My profession is much maligned. Attorneys have a public approval rating right up there with that of telemarketers, door to door salesman and Congress. I don’t dispute that there are unethical attorneys just, as there are unethical accountants, unethical doctors or unethical automobile mechanics, etc. I also don’t dispute that the maligning of attorneys is not a new phenomenon.
The world is full of great rivalries. There’s the Yankees and the Red Sox, Ohio State and Michigan, Microsoft vs. Apple, Rome vs. Carthage or the Hatfields and the McCoys. When it comes to the legal world, however, one doesn’t typically think of great rivalries. Yet in the field of constitutional law lies a great rivalry that has the potential to have a major impact on the lives of all Americans.
Sometimes, a case that seems simple and benign is really about much more than it appears and something much deeper lurks beneath the surface. Such a case was decided this week by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals out of a matter from the western district of Wisconsin. Though it appeared to be a relatively local dispute, it had the potential to have major implications for schools like The Ohio State University.
Behind my bench in the juvenile court is a row of books. In the old court building, before the fire, there was an entire bookcase, but so much material is now available online that it’s more economical to access information that way. The books that sit behind the bench contain the information that I need to access most often.
It’s a favorite moment in television shows and movies about legal proceedings. Tension builds , tempers flare and (usually after some raised voices) our protagonist legal counsel leaps to his or her feet and screams, “I object!” Whether it’s Daniel Kaffee in “A Few Good Men” or Vincent Gambini in “My Cousin Vinny,” the moment where that objection is raised is often a climax in the storyline.
Judges are supposed to be staid, calm and emotionless beings who listen attentively to the evidence and then issue a well-reasoned and balanced opinion. Most of the time, that’s what they strive to do. But judges are people and they are subject to the same emotions and frustrations that we all are. Sometimes those frustrations boil over into their written decisions and they cannot help but issue a judicial “smackdown.”
Sometimes fame and glory just don’t get spread around evenly. Like the quarterback of a football team or the lead singer of a rock band, there are parts of any entity that get more attention than others. The same is true for the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.
Unlike their federal counterparts at the U.S. Supreme Court, Ohio’s seven justices work throughout the year and their schedule remains busy through the summer months. Several major cases found their way onto or off of the Ohio Supreme Court docket in the past week in major, newsworthy ways. The largest splash came from a case that found its way onto the docket at the state’s highest court, not as an appeal, but rather as an original action seeking compliance with the state’s public records law. Seeking to gather all possible information about Ohio State’s recent football transgressions, ESPN (along with other media outlets) is trying to gain access to additional emails between OSU officials about the NCAA violations.