Law and Conversation

September 17, 2010

Judges and courts in nonfiction

Filed under: Books and writing,judiciary,Law — Helen Gunnarsson @ 12:01 am
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With the news about Chief Justice Thomas Fitzgerald’s retirement, Illinois appellate justice Mary Jane Theis’s appointment to the Illinois supreme court as his replacement, and the election of Justice Thomas Kilbride as new chief justice, it’s been hard to keep up with the court this week.

In addition to registering for the court’s own e-mail service for announcements and press releases or following the court’s Twitter account, though, there’s another good way to keep up with the judiciary in Illinois:  bookmark Chicago lawyer Jack Leyhane’s blog, “For What It’s Worth,” ” where he posts timely news and analysis of Illinois judges and courts, or add it to your RSS reader.   

I thanked Leyhane yesterday for adding this blog to his blogroll.  As I noted, he and a number of others provided me with some great commentary for two of my three articles on becoming a judge in the latest issue of the Illinois Bar Journal.  I’m delighted to note that my articles will be included in the materials for a CLE symposium on judicial selection that ISBA is putting on next month.

The announcement of Chief Justice Fitzgerald’s retirement appeared to take everyone by surprise.  I’ve interviewed the justice twice, for a profile on his becoming the chief two years ago and in July, along with three of his fellow justices, for my current lead article.  I concluded the latter with my favorite quote from him, a response to a question I asked him about lawyers who doubt their abilities to be good judges:  “Good for you.  You should have self-doubt.  I hope you can hang onto it, for it’s a worthwhile thing to have.”  In his interview, Justice Fitzgerald revealed himself to be impeccably courteous and courtly–exactly as one would hope and expect someone at the top of the legal profession to be.

For more about the judiciary, check out the archives of the (sadly) no longer active “Underneath Their Robes” blog, written by the inimitable and irrepressible David Lat as his alter ego, Article III Groupie.  Lat, who now oversees the deliciously snarky “Above The Law” blog, was unmasked, with his cooperation, in the November 21, 2005 issue of The New Yorker, by lawyer and writer Jeffrey Toobin.

Toobin, in turn, published “The Nine:  Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court” in 2007.  As he was gathering material for his book, Toobin landed interviews with not only some of the justices themselves but also many present and former law clerks.  Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong’s “The Brethren” laid the groundwork for Toobin’s and others’ books about the inner workings of the court, of course.  Further back in time, Malvina Shanklin Harlan’s memoir, “Some Memories of a Long Life,” recounting stories of her 54-year marriage to 19th century Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan, is available in hardcover now that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has edited it.  The Library of Congress holds that manuscript and the archives of various supreme court justices.

For books about Illinois’s own courts, check out “Courtroom 302:  A  Year Behind the Scenes in an American Criminal Courthouse” by Chicago journalist Steve Bogira, “Rule 53:  Capturing Hippies, Spies, Politicians, and Murderers in an American Courtroom,” by courtroom sketch artist Andy Austin, and “Greylord:  Justice, Chicago Style,” by journalists James Tuohy and Rob Warden.

What other nonfiction books and websites about courts have you enjoyed?

September 16, 2010

Thursday Thanks!

Filed under: judiciary,Law — Helen Gunnarsson @ 12:01 am
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Today I’d like to thank Chicago lawyer Jack Leyhane, who blogs at “For What It’s Worth,” for adding this blog to his blogroll.  Leyhane’s blog features current, in-depth news and analysis on the process of becoming a judge in Illinois that, unfortunately, you won’t find much of in the mainstream media.  In this election season, Leyhane’s timely posts on such breaking news as the contested election for chief judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County, the appointment of Illinois appellate justice Mary Jane Theis to replace retiring Chief Justice Thomas Fitzgerald of the Illinois Supreme Court, and bar association ratings for judicial candidates deserve particular attention.

Leyhane and several others, including two federal district court judges and no fewer than four of the seven sitting justices of the Illinois Supreme Court, provided me with thoughtful, realistic, and specific commentary on how lawyers can best position themselves to become judges in this state for three articles, including the lead article, in the current (September 2010) issue of the Illinois Bar Journal.  Leyhane, who has run twice for judge in Cook County, explained to me in detail what a lawyer has to do to prepare for a run for office.  It’s time-consuming, tiring, unglamorous, and expensive–but the potential rewards are enormous.  I loved hearing and writing about his and my other sources’ stories.

I have some more posts in the works thanking others who have linked to this blog and referenced my work.  If you’ve linked to this site and/or included it on your own blogroll, or otherwise referenced my work, please let me know.  And please tune in tomorrow for some more thoughts on recent judicial developments in Illinois and some great reading to supplement the MSM and Leyhane’s fine blog.

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