Law blog roundup

Welcome to the post-Labor Day roundup, in which we celebrate the possibility that the Orioles might be tied for first place at the end of the day.

– Can this lawyer defend the First Amendment in 140 characters or less?

– Thirty days means 30 days.

– Obama v. Romney may be decided in the courts rather than at the polls.

– The U.S. Supreme Court has what some in the capital defense bar call a “death clerk.” (HT: How Appealing)

Peanuts, Cracker Jack and torts

I’d bet my law license that everyone studying for this month’s bar exam has received unsolicited advice on how best to prepare for the test: Make sure to take a bar review class, pace yourself, get plenty of sleep, don’t over-think the multiple choice, multi-state section, etc.

But here’s some advice you haven’t heard: Take your law materials, head to Camden Yards (or any other major league ballpark of your choice), purchase bleacher tickets and study away from the first pitch to the last.

At this point you’re probably thinking, “What are you [present participle] crazy? This is perhaps the most important test of my professional life and you want me to study among an inebriated multitude? What fool would take that advice?”

The answers to your questions, in order, are “Perhaps,” “Yes” and “Carter G.  Phillips, co-chair of Sidley Austin LLP’s executive committee and possessor of an impressive winning percentage before the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Phillips prepared for the Illinois bar exam, which he passed, from the bleachers at Wrigley Field in Chicago.

Law blog roundup

That was some power outage over the weekend! But enough about the Orioles. Here are some news items to get your holiday week started.

– Divorce can be a risky business.

– The decision was not a total loss for GOP attorneys general.

– Jobs come and go, but law school lasts forever.

– Policy: Where common sense goes to die.

What if?

In his intriguing new historical novel, Then Everything Changed, political commentator Jeff Greenfield posits how events might have played out under three different scenarios: had Lyndon Johnson been elected president in 1960; had Robert F. Kennedy survived an assassin’s bullet and been elected president in 1968; and if Gerald Ford had won the 1976 election.

I will not spoil Greenfield’s masterful work by detailing his alternative history. Rather, I mention the book because it has spurred me to think of “what ifs” both historical and personal, an exercise that sparks my imagination and makes me feel grateful.

What if Clement Haynsworth or G. Harrold Carswell had won Senate confirmation to the Supreme Court? President Richard Nixon would not have had to resort to his third choice, Harry A. Blackmun, who wrote the high court’s opinion in Roe v. Wade.

What if Ralph Branca had walked Bobby Thompson and pitched to the next batter (a rookie named Willie Mays)? The New York Giants might not have won the 1951 pennant.

What if Florida had electronic voting on Election Day 2000? President Gore, perhaps.

What if Jeffrey Maier had left to get a hot dog when Derek Jeter was at bat? A banner might be flying in Baltimore.

What if she weren’t in her sorority house to take my call? But I digress.

Please submit your “what ifs.”

Remembrance of baseball’s past

I wonder how much my 1974 Brooks Robinson baseball card is worth?

That question came to mind as I read Liz Farmer’s article on the National Sports Collectors Convention, which opens Wednesday in Baltimore.

I found the card last weekend, as my 12-year-old son and I sifted through three shoeboxes worth of baseball cards, circa 1972-1976, which I had collected when I was younger than he.

In addition to Brooks (similar ) I came across a Belanger and a Boog (but not a Bumbry); a McNally and a Cuellar (but not a Palmer); an Etchebarren; and a Grich.

There were non-Orioles, as well, including the New York Mets Jerry Koosman, Jon Matlack, Wayne Garrett, Cleon Jones and John Milner, who made 1973 a magical summer and heart-breaking fall; Pittsburgh Pirates stars Willie Stargell, Richie Hebner, Manny Sanguillen and Rennie Stennett, whom I remember watching on NBC’s Game of the Week with Joe Garagiola and Tony Kubek; and there was the Los Angeles Dodgers Al Downing (who I watched surrender Hank Aaron‘s 715th homerun on April 8, 1974) and Tom House (the Atlanta Braves pitcher who I saw catch the ball in the bullpen).

Yes, I wonder how much those cards are worth… On second thought, they are not for sale.

A different kind of assault

If I used the terms “baseball” and “vomit-inducing” in the same sentence, you’d think I was talking about the Orioles, right? In most cases, that would be correct. But not today, when a New Jersey man “admits to vomiting assault at Phillies game,” as the headline says.

Matthew Clemmens’ guilty plea will most likely result in probation when he is sentenced at the end of July, prosecutors said.

The incident happened during an April 14 game. Clemmens and friends were sitting behind an off-duty police officer and his two children, doing the things that give Philly sports fans a bad reputation. When one of Clemmens’ friends was ejected, prosecutors said he answered a cell phone call by saying, “I need to do what I need to do. I’m going to get sick.”

At that point, Clemmens stuck his fingers down his throat and vomited on the dad and one of the daughters. (Really.)

Clemmens’ uncle offered a kind-of defense for his nephew a few days later, saying Clemmens was feeling queasy from a few extra beers and “he accidentally vomited, putting his hand in front of his mouth, and vomited on the person in front of him, which was the wrong person.”

Police are still searching for the right person.

Hot stove league reaches courtroom

There was a pause toward the end of yesterday’s pre-trial hearing in Parkton residents’ lawsuit alleging groundwater contamination from a neighborhood gas station.

Judge J. Norris Byrnes broke the silence with a comment.

“I want to know if we signed a .400 hitter or a long reliever,” he said.

The comment was timely for two reasons.

First, the residents are represented by Peter Angelos, also known as the owner of the Baltimore Orioles. The judge’s comment was directed toward H. Russell Smouse, who was sitting in the courtroom gallery. Smouse is the Orioles’ general counsel.

Second, baseball executives and personnel have converged on Indianapolis this week for the annual Winter Meetings, the official start of the off-season wheeling and dealing commonly referred to as the Hot Stove league.

As the lawyers in the courtroom smiled, Smouse replied.

“We’re hoping to sign you,” he told Byrnes.

The judge chuckled. He is retired and specially assigned to the Parkton case.

“I am a long reliever,” Byrnes said.

How do you promote these schizophrenic Orioles?

Yesterday’s ninth-inning comeback from the Red Sox — one night after the Orioles executed a similar feat against them — highlighted what has become a theme for Baltimore this year: you never know which O’s squad you’re going to get.

The Orioles have been streaky this year, to say the least.  Seven-game losing streaks, five-game winning streaks. They blanked the Rays one night then allowed 11 runs the next. They were scoreless against the Yankees on May 8, then touched home plate 12 times the next night. More than half of their wins have come from runs scored in late innings.

I recently heard a radio ad highlighting the fact that the Orioles have been an exciting team to watch because you can’t count them out in the later innings. Last year, the O’s marketing team launched a tongue-and-cheek promotion around the team’s bad luck on Sundays. At that point, the Orioles had a 13-game losing streak at Camden Yards on Sundays and marketers launched a “You Win We Win” promotion on July 6 that promised to give fans a free ticket to a future, non “prime” game to fans in attendance that day if the O’s broke their Sunday streak.

From talking with fans, I get the sense that there isn’t really any ill will about the streakiness because most know it’s just a characteristic of a young squad.  That being the case, can you market this unpredictability? The radio commercial I mentioned touches on it, but I wonder if team marketers can take it a step further and design a promotion around the team’s come-from-behind drama they’ve frequently displayed at home.

For example, they could print up a bunch of $8 off and $9 off ticket coupons and have them ready to hand out after a game for an eighth- or ninth-inning comeback (making it clear to fans that the go-ahead run is scored in one of those innings for the promotion to take effect).

On the other hand, as the manager of a ball club, you want to see your team jump out early and hold on to the lead. Would a promotion like the one I mentioned be a conflict in philosophy?

Poor Peter Angelos

Everyone’s feeling the recession, including Peter Angelos.

Press Box points out that Forbes left the Orioles owner and personal injury-law mogul off its World’s Billionaires list last month and its Baseball’s Billionaires list last week. The magazine put Angelos’ net worth at around $1.2 billion last September but now estimates that he has since lost at least 30 percent of his net worth, “despite the Orioles’ value staying flat at $250 million this year.”

No word yet from Angelos’ satirical Twitter alter ego, @Peter_Angelos, on how the drop in net worth is affecting his lifestyle.