Around the Blawgosphere: How Will Bloomberg Law's Sponsorship Change SCOTUSblog?

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SCOTUSblog Now Brought to You By …

One week before the U.S. Supreme Court’s first Monday, SCOTUSblog launched a redesigned site. Robert Ambrogi’s Lawsites had redesign details about that last Friday. But news to everyone on Monday was the announcement that Bloomberg Law is now an exclusive SCOTUSblog sponsor.

While SCOTUSblog founder Tom Goldstein says that SCOTUSblog will retain full editorial control, with the sponsorship has come changes—money to pay staff, for one thing (and perhaps less money out of Goldstein’s pocket—in 2009, he estimated that SCOTUSblog has cost him $150,000 a year). Goldstein says the blog now has four full-time paid staffers as well as Wall Street Journal Supreme Court reporter Steve Wermiel as a part-time contributor. Goldstein also says that this term, he has commitments from leading academics to write coverage of cases in their fields of expertise, “rather than by law students,” the BLT: The Blog of Legal Times notes.

Scott Greenfield at Simple Justice is disillusioned by this particular aspect of the change, as legal analysis from academics isn’t exactly hard to come by in the blawgosphere or the mainstream media. “The days of the ‘quick and dirty’ or pragmatic reaction appear past,” Greenfield writes. “I can’t help feeling that we’ve lost a trusted friend, a reliable neighbor, who is moving from the ‘hood to the corporate bigtime.”

Greenfield, like others in the legal blogosphere, agree that the Bloomberg Law arrangement will make the revered SCOTUSblog more mainstream. But is that a bad thing, or no?

Probably not, Ambrogi says in a follow-up post. “Before anyone bemoans the blog for ‘selling out,’ keep in mind that this new sponsor is, itself, a professional, global news organization, one that already has a strong legal news component. As a matter of fact, I would say that this sponsorship will be better for the blog’s readers than was the blog’s longtime affiliation with a major law firm, Akin Gump.”

Litigation & Trial’s Maxwell Kennerly isn’t in mourning, either. “Truth is, as a blog gets more popular, it tends to get more ‘mainstream’ and less provocative,” he writes. “That’s not necessarily a bad thing; SCOTUSBlog was never particularly edgy, and there are plenty of people around more than happy to criticize our robed overlords. I couldn’t be happier that SCOTUSBlog has a bright and secure future as the primary source for plain-vanilla apolitical analysis of the Supreme Court; it’s the first place I go for information about the Court. No offense to the New York Times or NPR, but, when they report on the latest opinions, they simplify matters for their nonlawyer audiences, and they don’t helpfully link to the lower court opinions and the merits briefs.”

And what is Bloomberg Law getting out of this besides advertising? A joint press release (PDF) issued by SCOTUSblog and Bloomberg Law said that there are also plans to “collaborate on new features designed to help law students learn about the Supreme Court” including “symposia, webinars and other events for business and legal professionals.” Joe Hodnicki at Law Librarian Blog says his “hunch is Bloomberg Law may be planning to host video feeds to webinars via [Bloomberg Law] to its subscribers that are jointly produced with SCOTUSblog (CLE credits?)”

When Clients Are Hard to Face

At the Jury Room, Rita Handrich notes a study finding that individuals who have recently been sick—even if it’s just a cold—are more likely to have a negative reaction to someone who has a facial disfigurement. One experiment found that those who had recently been sick looked longer at disfigured faces; in a second, in which participants were asked to push images of disfigured faces away from them with a joystick, “those who had recently been ill were more likely to show distaste by being faster in pushing the joystick away when in the condition to avoid the disfigured face. The same finding was not seen in those without recent illness.”

The upshot? If you have a client with facial disfigurement, it would be worthwhile to ask prospective jurors if they’ve been sick lately, and not take them if they answer affirmatively. Though if you’re opposing counsel, then perhaps you’d “want to take the ill and recently ill to perhaps trigger a disgust/aversion reaction to the facial disfigurement.”

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