Cartoon Caption: Brush up your best work of art for this courtroom scene

Cartoon Caption Contest

Is this an artful opening statement in the literal sense, or is the painter lawyer just trying to capture the judge’s good side? Send us your best caption for this cartoon. The winner of our March challenge will see their caption and credit printed in an upcoming issue of the ABA Journal.

March cartoon 2019

Congrats to January-February’s winning contest contributor, Charles Bender of Warrington, Pennsylvania. His caption below will appear in an upcoming issue of the ABA Journal.

February 2019 cartoon

“According to the local legend, a genie granted this judge one wish, and the judge said: ‘Normally I like beer, but I always wanted to know what it felt like to get stoned.’ ”

How the contest works: Readers are asked to consider what’s happening in the cartoon in this post and submit clever, original captions. ABA Journal staff will review entries, pick their favorites, then ask readers to vote on the best of the bunch.

How to enter: Submit the caption you think best fits the scene depicted in the cartoon above by emailing captions[at]abajournal[dot]com with “March Caption Contest” in the subject line.

Deadline for entry: Contest entries must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. CT on Sunday, March 17.

The prize: Bragging rights. Plus, the winning caption and credit to the caption writer will appear in an upcoming issue of the ABA Journal.

For complete rules, click this link. To view winning cartoons from this year, check out this gallery or follow the Cartoon Caption Contest RSS feed.

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2019 Cartoons of the Month

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9th Circuit can’t count deceased judge’s vote, Supreme Court rules; pay-equity decision vacated

U.S. Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court has vacated a pay-equity ruling by a federal appeals court because the circuit judge who wrote the opinion was no longer alive when it was issued.

The Supreme Court granted certiorari and ruled on Monday in a per curiam opinion. The court remanded to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at San Francisco without reaching the merits of the pay-equity dispute.

Judge Stephen Reinhardt of the 9th Circuit had written the decision for the en banc court before his death last March. The decision was issued the following month.

Five living justices joined Reinhardt’s opinion, while five others wrote or joined concurrences that were based on different reasoning. “The upshot is that Judge Reinhardt’s vote made a difference,” the Supreme Court said.

Reinhardt’s opinion said salary history cannot be used to justify paying less to women in comparable jobs with men. The decision was based on a reading of the Equal Pay Act.

The 9th Circuit had explained in a footnote that Reinhardt’s opinion and the concurrences were final before Reinhardt’s death. The Supreme Court questioned that statement.

“As for judicial practice,” the Supreme Court said, “we are not aware of any rule or decision of the 9th Circuit that renders judges’ votes and opinions immutable at some point in time prior to their public release. And it is generally understood that a judge may change his or her position up to the very moment when a decision is released.”

The Supreme Court referred to a 1960 Supreme Court ruling that found a circuit judge who had provided the critical vote in an en banc case wasn’t eligible to participate because he took senior status before the opinion was issued. At the time, senior judges weren’t allowed to participate in en banc cases.

The holding applies to Reinhardt’s case “with equal if not greater force,” the Supreme Court said.

“Because Judge Reinhardt was no longer a judge at the time when the en banc decision in this case was filed, the 9th Circuit erred in counting him as a member of the majority,” the Supreme Court said. “That practice effectively allowed a deceased judge to exercise the judicial power of the United States after his death. But federal judges are appointed for life, not for eternity.”

Hat tip to the National Law Journal and SCOTUSblog, which had early coverage of the decision, Yovino v. Rizo.

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Male-only draft violates equal protection principles, federal judge rules

Constitutional Law

A federal judge in Houston has ruled that the male-only draft violates equal protection principles of the Fifth Amendment’s due process clause.

U.S. District Judge Gray Miller ruled Friday in a suit by the National Coalition for Men, report USA Today, the San Diego Union-Tribune, the New York Times and NPR. Miller granted the group’s motion for summary judgment but did not grant an injunction because the issue had not been briefed.

The U.S. Military currently relies on volunteers. But the Military Selective Service Act still requires men between ages 18 and 26 to register for the draft. Men who fail to register can be fined up to $10,000 and imprisoned for up to five years.

Miller noted that the U.S. Supreme Court had upheld the draft-registration law in 1981 in Rostker v. Goldberg. But women weren’t eligible for combat at the time, and the purpose of draft registration was to prepare for a draft of combat troops.

Circumstances have changed since that ruling, Miller said. In 2013, the U.S. Department of Defense lifted the ban on women in combat, and in 2015, the department lifted all gender-based restrictions on military service.

The government had argued that the decision to exclude women was justified by the administrative burdens of registering them. But the government did not present any evidence that Congress considered whether a female draft was unjustified because fewer women than men will be able to meet the physical standards of combat, Miller said.

“Had Congress compared male and female rates of physical eligibility, for example, and concluded that it was not administratively wise to draft women, the court may have been bound to defer to Congress’ judgment,” Miller wrote. “Instead, at most, it appears that Congress obliquely relied on assumptions and overly broad stereotypes about women and their ability to fulfill combat roles.”

In a footnote, Miller said that combat roles “no longer uniformly require sheer size or muscle.” Women “could conceivably be better suited physically for some of today’s combat positions than the average man, depending on which skills the position required,” he said.

The Selective Service System had argued that a ruling on the case should be postponed under separation of powers principles because Congress is currently considering whether to add women to the draft. The government had argued that the congressional debate also meant the case is not yet ripe for review.

The government noted that a national commission was considering congressional recommendations.

But there is no guarantee that Congress will act, Miller said. Congress has been debating the male-only draft since at least 1980 and recently rejected a proposal to include women, he wrote. And national security concerns don’t justify a refusal to act by the courts, he said.

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See the video: Prosecutor delivers opening statement on love before proposing to his girlfriend

Personal Lives

A Florida lawyer who invited his girlfriend to watch his opening statement in a DUI case instead delivered a marriage proposal in front of a jury of family and friends.

She said yes. Fox News, the Daily Business Review, the South Florida Sun Sentinel and CBS 12 News have stories.

Lawyer Brandon Dinetz had spent months planning the fake Feb. 7 trial in the Palm Beach County courthouse. He told his girlfriend, lawyer Jen Lettman, that he wanted her to watch the arguments. They had met in 2016 while working together at the state attorney’s office, but Lettman is now a lawyer at Link & Rockenbach.

“When we worked together, we would regularly watch each other’s opening statements and critique each other, so it wasn’t unusual for me to be in the courtroom with him,” Lettman told Fox News. “I didn’t know the facts about the DUI trial he made up, and I didn’t really ask.

“I wasn’t really paying attention until I recognized that one of the jurors looked like Brandon’s dad, which I thought was funny. Then I saw my dad and I was so confused. When I saw my sister I knew what was happening, and I started crying.”

Dinetz delivered an opening statement on love before getting on his knee to propose.

Dinetz told the Daily Business Review that he wanted to make sure there were no ethical problems with the fake trial. He took the day off, he found a courtroom without any scheduled hearings, and no one there was on the clock at taxpayer expense.

“It was the toughest secret I’ve ever kept,” Dinetz told CBS 12 News.

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Plaintiff seeks judge’s removal over ‘intimate’ hand clasp with opposing lawyer


A condominium association is asking a Florida appeals court to kick the judge off its case because he affectionately clasped the hands of the opposing counsel after she approached the bench to speak about an unrelated matter.

The De Soleil South Beach Residential Condominium Association has filed a petition for a writ of prohibition to remove Judge William Thomas from the case, the Daily Business Review reports. Previous coverage has identified the judge as openly gay.

The opposing lawyer is Mary Barzee Flores, a former judge who served on the Miami-Dade circuit court at the same time as Thomas before she left the bench in 2011. She also worked in the federal public defender’s office with Thomas.

The hand clasp occurred at the conclusion of a status conference Jan. 17, according to the condo association petition. After Barzee Flores approached the judge, she placed her hands on the bench in front of him.

“While they were speaking, Judge Thomas took his two hands and clasped former Judge Barzee-Flores’ hands in a highly unusual and intimate sign of affection,” the petition says.

Throughout the conversation, which lasted a few minutes, the hand clasping between Barzee Flores and Thomas led the condo president “to reasonably believe that their relationship was so close and tender that it appeared familial or one based on a lifelong or extremely personal relationship,” the petition says.

During the status conference before the incident, Thomas also appeared to favor Barzee Flores, the petition says. Thomas would look directly at Barzee Flores, “giving her his rapt attention and respect.” But when condo lawyers spoke, “Thomas would look down or appear annoyed and even displayed a tone
of hostility.”

Thomas denied a motion to disqualify himself on Feb. 4.

A response to the motion says Barzee Flores had approached Thomas to tell him about her new position as deputy commissioner for consumer affairs for Florida’s agriculture commissioner. She is no longer on the case because of the new job.

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