Trump-Olson Retainer and Non-Disclosure Agreement

So, that was quick.  The story that Trump might be represented by Ted Olson, was shot down within hours.

This blog has obtained a document which might explain why this marriage (a subject on which Olson has argued before the Supreme Court) might not have been made in heaven.

Below are extracts from the Draft Retainer and Non-Disclosure agreement apparently submitted to Trump by Olsen.

1.  This agreement for representation is between President of the United States of American Donald J. Trump (alias and hereafter “Moron”) and Theodore Olson, Esquire (hereafter Counsel).

2.  Moron agrees to provide to Counsel any and all information that might be used to support a process of impeachment against Vice President Mike Pence.  Counsel may use this information in his sole discretion.

3  Moron agrees that any breach of this agreement, whether intentional or unintentional, momentary or permanent, material or non-material, will constitute waiver of all Moron’s rights to confidentiality regardless of any and all provisions of low to the contrary.

4.  Moron agrees that Counsel may, as a matter of absolute right, enter into any representation agreement with any entity, including if he so chooses, any investigatory, prosecutorial, or impeachment process, regardless of any and all provisions of law to the contrary.

5.  Moron agrees to attempt to engage in live sex with a man above the age of consent on Fox News in prime time.

Posted in Humor, White House | 3 Comments

Larry Nassar Sentencing Might Stimulate Discussion About Judicial Neutrality

The New York Times Headline sets it up perfectly:

Victims in Larry Nassar Abuse Case Find a Fierce Advocate: The Judge

Now, the spouse of a sexual assault advocate within me cheers this on, but the former public defender within me squirms in my chair.  Moreover, as an advocate for neutral judicial engagement, and as one who believes that such neutrality has broader limits when a decision has been rendered and compliance has become the issue, my antenna are up.

On the one hand, we want judges to speak forcefully as the voice of the community.  On the other hand, without neutrality, that voice is nothing more than the baying of the crowd.

In this case lots of factors have to be taken into account.  This is a sentencing hearing, which at its best is a conversation between the parties enhanced by judicial candor.  The case was resolved by plea.  Moreover, the ultimate minimum sentence was what had already been accepted by the defendant in the plea agreement.  Thus, there is no argument that the defendant in this case was harmed (unless you read the judges comment on a death warrant as incitement to other inmates, which given prison dynamics, it may well function as.)

But, but, but.  There is something unseemly about the overall picture, if only because of “slippery slope” concerns.

So, maybe it is helpful to lay out what is necessary before “judicial advocacy” is appropriate.

No impact on neutrality of fact finding or decision-making.  In this case, there was no real decision-making.  But given judicial discretion in pleas, that may be less usual than we think.

No impact on perception of neutrality of the process as a whole.  Thus, if the judge was the fact finder, or if they entered controversial rulings in the court of the case, and then let rip at sentencing, there might be a perception of lack of neutrality that is ultimately in no one’s interest.

No Impact on perception of neutrality of the general role of the judicial.  This is the hardest and most speculative, given that it may depend on nuanced understanding of the phases of a case.

Any thoughts?




Posted in Access to Justice Generally, Judicial Ethics

Florida Bar Foundation and SRLN gets Kudos For their ATJ Mapping from ESRI, the GIS Company

I have already raved about this product, which brilliantly brings together multiple data to show the ATJ burden and treat from the Hurricane.

So it is great to see that ESRI, a very major GIS-mapping company has honored this project with posting on their Maps Gallery.

I really have only one point:  While the hurricane highlights the power of this tool, really it is just as powerful in every environment.  In particular, the pioneering of the LVI , “Legal Vunlnerbility Index,” both makes the data easier to understand, and makes it much more forceful.

I would challenge every ATJ Commission and every IOLTA program, to use these technologies to demonstrate need and impact.

Indeed, I would love to see a national LVI map.

Here is one of the LVI maps from the project.




Posted in Access to Justice Boards, Access to Justice Generally, Census Bureau, IOLTA, Mapping/GIS, Metrics, Software Developers, Technology

Nice to Get ABA Journal Award

The AB Journal now does a Web 100 list honoring “the best of lawyers and the law on the web.”  They have included this blog this year on their list.  The logo signifying this award is on the right side of this blog.

Quoting the blog, they describe it as follows (its hard to find, under R for Richard, on page 2 of the blogs only list):

“We define access to justice broadly to include innovations in courts, the bar, legal aid and community that make it easier for people to obtain access to justice institutions, and to just results within those institutions.” Posts cover a broad range of subjects, including access to counsel, foreclosures, self-service, law schools and technology.

The recognition is much appreciated.  I hope that there will many access to justice tools soon.

Remember, all my blogs are listed here.

Posted in ABA, Access to Justice Generally, Technology, This Blog | 4 Comments

Roberts Choice of Garland to Head Executive Committee of Federal Judicial Conference is a Huge ATJ Opportunity

In what many would consider a “class act,” Chief Justice Roberts recently appointed Chief Judge of the DC Circuit Judge Garland to chair the Executive Committee of the Federal Judicial Conference.

As the release explains:

The 26-member Judicial Conference is the policy-making body for the federal court system. By statute the Chief Justice of the United States serves as its presiding officer and its members are the chief judges of the 13 courts of appeals, a district judge from each of the 12 geographic circuits, and the chief judge of the Court of International Trade. The Conference meets twice a year to consider administrative and policy issues affecting the court system, and to make recommendations to Congress concerning legislation involving the Judicial Branch. 

This is obviously a potentially very broad remit indeed.  Given Judge Garland’s well known and longstanding committement to access to justice, I am certain that he will want to use this opportunity to advance a broad Federal Court access agenda.

Here, for example, is what LSC President Jim Sandman said at the time of Garland’s nomination to the Court.

I do not know a finer person than Merrick Garland.  .  .  .   He gave a magnificent speech at the LSC reception at the Supreme Court last April, and he has attended every one of our White House forums on Increasing Access to Justice.  He is deeply committed to the rule of law and access to justice.

Here are some of my prior blogs on access to justice and the Federal Courts (some more opinionated than others.)

I would welcome thoughts on how the  Judicial Conference could advance access to justice, particularly with a broad focus on a multi-element agenda, as supported by the general public.


Posted in Access to Justice Generally, Federal Courts, LSC

Simply Brilliant — Florida Bar Foundation and SRLN Maps Show Hurricane Impacts and Legal Vulnerability

I do not think of myself as someone who “gushes” about every innovation, but this is so wonderful.

If you were ever skeptical about the value of mapping and GIS for access to justice, just look at these and change your mind.

The link shows the whole story of the hurricane, all the way through to the scale of legal vulnerability across the state.

Here are two of the many maps, the physical impact, and the impact on the legal vulnerable:



The overlap is astonishing, and crystal clear from comparing these two.

The Legal Vulnerability Index is itself a fascinating idea, and one that has many potential implications.  Below is the way it was calculated for Miami-Dade:


These three slides are only a tiny subset of the visualized data, which also include Federal response.  Do look at the whole document, which is here.  Ask yourself how this approach can help with 100% access planning.

Congrats to SRLN (map gallery) and FBF.




Posted in 100% Access Strategy and Campaign, Access to Justice Boards, Census Bureau, Legal Aid, Mapping/GIS, Research and Evalation, SRLN, Technology

Thoughts on the Shriver Study

It is now several months since the California Shriver Pilot Report was issued.  The findings and recommendations concerning benefits of counsel have been widely disseminated. (Report announcement summary here)

So, I want to here highlight some of the findings that have gotten less attention and may be of use in 100% system design.  I would urge that these are of equal value.

Triage (at page 7)

Limited attorney resources are used most effectively with well-designed triage systems. Such systems are critical to the smooth functioning of the continuum of service. In order to use limited attorney resources most effectively, referral mechanisms were established to try to ensure that litigants received the appropriate level of assistance, consistent with individual need. The range of services comprising the “continuum of service” included self- help assistance for those who would remain self-represented, limited-scope legal assistance for those who would receive legal assistance for a part of their case (“unbundling”), and full legal representation. The continuum of service involved all key stakeholders—the court, legal aid programs, and other nonprofits and government entities.

Self-Help Centers (at page 8)

Expanded court-based self-help centers are a critical piece of the continuum of service. They provide self-help assistance for those who will be self-represented and also can help in the triage process of getting litigants to the level of help they need, whether it is limited- scope legal assistance or full legal representation. A key example of an effective court-based self-help service is the probate facilitator, who provided an effective service, enabling parties to navigate the complex guardianship process in a timely, cost-effective way, benefitting families and the court.


E-Filling (at page 8)

The improved use of technology, including the expansion of e-filing, can help facilitate the efficient handling of cases when accommodations are made for those without access to technology. Particularly in landlord-tenant cases, where e-filing had previously only been available to landlords at one site, the expansion of e-filing to tenants helped facilitate the efficient handling of these cases. The increased use of document assembly software programs that make it easier to prepare court documents is more efficient and enables self- represented litigants to better represent themselves.

The project team are to be praised for remembering that access to justice is a complex ecosystem in which improvement in one part of the system leverages and enhances those in others.

One of the interesting questions is how the role of the self help center changes if and when there is greater counsel funding.

Another is how the triage rules change.


Posted in Access to Counsel, Access to Justice Generally, Court Management, Document Assembly, E-filing, Legal Aid, Self-Help Services