects fair use has on the incentives to create copyrighted works and to invest in technologies that affect those works.

Drew T. Johnson-Skinner

Congress enacted the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (PSLRA) to reduce plaintiffs’ lawyers’ influence in securities fraud class actions. The PSLRA’s presumption that the class member with the largest financial interest would be named lead plaintiff was meant to place the class, instead of its lawyers, in charge of the litigation. Congress hoped that institutional investment funds, such as public pension funds, would serve as the new lead plaintiffs. At first, it seemed that the PSLRA was successful at installing institutional investors as lead plaintiffs and reducing the power imbalance between class counsel and their clients.

Today there are new fears that plaintiffs’ lawyers have co-opted securities class actions by paying-to-play. “Paying-to-play” describes the practice of lawyers making campaign contributions to public pension funds’ political leadership in order to gain favorable consideration by the funds for appointment as class counsel. Many reforms have been proposed and enacted in response to paying-to- play fears. Aside from a few anecdotal reports, however, no examination of campaign contributions from plaintiffs’ lawyers to elected officials exists in the legal literature. This Note presents the first comprehensive report on campaign contributions that serve as the basis for paying-to-play concerns. My data suggest that law firms do indeed contribute to the investment funds that select them as class counsel, ruling out one possible response to paying-to-play fears, namely, that these contributions are not being made in the first place. This Note also provides guidance for future research, and in doing so, touches upon issues such as the reasons that firms donate and how funds make counsel-selection decisions.

The Honorable Paul J. De Muniz

In the Seventeenth Annual Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. Lecture on State Courts and Social Justice, Paul J. De Muniz, Chief Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court, discusses the challenges confronting state judiciaries in the face of economic crises and corresponding state budget cuts. Chief Justice De Muniz urges state court leaders to adopt the concept of reengineering to overhaul antiquated court management processes in favor of more efficient alternatives. Drawing from the Oregon state judiciary’s own efforts, Chief Justice De Muniz identifies court governance structures, case administration, essential court functions, and leadership as key targets in any successful reengineering endeavor.