An archive of Howard J. Bashman's monthly columns about appellate litigation, with other of his writings thrown in for good measure
Law–Related Web Logs Can Provide A Welcome And Even Worthwhile Diversion
By Howard J. Bashman
Monday, December 13, 2004
Web logs, also known as blogs, have been in the news a bit lately. But these easy–to–access and easy–to–create web sites offer more than just a place where teenagers can write at length about their celebrity crushes, politicians can rally the faithful, and pajama–clad intelligentsia can debunk what the mainstream media reports as news. Indeed, many quite useful and even entertaining law–related blogs exist, and anyone with access to the internet is just a click away from all that these sites have to offer.
The earliest law–related web logs, now sometimes affectionately known as blawgs, date back to the year 2001. Over the last couple of years, the number of law related web logs has increased exponentially. Today dozens if not hundreds of blawgs exist operated by lawyers, law professors, law students, clerks of court, judicial law clerks, and even federal and state judges. The web addresses for all of the specific blogs mentioned below can be found at the very end of this essay.
In March 2002, I launched the web log "How Appealing" to provide online coverage of and access to noteworthy appellate court rulings. I also provide many links to the media's coverage of law–related developments of significance. Earlier this year, Legal Affairs magazine became the online host of my blog. On a typical weekday, my site receives around ten thousand page views, and it is widely read by appellate lawyers, judges, judicial law clerks, and members of the press.
Often my blog is the first place where news of a newly–issued significant federal appellate court ruling appears online. And due to the vast readership that my site is fortunate to have, I am often able to obtain and then post online appellate briefs that are filed in some of the most closely–followed appellate proceedings now pending.
In February 2003, I launched a feature known as "20 questions for the appellate judge." That feature recently came to an end after twenty consecutive months of interviews with federal and state appellate court judges from across the nation. Interviewees included Seventh Circuit Judges Richard A. Posner and Frank H. Easterbrook, Ninth Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt, Eighth Circuit Judge Richard S. Arnold, Third Circuit Judge Ruggero J. Aldisert, First Circuit Judge Bruce M. Selya, and Federal Circuit Judge William Curtis Bryson. All twenty of these "20 questions" interviews remain freely accessible online.
Another amazing online resource for appellate practitioners is "SCOTUSblog," which the Goldstein & Howe law firm operates. That law firm is a Washington, DC–based boutique that has a thriving practice before the U.S. Supreme Court. Its blog is often the first site on the internet to report on opinions and grants of review that the Supreme Court has issued. And recently, veteran U.S. Supreme Court correspondent Lyle Denniston became a regular "SCOTUSblog" contributor. He most recently covered the court for The Boston Globe, and the coverage of the Court that Denniston provides at this blog is indispensable.
American Lawyer Media, which publishes The Legal Intelligencer, recently launched its own foray into the world of law blogs via the law.com Blog Network. The network includes seven blogs that have been in existence for quite some time. The cornerstone of the law.com Blog Network is "The Volokh Conspiracy," a wonderful site whose many contributors are law professors, and many of those law professors have clerked at the U.S. Supreme Court. "The Volokh Conspiracy" focuses less on providing news coverage and more on providing thoughtful commentary. But it must be doing something right, because it is one of the most popular law–related blogs in existence.
Two very popular and worthwhile blawgs focus on criminal law issues. The blog "Sentencing Law and Policy" is operated by a law professor at the Moritz College of Law at The Ohio State University. It came into existence just a short time before the U.S. Supreme Court issued its groundbreaking decision in Blakely
, and since then the blog has provided essential coverage of the many court decisions that have considered Blakely's impact on federal and state sentencing guidelines.
The U.S. Supreme Court is on the verge of announcing its rulings on the merits of two cases in which the defendants are arguing that Blakely
requires the invalidation of the federal sentencing guidelines. There is no better place online to follow this issue than at the "Sentencing Law and Policy" blog. Indeed, during that blog’s short time in existence, it has received numerous mentions in trial and appellate court rulings.
Another worthwhile criminal law–related blog is "TalkLeft." As the second–half of that blog's name suggests, the site provides coverage of criminal law developments from the perspective of a politically liberal criminal defense attorney. One of that site's contributors recently argued before the Seventh Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court one of the currently–pending challenges to the constitutionality of the federal sentencing guidelines.
Those looking for a law blog that's especially entertaining are sure to find to their liking the site "Underneath Their Robes." Calling this site irreverent does not do it justice, but the quality of the blog is perhaps evidenced by the fact that it has already received praise in Newsweek magazine. The blog's anonymous author appears to be in regular email contact with, among others, Ninth Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski and Seventh Circuit Judge Richard A. Posner. And I'm pleased to report that the site has launched its own judicial interview feature, and online interviews have already appeared with a Ninth Circuit Judge and a U.S. District Judge from Illinois.
Another entertaining read is the blog "Notes from the (Legal) Underground." This very well–written site is run by a plaintiffs' lawyer from, of all places, Madison County, Illinois. The site offers many recurring features, such as "Advice to Young Lawyers" and regular round–ups of the most entertaining posts from law student blogs.
At present, there are at least two appellate court judges who have their own blogs. Just last week, "The Becker–Posner Blog" had its debut. Becker is Gary S. Becker, a Nobel Prize–winning economist. And Posner is Seventh Circuit Judge Richard A. Posner.
The other blog written by an appellate judge belongs to Justice William W. Bedsworth of the California Court of Appeal. For years he has written a very funny column entitled "A Criminal Waste of Space." Justice Bedsworth's blog consists of an archive of these timeless gems.
Given space limitations, I can only scratch the surface of the many worthwhile law–related blogs now in existence. Happily, while the number of law–related blogs has continued to grow by leaps and bounds, many of these new additions are of especially high quality. Along the right–hand margin of my "How Appealing" blog, you can access links to a multitude of other law–related blogs.
Ambitious readers of this column may wish to try their own hand at blogging. The software package that I use, available online at blogger.com, is free and easy for beginners. You can have your own blog up and running in almost no time at all. Another popular software package for blogging is known as TypePad, but it is not free and is perhaps best for those with more experience in posting to the internet.
I have really enjoyed my foray into the world of appellate law–related blogging and the success with which it has been received. I hope that any readers who are motivated to launch blogs of their own have a similarly positive experience.
The blogs mentioned in this month's column can be accessed online at the following addresses:
How Appealing: appellateblog.com
20 questions for the appellate judge: appellateblog.com/20q
The Volokh Conspiracy: volokh.com
Sentencing Law and Policy: sentencing.typepad.com
Underneath Their Robes: underneaththeirrobes.blogs.com
Notes from the (Legal) Underground: legalunderground.com
The Becker–Posner Blog: becker-posner-blog.com
A Criminal Waste of Space: acriminalwasteofspace.netThis article is reprinted with permission from the December 13, 2004 issue of The Legal Intelligencer © 2004 NLP IP Company.