Friday, May 21, 2004

7th Circuit Follies

From the oral argument of In Re K Mart, 359 F 3d 866 (7th Cir 2004):

Appellee's Attorney: The second thing I wanted to respond to was the Crawford case, Judge Posner's decision in a Chapter 13 with a plan confirmation . . .

Easterbrook: I didn't remind your colleague of it, but it is a decision of the Seventh Circuit, not of a particular judge.

Attorney: I apologize. It is the Court's decision. Judge Posner just happened to write it.


Attorney: . . . I think you have to read 363(b) in the context of the entire code.

Easterbrook: Ugg. Now I've got to read all of the decisions from the 18th and 19th centuries, and the entire Code. I won't have time to watch Survivor on TV!

The attorney, Steven B. Towbin, also mentions Professor Baird a few minutes later.

Setting up Easterbrook for a joke and having Douglas on your side? Guess who won?

But still, there are lessons to be learned here. 1. Judge Posner's opinions are in fact not his, but Seventh Circuit's opinions only. 2. Don't mess with Judge Easterbrook's Survivor-watching schedule. 3. Cite Professor Baird as much as possible. In fact, try only citing Professor Baird. Just file a brief consisting of his Bankruptcy book. Add anything more, and Judge Easterbrook will find some way in which your addition destroys federal jurisdiction. Even if it's just your signature at the end. Have Douglas sign it.

But if you're also looking to avoid violating local rules, just forget it. Your tie alone surely violates at least 17 local rules, which Judge Easterbrook will readily recite to you off the top of his head ("Let me ask you again counsel, because you're clearly not listening. In what way does that tie comply with Rule 30b, requiring Windsor knots? And don't even get me started on its warm hues, a clear violation of Rules 32(f), 0(c), and 273.15(k).")

I'm sure this is how the attorney for Illinois felt in this oral argument. You know things aren't going well when you're told your case is moot, you forgot to include a key (unpublished) lower court opinion in the appendix, and Judge Easterbrook at one point asks, in short, "are you calling me an idiot?"

In sum: if you ever have the pleasure of arguing before the 7th Circuit, don't say I didn't warn you.

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