For real though, don’t mention your law school rank in your wedding vows. You may think it cute but literally no one else does. Clarence Thomas has been workin that lifetime tenure racket from the very beginning. And ,careful what you post on social media, unless, of course you just enjoy having to go through the same trial multiple times.
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Kathryn Rubino: Hello and welcome to the latest ep –
Chris Williams: Hello.
Kathryn Rubino: Hey, how are you?
Chris Williams: Pretty good. That was so much easier than the usual frustration of the interruption.
Kathryn Rubino: It’s amazing what you could do with one fewer person on the podcast. Welcome to the latest episode of Thinking Like a Lawyer. My name is Kathryn Rubino. I’m a Senior Editor at Above the Law and today Chris Williams, also of Above the Law is joining me, but no Joe Patrice.
Chris Williams: That explains the joy so early on the —
Kathryn Rubino: Yeah, he’s on family leave, so he will be taking a bit of a hiatus from the podcast but I think that we will soldier on without him pretty well.
Chris Williams: Yeah, I have faith.
Kathryn Rubino: But that does mean a distinct lack of sound effects which I’m not personally bothered by, but I thought I’d lampshade that in the beginning of the podcast before we get into my favorite segment and yours, small talk.
Chris Williams: So how was this weekend?
Kathryn Rubino: I went to see the Barbie movie. That was my big thing of the weekend. Left the baby at home. Not by herself, don’t worry. It was wonderful. I went in a pink outfit, met my girlfriends, who were also all done out in pink clothing with a theater, a packed theater was completely sold out. Also filled with people wearing pink. It was amazing and it made me think a couple of things. First of all, the movie was great. You should definitely go see it. Run, don’t walk. It’s also done fantastically well in terms of just the box office. It’s shattering. Not just sort of post pandemic. Are we going back to the movie theater? Kind of buzz, but I think it has had the fourth highest overall opening weekend of any movie ever and the highest of anything that is not a preexisting movie franchise. So, like, Avengers Endgame, right? Part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that opened higher but everything ahead of Barbie is opening into a preexisting intellectual property that’s already been a movie. So a sequel of some sort, so this is the first sort of —
Chris Williams: Can you believe this is the first Barbie movie?
Kathryn Rubino: Well, okay. It’s the first Barbie movie made for adults. Right? There were definitely, like, ones that went direct to video, right? There’s the Pegasus movie. There’s a lot. Anyway, if you spend a lot of time in children’s TV world or were a child who was at all interested in Barbie, you’re familiar with the fact that there were several Barbie movies but not ones that got major theatrical releases, right? Those were ones that kind of direct to video or streaming services or whatever. They were not made for adults whatever and I thought it was very interesting. First of all, the movie is marketed and created exactly for me, literally my age group. I am the target demographic and it’s weird because you don’t realize how infrequently you’re a target demographic. I’m not normally the target demographic. I don’t really think about it. Just the way I kind of experience movies generally. But when you are actually literally like the dead center of the demographic, it’s different. It hits different. I am 100% the exact demographic of person that they are aiming to go see the movie. So I was happy to fork over my money in order to validate the fact that, yes, please make more movies directed at me. It’s different. It sort of hits different when it’s —
Chris Williams: You know, this makes sense. I remember my mom — my mom went to go see it. She said, “I think I saw your co-worker’s name in the credits” so you may actually be the demographic proper.
Kathryn Rubino: Don’t think it was me, but —
Chris Williams: That was also a complete lie. Completely made up.
Kathryn Rubino: Fair enough. But, no, it is wild. It is different when it’s kind of directed to you, but it was so much fun. I also thought between sort of Barbie coming out this summer and doing so extraordinarily well and it really becoming an event for people to go to see but also Taylor Swift Eras Tour, which I had my baby the week that she was coming to my town, so I did not get to go to the Taylor Swift Eras Tour, but I wanted to and if I hadn’t been with child, I would have. But my point is, just between those two things, I think it’s pretty obvious that people are dying for events to get dressed up to go to do, right? Both of those things, I think, are highly sort of fashion related. The whole thing is like, what are you wearing to either of those events? I think that that really shows that even though a lot more of us are staying home and enjoying our soft pants for working day-to-day, there’s still a market for having that moment and it’s kind of supercharged when we don’t have to go to work every single day that we really want to get dressed up on the weekends and have fun outfits and not just work appropriate outfits.
Chris Williams: Yeah, definitely. I feel like, content aside, the Barbie movie was basically Black Panther for women in femmes, like the thing you get with your friends you dress up to go see, so that was cool.
Kathryn Rubino: It is fantastic.
Chris Williams: While I did grow up in a Barbie world, I was never a Barbie girl. I was more focused on Dragon Ball Z what have you. But I will say seeing Ben Shapiro get mad and drop like a 43-minute video ranting against it and saying that the nuclear bomb propaganda was better makes me want to go see it in spite. So if the marketing ploy of having Barbie released on the same date as I am become destroyer of the box office didn’t do it for you, I think Ben Shapiro really sold me, so shout out to him. Never thought I’d be saying that.
Kathryn Rubino: It is true, though. I think that sort of the backlash against several of these movies has actually propelled them further. I certainly felt the same way about the live action Little Mermaid. I don’t particularly care for any of the live action Disney movies. They don’t make new movies anymore. They just remake their cartoons, but with people this time, and I don’t particularly care for that. But the fact that conservatives are so hurt over the fact that Halle Berry was in it I was in full in. I went to go see the movie, bought my nieces the T-shirts just to fully make it clear that I supported even if I don’t particularly like a live action movie. So what did you do this weekend?
Chris Williams: I had a good time. I think I went to the (00:06:39). Is that a place in Pennsylvania?
Kathryn Rubino: Let’s say yes.
Chris Williams: Okay, let’s say yes. Assuming for the sake of argument. Yeah. There was a watering hole that me and some friends went to. It was really nice. It was a good opportunity to get outside the house and I dip my feet in some cold ass water and I made the mistake of not bringing flip flops because everybody’s all, like, happy and I’m all there, feel like I’m stepping on stones. I’m barefoot, but it was nice. There were a lot of families out, a lot of families out. Looked like some Boricuas were out there. They were cooking looked like a rice and beans on a pot, like a campfire. It was beautiful. People had carne asada out. There was one person that looked like they had you know you go to the supermarket and you get that plate of sandwiches that’s in the really loud plastic that you can’t open at night because everyone will wake up.
Kathryn Rubino: Sure.
Chris Williams: So it was like that, but it was with tacos.
Kathryn Rubino: Amazing.
Chris Williams: Why didn’t I think to do this on my own? It was beautiful. I worked out muscles I didn’t know I had. Had pizza afterward, slept amazing. So weekend plans. Go dip your feet in some water.
Kathryn Rubino: Fantastic. Well, that’s the end of small talk, so we can dive right into our stories. Seems like there was more to say about the ongoing saga of Clarence Thomas that you wrote about this week.
Chris Williams: It felt like a prequel. Speaking of, I really enjoyed what was it called? I really enjoyed Breaking Bad. So I watched, decided just you know got commitment to the art to watch Better Call Saul which is the prequel of Breaking Bad. And reading what happened felt like a Better Call Saul episode. There was this guy, Leonard Leo, and he dropped almost $2 million, like $1.8 million to have a video to make Clarence Thomas look like an upstanding guy, like, around when the confirmation was happening. There was a scene where Saul Goodman did this exact same thing. He needed to get his name out there. So they made up this completely fabricated thing. Get some public attention, which is basically what happened with Clarence Thomas because as I’m sure most of you are aware, the associations of Clarence Thomas pubic hair and wonderful soft drinks around the time of his confirmation, he was not doing good in public eye. Part of the money that went into this PR campaign was to scrub Google search results so that when his name came up, you didn’t see the sexual assault allegations. It was a really in depth character elevation and part of that was also a person writing angry letters, talking bad about Anita Hill. It was all in depth and this was 25 years ago, so there’s never been a point where Clarence Thomas wasn’t a picked candidate.
Kathryn Rubino: Listen, it was almost $2 million well spent, right? Because you get a lifetime appointment and cheap at half the price, I imagine especially Leonard Leo. Not just sort of your average bear, right? He’s the head of the Federalist Society and was the person who wrote the entire shortlist of Supreme Court justices for Donald Trump as well.
So he’s definitely has his, I think if you could point to any single individual that has had the most influence on creating our current court, you’d have to say Leonard Leo. Right? More than any individual president, more than even each justice by themselves. I think that Leo probably has had the most direct influence on the composition of the current Supreme Court than anybody, period. This just shows that he was playing that game 30 years ago.
Chris Williams: You got to respect the implementation, because when the dirt gets out, 25 years later, it’s done. What’s it going to do? But yeah.
Kathryn Rubino: Very much the long game. Also, I think that what we’ve learned this summer, I think in particular, is that we’ve never really gotten too in depth into the ethics of the Supreme Court before, and it’s all coming out now. Now all the chickens have come home. Right? Isn’t that a saying? Chickens coming home and yeah, this is where we are now. Finally, the general public, not just sort of the legal nerds or people who make their living talking about the Supreme Court, actually care about it and are wanting to talk about it and are concerned about what it means for the institution.
Chris Williams: Yeah, I remember I had a jurisprudence course with a well-respected professor, and I think he was doing it for the sake of devil’s argument, because we didn’t have a gunner in the class. He was, “can’t we just trust the Supreme Court justices and justices generally?” I mean, he took an oath, and it took everything. I mean, to be like, come on, man.
Kathryn Rubino: I think that that was historically the mainstream view, though, right?
Chris Williams: Yes, definitely the mainstream view, but not the mainstream practice.
Kathryn Rubino: What I mean is, I think that, generally speaking, leaving things to a judge’s discretion seems like a great idea. It seems like a way to not over regulate and create rules that became more onerous than they needed to be. Leave it to your discretion. Judges will do the right thing. Judges want to avoid even the appearance of impropriety with kind of the line that we were sold and I think believed for a very long time that, along with prosecutorial discretion. I think were things that in law school, you’re fed as this is the kind of check on the system and what we’re seeing is it was a lie.
Chris Williams: Yeah. I mean, this is a story that shows par excellence that judges just had a really good PR team.
Kathryn Rubino: Yeah and they were thinking about PR 30 years ago.
Chris Williams: Yeah.
Kathryn Rubino: That, I think, is something that not everybody was clocking back in the day.
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Kathryn Rubino: So, our next story actually, our colleague Joe Patrice wrote last week, but you talked about Gunners, and this is a Gunner’s story, a Gunner’s gone rogue story. It was someone that anonymously was asking the Internet whether it would be okay to mention in their wedding vows their class rank in law school. No, it’s not. Done. Next. Who else has a question?
Chris Williams: It’s one of those things where like, it’s kind of like a Jonathan Swift thing. I’m still not sure that it was just parody. I don’t know if this actually happened. I think it was real.
Kathryn Rubino: I think it was, too. Here’s the thing. I have been to many weddings in my day and a lot, maybe even the majority of weddings I’ve been to have involved at least one person who’s gone to law school. Several that have involved multiple people who have gone — when you’ve gone to law school, that tends to be a lot of the people you know. So I’ve been to plenty of lawyer weddings, and no one has ever mentioned their class rank before. But there have definitely been things at weddings, lawyer weddings that have been a little cringe where I don’t know, maybe I just don’t have the same joy in my heart for the profession that other people do.
But I’m like, really? This is the moment you’re deciding to do this thing that is kind of lawyerly? Is it a joke? Are you in on the joke?
Chris Williams: Okay, so keeping anonymity. What’s been the most egregious? Is it somebody cited a statute as to why they’d stay with them forever?
Kathryn Rubino: There have been definitely legal references or jokes and speeches. And listen, it is what it is, right? Especially folks meet in law school or the fact that they both share the profession is very much related to their meet cute. I get it. But there’s a way to do it right. And so I’ve definitely seen things where I’ve always been like, “let’s just gloss over that quickly kind of moment” whatever. I’ve seen things, especially if people are very proud of the fact that they went to law school, whatever, but this seems just too much, too much. There’s no natural way and apparently, the person who wrote this on the Internet said, “Well, the support from my partner is the reason why I was able to get such a fantastic class rank. So I want to mention that in the wedding vows” and that is not the time or the place. And listen, if this was the best man speech or the maid of honor speech that was mentioning, oh, and the only reason she was even able to pull off the number three ranking at blah, blah, blah, law school was because of you. I could see it. That may be more of the place for it, but it certainly is not in your actual vows. I’m sure of that. Think about it. That’s when people start getting out the handkerchiefs, right? That’s when people start crying. That’s like the moment. You don’t want to take them out of that emotion and be like, wow, you’re a douche.
Chris Williams: No, you don’t understand. That is the emotion. The handkerchiefs come out when she mentions, I was rank — yeah because you start crying. It’s like, oh, my God, he’s about to marry that person.
Kathryn Rubino: I guess that’s fair. There’s lots of different emotions that people can feel at a wedding.
Chris Williams: And my thing is, when I first read the post, I was like, “Oh, this is just great. “We should eat babies” satire but then the responses got more unhinged and then —
Kathryn Rubino: Don’t believe it’s satire.
Chris Williams: Once the post got deleted, I was like, oh, this is an actual person. This is the damage control that Elon Musk would do if he had a lick of sense, you know, deleting the evidence instead of retweeting. I was like, “oh, no”, this is somebody named Cheryl.
Kathryn Rubino: Yeah, it didn’t go over well, let’s just say. Yeah, maybe you’re right. Listen, I’m all for personalizing your wedding. There’s two schools of thought, really, I guess, when it comes to wedding vows, right? The first is that you say the same words that your parents said, that your grandparents said, and there’s some sort of power in that tradition, whatever. Also, I’m not obeying shit, so maybe we deviate from tradition there a little bit, but there’s that kind of worldview, and then there’s the highly personalized worldview, because there’s no other wedding that will marry these two individuals. So it shouldn’t sound like every other wedding. I have some sympathy for that and I don’t think it’s even necessarily problematic to talk about law school or about the person supporting you through law school, because, to be clear, it sucks. The fact that you can keep a relationship going throughout law school. You probably do deserve a fair amount of kudos for that, right? That was a pretty low point. You still managed to get a relationship that survived by the end of it. Good job. Two points. But there’s a way to do it without wanting to sound like you deserve a pat on the back.
Chris Williams: Yeah. I feel like you could do something like, if we made it through tort together, we can make it through other heartache. That’s nice.
Kathryn Rubino: Absolutely or maybe if only one of them was in law school, I don’t know if they both were in law school or whatever, but you supported me through contracts. Here’s the contract for the rest of our lives.
Chris Williams: Super cheesy but I’d be like a doll rather than like yuck.
Kathryn Rubino: Yeah, that’s the other thing, too. There’s a way to do it that makes it cheesy, which cheesy is an okay emotion, I think, for people to feel when you’re having your wedding vows. But the whole, like, yikes. You don’t want anyone to hear anything at your wedding and feel yikes. And maybe, like, 10% of people won’t, but that’s still a lot of people. You don’t want any percentage of people being like, yikes. Let alone a significant portion if anything, if this Internet post has taught us anything, it was that a significant amount of people felt, yikes.
Chris Williams: It was so bad. People that were in attendance had pause. That’s impressive.
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Kathryn Rubino: Our last story is about the dangers of social media.
Chris Williams: Dun dun dun.
Kathryn Rubino: Yeah, I mean, listen, this is the sort of thing which in some respects, I think seems very obvious, which is don’t post on social media about a case that’s ongoing. That’s it. That’s the takeaway which should be very obvious. But this particular lawyer had a pretty big consequence. It was a plaintiff’s firm got 1.5 million something verdict on behalf of their client. Great job. Good job. Unfortunately, they’re going to have to run it back. Do it all the hell again because the judge has ordered a brand new trial because of the plaintiff’s attorneys social media posts. They posted Reels not even cool enough to do TikToks, you guys. Posted Reels about not just their legal practice in general. I think they had a post that’s like three lies that we tell every juror, which probably doesn’t make you feel great if you’re one of the jurors on his case, but also had specific information about this — it was a car accident, a tort case about a car accident, et cetera. It had specific information. And so Judge Ronda Colvin in Georgia said that there was specifically identifiable information about the parties and it was more than just kind of general interest, and that you have to sort of balance prior restraint, First Amendment kind of considerations before you make this kind of extraordinary step of ordering a new trial. But then in this case, it was justified. We’re going to need a new trial.
Chris Williams: My thing is, this whole thing is stupid, but second, have some shame. The video was still up. If you read the article and go to the link, I watched it earlier today.
Kathryn Rubino: Yeah, you watch videos.
Chris Williams: Yeah, learn from your lesson, dude. If something cost me six figures, I’m deleting the evidence.
Kathryn Rubino: I think it’s interesting this post wasn’t sort of generalized out. It was talking about the specific county that the case was taking place in. Some details about the defendant, including some stuff which I think the judge correctly points out that could really impact a potential juror. It’s not stuff that’s appropriate for jurors to hear things like that the defendant had made an offer to settle the case and in the video, he referenced that, this was sort of evidence that they must be guilty or must be liable because they’ve made this offer to settle. But as the judge correctly points out in their order, there’s plenty of reasons to settle that do not actually admit liability, because lawyers are expensive and there’s a risk associated with it, and it’s sometimes just cheaper and easier and faster to settle a case rather than have it go to trial. That is a very logical thing that our systems actually set up right in order to encourage settlements because it is better for everyone if it’s a settlement rather than it goes to trial. That’s sort of one of the underpinnings of our whole system. But in the video, the lawyer uses this fact and seems to implicate that well, that means they must be liable. You can imagine that if a juror had heard that, that’d be deeply problematic, because that’s the sort of thing that is not allowed in court and that the judge would be able to prevent from happening in the courtroom. But when you put it on social media and you make it clear not just that these things happen, but a potential juror would be able to know that it’s from the details that you’ve provided, that it is the case that they’re sitting on. It’s a real problem, and that’s why you have to get a new trial.
Chris Williams: I mean, there are times when it makes sense to go through the court of public opinion when you can’t go to court. This isn’t one of them.
Kathryn Rubino: I’m not even sure. Yes, court of public opinion is all well and good, but when you’re providing information that’s identifiable and that it’s information that you know you would not be able to present to the jury because the judge would prevent you from doing that because it would unfairly bias the jury and you’re putting it out there in the low key hopes that a juror will find that information. Yeah, you’re going to have to have a new trial.
Chris Williams: And also, just like, interpersonally. That’s a way to burn bridges.
Kathryn Rubino: Yeah, I don’t know. I’ve never been on the plaintiff’s side in a real way, like never at a plaintiff’s firm I guess. At some of the firms that I was at, we were, in fact, plaintiffs but you know what I’m saying? I’ve never worked at a plaintiff’s firm. I think it’s a different ethos, which is great. I think we need solid, good plaintiff’s firms in this country. Our system is set up that we only get things done when there’s a financial negative or sort of negative incentive associated with them. So, yes, we need plaintiff’s attorneys for a lot of these things in order to get actual change. That’s the way our country kind of works, for good or probably for bad, but we need good plaintiff’s lawyers. And so I don’t know if this is part of just a different kind of vibe at a plaintiff’s firm where they’re less concerned about burning bridges, which is fine, but this seems like it’s just costing money, right? Time is literally money when you’re an attorney and I don’t know the fee structure or arrangement in this particular plaintiff’s case. Perhaps it’s a contingency fee or whatever, maybe it’s based on contingency plus the number of hours, who knows? But you’ve got to do it all again. That’s one less case you’re going to be able to take from somebody else, because you’re going back to trial, which, if anybody’s ever done litigation, you know that trial is one of the most time intensive things that you do. Trials take a lot of time and effort and you’ve got to do it all again.
Chris Williams: I will say, if they somehow get a verdict that’s like 10 times 1.5, that is a finesse. It won’t happen, but if it does, I’m going straight to Instagram Reels.
Kathryn Rubino: Well, the trial has been scheduled for later this summer, so still TBD on the final resolution of that. And with that, I think that we are done for the day. You can check us out always on abovethelaw.com. I’m on various social media @Kathryn1, that’s the numeral one. Chris is @writesforrent. You should definitely be listening to all of the podcasts on the Legal Talk Network’s catalog. You should also be checking out my podcast, The Jabot, about diversity in the legal industry. You should definitely be reading Above the Law. You can also get a hold of any of the Above the Law folks at [email protected] by email. Is there anything else that I’m supposed to say? See you next week.