It’s time for another trip to the virtual mailbag. Here are some recent searches that led to this site, and my best shot at answering the questions they raise:

  • elena kagan appellate opinions. You won’t find any. I love Solicitor General Kagan as a SCOTUS pick for a lot of reasons, and that is one of them. Unlike, oh, say, Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Stevens, Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, Ginsburg, Breyer, Alito, and Sotomayor, General Kagan hasn’t sat on a federal circuit court. That’s about as much as we can hope for in the way of experiential diversity these days. Orin Kerr makes a hilarious counterargument at the Volokh Conspiracy, pointing up her sterling academic credentials, SCOTUS clerkship, and executive branch experience. Fair enough. Wanna know how a nominee without those qualifications would do? Ask Harriet Miers.
  • what’s an appellant? That’s what they call a “plaintiff” in the Fourth Circuit.
  • appellate oral argument outline. I can’t really provide a sample, but I can tell you what I do. I am quite happy with this process, which I stole from Greg Haley and Mark Hermann. First, I treat an oral argument as a conversation with the Court, and one in which the best thing I can do is to answer the Court’s questions. I will therefore need to be flexible, and will have relatively little control over the structure of the coversation. As a result, I make several outlines. One is a list of the hardest questions I can think of. I start this list at the beginning of the appeal, and update it constantly. I also make a list of the 5-10 key cases, and brief the really important ones so that I am fully conversant with them. Next, I make a detailed outline of the facts of the case, with dates and citations to the Joint Appendix. Finally, I draft an outline of the argument. The outline itself is short, but I put it in enormous 14-point Century Schoolbook for ease of reading. The Court can probably read along with me from the bench.
  • twiqbal. I offer my limited and not-terribly-insightful thoughts on the new federal pleading standards; I’m no civ pro expert. That is not to say that I haven’t contributed to the debate. It’s entirely possible that I coined the term “Twiqbal.” Specifically, the first time I used it, I wasn’t borrowing it from anyone, but I have no idea if I was actually the first person to use the term. Why do I mention this? Because someone credited me with coining the term at a CLE, which generated the most hilarious piece of hate mail I’ve every received (names redacted):

In case you can’t read it, here’s what the email says: “I would have called the doctrine announced in those cases the ‘Craunching Marmoset Rule.’ I am so stupid. Could you help me come up with words for the following? 1. the post a lamp sits on (I suggest ‘illumo-stickster’) 2. the port in which you park an automobile (‘car-hole’?) 3. the pants that are blue and made out of material that jeans are made of (which I now call ‘blue ass-hat leg tubes’). Just joking. We all know Tommy Strelka came up with ‘Twiqbal.'”

Well played, Tommy Strelka’s mom.

If you’ve got any questions you’d like to see answered–or if you just want to call me names–please shoot me an email or post a comment. And don’t forget that tomorrow is opinion day from the SCV. Update: The Court released its opinions today, a day early. Check out Steve Emmert’s website for his opinion summaries.